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Street Signs

Randy young men outnumber delighted grownup women by 10 to 1 at Santa Cruz's first Cougar Night.

By Jessica Lussenhop

I'LL LEVEL with you. I walked into the Single Professional Society's first ever Santa Cruz Cougar Night at the Scotts Valley Hilton last week thinking it would be a convenient anecdotal doorway to my personal opinions on the term "cougar." Those are, in a nutshell, that the term has been fallaciously embraced by single women over 40 as some kind of woman-power thingy. Allow me to remind everyone: a "cougar" is an older woman with a voracious sexual appetite for much younger men. Sex is implicit. The term also refers to women who've taxidermied their own faces with repeat plastic surgeries into a catlike mask. "Catwoman" Jocelyn Wildenstein is the archetypal cougar. It's not flattering.

And there was some confusion at the Hilton. "A girl at the spa told me her definition of cougar is a woman who looks a lot younger than she is," said 75-year-old Carole (who did look at least 10 years younger than that), while 21-year-old Jeremy hollered, red-faced and slurring, "I paid 10 bucks, I better get laid!"

As the room filled there were easily 10 men for every cougar. Good-looking men in their 20s dominated the crowd, fully sleeved skater types, straight-laced nine-to-fivers, a handful of slick European types. "I told my friend I'd text her if it was any good," hissed 40-year-old "Christine" as she typed "10 to 1" into her cell phone. "I've been to other events like this and it's, like, four older men. But there are men here."

As the crowd sauced up, the few middle-aged men in attendance gave up and the young boys swarmed. A blonde in a black dress, voted the hottest cougar by an informal poll, was surrounded at all times while the rest didn't fare so badly either, young suitors chatting them up, asking them how crazy they are, pinching buttocks. Not a shining moment in feminist history, but by the end of the evening the cougars were glowing. "The young men are awesome," said Carole breathlessly.

Not that any of them really wanted to take it any further. "You're the same age as my kids," said Michelle, a lovely middle-aged woman, to a crestfallen 23-year-old man. "It's just creepy. I didn't mean to break your heart!"

But that doesn't mean she didn't enjoy it. It was a great night to be a cougar, no matter how you define it. And though everyone went home alone and blitzed, Christine, who I found on a lobby couch next to Jeremy, summed it up pretty well. "I'm laughing," she said.

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