San FranciscoSex and Dating

Lessons from the ‘Cougar Ball’ in San Francisco

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By Lucie Duffort

Madonna kisses Kevin Sampaio in the film clip to her new song Bitch I’m Madonna ft. Nicki Minaj. Source: Vevo/YouTube

Cougar : /ko͞oɡər/ – Older gal with her shit together who enjoys a younger man (cub). Seeking romances without the need to be swept off her feet or into the drama of ‘Will He Call Me dating’. An attractive lady who knows what she wants and wants something a little fresher. Also see Susan Sarandon, Madonna, Tina Turner.

That is my definition, I love a cougar. I do. So when Broke-Ass Stuart tossed out the opportunity to check out cougars on the prowl at the Cougar Ball (Where Younger Men and Older Women Meet), I, er, pounced on it. Who knows, perhaps this is where I would meet my own Emmanuel Macron. In any case, I was ready to take some notes on the cougar ladies of the Bay Area and the men who sought them out.

Friends told me that at 36, I could aspire to ‘Puma’ at best, but Urban Dictionary (reference point for all things linguistically hesitant) has a few entries under cougar, and they set the cutoff at 35. They also specifically reference San Francisco, so there’s another notch on your something-for-everyone belt, girl! Rawr!

Oh, and if you are into wordplay, age-partner obsession is a bed of lexical creativity. Cougar, Puma, MILF, COWILF (Childless Older Woman…), Lougar, Leopard, Lioness, Faguar, Chicken-hawk, Rhino, Trout, Manther, Panther, Cheetah, Sugar Daddy, Cougee, Cub…

Kate Beckinsale 43, dating 21-year-old actor Matt Rife

Check out this extremely well-researched Wikipedia entry for stats on relationship spreads. This particular adventure focuses on hetero-identifying cougarish interactions (apparently termed age-hypogamy- thanks Wikipedia), but norms and judgment of age-disparate relations of course run the gamut.

So, I picked up two tickets to the Cougar Ball and brought my housemate Tina (38) in on the game. We were pretty excited. A roomful of young men and older women bumping and grinding! Yes! Death to the patriarchy! Sex positivity! Upending of social order! We got dolled up and cat-howled on her motorcycle all the way to North Beach.

dramatic recreation

Monroe is a nice little spot. Vaguely 20s vibe, bricks and mirrors and a well-stocked bar that’s not too dark and not too light. No coat check, loud music, polite and efficient bartenders.

Rachelle (late 50s), who was classed up in some sparkly neck gear. We talked political and social change in the dating scene. Mid-conversation, a twentysomething guy waltzed up and inserted himself between us, asking if I was from the city and if I came there often and blah blah blah. Rachelle laid it down for him, swagger in full effect:

“Excuse me. You can talk to her but move out of the way so I can keep talking too. Manners.”

He looked around furtively and ran back into the crowd.


Lesson 1: Cougars take no shit.

Tina was already involved in conversation with some bald dude who was definitely not young enough for the cub zone and also had very mediocre pick up lines. “Nice ink. Not too many tattoos out tonight.” So, like a true friend, I made my way towards the bar.

I was approached by a Nice Guy in an ironed shirt (late 20s). Jon was from Houston and had found the event on Meetup. He was sweet and trying hard to make a connection. He helped me fill in some of the Famous Cougar Couples conversation starter sheet we got handed at the door. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake. Janet Jackson and everyone. Just in town for the night, he said there were no clubs like this in Texas. Yup.

We talked for a bit with another couple at the bar.

Ranjeet (early 30s) was super up-front about his motives.  “Older women, they have all the experience. It doesn’t matter her age, if she can hold on, that’s all I need.”

Frances (late 40s) got straight to the point. “I decided I want to have fun. No Viagra! And we live longer. I don’t want to be a widow.”

She had been doing this for a while. She was on the mailing list. Frances has it down, and after she made zero excuses when moving on from her conversation partner, I saw her killing it on the dance floor with at least three other guys before she disappeared. I was impressed.

Monroe, North Beach San Francisco

Lesson 2: Cougars know what they want.

Outside in the bar’s protected smoking enclave I caught up with Tina, who had found a new friend. Javin (late 20s) was philosophical. “You can know a woman your whole life and never understand her. Women are complicated. But they’re like a magnet, they just draw me to them. Have you ever been with a woman?” I turned away.

Alicia (52) sat down next to me, looking smoking hot in a red ensemble (4 bucks at the thrift store!). A recent divorcée, she had heard about the event on Facebook and was just testing the waters, having recently returned from the Electric Daisy Carnival in Vegas. The first time her oldest son (21) called she sent it to voicemail and told me she had considered bringing him along. I mean, yeah Alicia. Duh. Help your younger sisters out.

When Mike (40s) appeared and started massaging her shoulders she went with it. But then her cougar-bait son called again and she had to drive back to Walnut Creek to take care of some momly business involving an injured German Shepherd. She made sure we knew that the next event, the Summer Ball, would be at the Fairmont on September 3rd, and that she would be there.


Lesson 3: Cougars often have more important things to do.

Mike proceeded to show me pictures from Folsom St Fair. I turned back to Tina and Javin.

“I don’t have a house. I just stay with ladies. In 6 months, only one has made me breakfast. I don’t stay too long, not a whole week. If I don’t find a place, I stay in my car.” Not sure if he was trying to impress us with this questionably accurate information. He also moved on to fake palm reading and I could feel Tina’s eyes roll deep in my still hopeful heart.

Lesson 4: Cubs do not have the best game.

Back in the bar the DJ was full-swing into the R&B hip hop vibe. This gelled a little better with the other event at the bar that evening, an urban art expo. The dance floor was an interesting mixture of the cougar crowd, young Bay Area art appreciators, and what I can only assume to be regulars.

In the bathroom line, I overheard “I’m here to try and bang some older lady.” (He may have not used the term “lady”.) I could tell Josh was one of us from his nametag, and approached the 24-year-old immediately.

Once he code-switched to his speaking-to-a-woman voice, Josh told me he likes older women because girls in his 5-year age range are two-faced and shallow. Older women have more interesting conversation, and are easier to connect with. Pushed a tad, he admitted that there was something to a woman who knew what she wanted in bed.

He figured he was the youngest guy at the party, and said he was surprised, that most of the guys were in their late 20s to 30s. A real missed opportunity. I asked if he had had any luck and he told me he had met a few people and had a convo going with a woman at the other end of the bar. I later saw them leave together. He shyly avoided my eyes but she and I smiled knowingly.


Lesson 5: Everybody wins.

It was getting late and the cougar crowd had thinned, so we snagged helmets and overcoats and headed out to find… no motorcycle where we left it on Broadway.

In the car on the way to the tow lot, we reviewed the evening’s events. Barely anyone we met lived in the city, it was almost exclusively a bridge-and-tunnel crowd. Attendees had gotten word from mailing lists, Facebook, meetup and Eventbrite invitations. Everyone