Cougar Tales and Other Adventures
Cougar Tales and Other Adventures
An Essay by Kala Wahl
As a sophomore in college, I’d never given much thought to becoming a “cougar.” Younger men have always repulsed me—men tend to be hard to stomach at any age.
I wouldn’t necessarily say I have a “type,” and I also wouldn’t necessarily say I fit into anyone else’s “type,” either. My dating profile tries to sell the persona of someone cute, blonde, and bubbly—underscored by the phrase, “Can you keep up?” It’s in italics so men get the idea that I’m the one in charge (someone told me they like that), as if I were holding up a large staff like a bearded Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. But it all seems to fizzle out when I recall when I was sitting across the table from my date—Alexander (Alex for short), the equestrian from Kentucky who likes to throw in that he “swings both ways,” after every bite of lettuce. Or maybe Ethan, the soul-patched ginger who wears a gold chain and red tracksuits as if he had just finished crunking in a Nelly video. It usually only takes a certain string of words—not even a minute to listen to but still so impactful—to spill out from my lips and into their ears before they determine I’m not the product they thought they were purchasing. I can never tell what exactly will tip them off, but it’s always something. This one guy Dylan asked for the check after I told him what I microwave for dinner every night.
“I’ll buy a bag of chicken nuggets and a bag of chicken tenders...and I’ll mix ‘em. I do maybe four chicken nuggets and two chicken tenders, just because the tenders are much larger, so you don’t need that many of those. Three minutes and done.”
I didn’t even say anything off-putting to Ryan because we actually went back to his place and started making out on the couch, but when he tugged on my wig and it tilted a little on the top of my head, he offered to call me an Uber. I thought he knew my hair was fake.
To put it simply, at an age where some will claim I’m mature enough to marry and others will comment that my breasts are perky enough to make it as an adult film star, I feel as if I’ve tried every box down the grocery aisle of Average, Socially-acceptable Men to Taste: With Added Vanilla for Maximum Averageness. If nobody’s stuck at this point, I must be playing it too safe. I never quite got the allure of having a bright-eyed, fresh-faced sexual partner. In high school, you hear that older men do it better, they’re aged like a fine wine and more experienced—experience was always the key. You want somebody who knows what they’re doing; somebody who has a dick as seasoned as a Vietnam vet and is prepared to take arms wherever, whenever. But as is with most sexual encounters, it sounds better in theory—the whip cream that was supposed to be sensual, but ended up clogging your anus, which was rather embarrassing to explain to the family doctor...or that one-night-stand you were so excited for with the guy who told you he did UFC training, but the excitement wore off four days later when he texted you there was a herpes outbreak on the gym mats, so you’d better get tested. Realistically, not even a partner rivaling the age of your father could make your first time hurt any less or be any more magical—but does anyone even have “magical” hymen tales anymore? Perhaps if I’d listened to the abstinence pamphlets in high school and waited for my Prince Charming to place a ring on my finger, the cherry-popping spectacular would have been akin to Cinderella fitting into the glass slipper, but instead a penis fitting perfectly into my vagina.
My woman-card however, was swiped by a senior boy—James; the captain of the track team and a self-proclaimed lover of William Blake. His résumé sounded great, but after he broke my heart and asked for his letterman jacket back, I actually read William Blake’s poetry and realized it was the most pretentious pile of shit I’ve ever read. However, at the time if this kid and I weren’t talking you would have been sure to hear about it in my journal—along with other stories of how I hated my life and how high school was sure to last forever (see entry titled, “Friend at Lunch Commented on Spray Tan, Pale Line on Upper Thigh from Dripping Pee I Forgot to Wipe Gave It Away”). Insert teen angst, crush on my cross-country coach, a few doodles of butterflies, elaborate plans for this cross-country coach to be my rebound fling and then you’d have My High School Spectacular, Volumes 1-3. But in summation, James—or affectionately known by me as that senior fucker—was older than me, and the sex? It wasn’t any better than what the acne-ridden teens my own age were producing.
So hand beneath my chin, lying flat on my belly, eyes looking up to the gods for guidance as I took it in the back from a guy I met hours earlier in Fiction I, I couldn’t help but wonder what younger men had to offer me
Yesterday while black makeup was resting in the bags of my eyes from the night before and my finger jammed up my nostril—you’d like to think I was adjusting my nose ring, but I was really picking my nose—I was standing on a platform for the Red Line. I couldn’t find sunglasses to shield my half-open, red eyes from any concerned adults, so I shoved my reading glasses on. I doubt it mattered; you could smell cannabis and Katy Perry perfume from a mile away. But that didn’t deter my young lover.
“Excuse me miss, but could you help me?”
He tapped my shoulder, slinging a Deerfield High School duffle across his broad shoulder. What was this suburban piece of toast doing in the city? I could ask, but I’m far too interested in myself to care. He looked like he wrestled—and trust me on that—I know a wrestler’s body; I’ve seen a few locker rooms in my day. Instinctively, I couldn’t help but think of the trouble him and I would have gotten into in high school. But I’m a hotshot collegiate now. I’m mature, perhaps not yet a woman, but definitely not a girl—because I don’t think women still wear Hello Kitty underwear.
“Yeah, what?” I spat crudely;
Who was I trying to impress? I’m out of this kid’s league and I feel too high to respond kindly to someone who called me miss, as if I were a dainty southern belle about to offer him iced tea on a silver tray. Yes, I’m from the south, but it definitely looks best in my rearview mirror.
“Well I missed my train, and I’ve g-gotta be somewhere and I need to find a Blue Line, but I’m n-not from here and…” He spoke hurriedly.
His puppy-dog eyes were so wide it looked as if he walked in on his parents having sex or something. And I don’t know if it was the Mother Theresa in me or what, but I did genuinely want to help him. I’m older, I have some knowledge of the city. I’m experienced. I know where a Blue Line is...but I’m also sexually experienced. And I began to wonder: do I want to have sex with this kid? A sudden urge to guide him and teach him the ways of a woman’s body overwhelmed me, but is that illegal? How old is he? Maybe that would make it better—forbidden love. But I know one thing for sure that’s not illegal: thoughts. I can think whatever I want.
I told him to follow me into the train car. I patted the seat right next to me. It was stained an oddish brown in the center, which judging by the size and position of the stain, was most certainly period blood. He sat anyways. I took it as a testament of love. I explained in detail what stop he should be getting off on to transfer to the Blue Line, and bit my tongue to keep myself from expressing my desire for him to get off on me. He’d lean in close to me—clunky Android in hand—asking me to point out on the map where he was going. My nose was so close to his neck that every breath I inhaled was purely Abercrombie & Fitch cologne, which at first was a nice change from the Old Spice cologne my suitor from last night had borrowed from his dad’s medicine cabinet, but then I got flashbacks. Abercrombie & Fitch. The words echoed in my head.
I thought of evenings my freshman year in high school spent wearing tight white Abercrombie shorts that emphasized I didn’t quite know how to conceal my puberty-given thunder thighs yet—walking around the city mall with a boy who wore that exact same cologne. He was a grade above and I stopped hanging out with him after one particular mall visit, where his wallet fell out of his pocket at Victoria’s Secret and a barrage of condoms spilled out. The cologne brought it all back: My youth, my ignorance, my thunder thighs. I looked next to me at Blue Line boy, and suddenly scooted an inch away. I’m not sure if there’s anything cute about high school boys anymore. In hindsight they weren’t really that cute while I was in high school either.
“So, I’m confused, where do I transfer to a Blue Line again?”
“Lake,” I muttered, less enthused.
The charm was wearing off further; I could've sworn I’d told him Lake about fifty times. This cougar thing isn’t fun if they don’t even listen to your guidance.
“Lake? He asked, as if the word were foreign. “As in...Lake Michigan?”
“Lake—the Red Line stop...look, at the map, right on your phone,” I exhaled. What was this kid’s GPA? I could feel the claws retracting between my fingers, and the cougar in me? She was slowly retreating back into her mountain.
One flaw was the gateway to so many more—like weed or League of Legends. I started noticing other things I didn’t like. The spots of acne on his face were covered in dry blood; he was a picker, and I’m a popper. His bottom lip hung open and I could hear him take sharp breaths in, and I was just waiting—on the edge of my seat—to see if a fly would innocently wander in and choke him. My stop was coming up at this point, and I didn’t even consider saying goodbye. I stood up and headed for the doors.
“Hey! I can’t even get your number?” He called behind me.
That’s when I really saw his teeth. I was not blinded by love anymore; they were slightly yellow. As were all boys’ in high school: unhygienic, gross, and making you wonder what’s so hard about picking up a fucking toothbrush in the mornings.
“You’re too young for me,” I said deadpan, strutting off the train car.
I’m only 20, don’t you have to be 35+ to even stray on cougar territory anyways?
Men suck at any age. Grey haired or struggling to even grow hair on their thighs, flaws emerge like classmates scattering around you when you pull out a pack of gum from your backpack. So, alas, my journey will continue. All those chick-flicks I emotionally masturbated to in middle school still occupy a dusty corner in my mind, and I hold onto hope that at least one out of the millions won’t be so bad.
But for now, I’ll continue spending my nights with my nugget and tender mix. Remember: four chicken nuggets and two tenders. I suppose it really depends on how hungry you are, though.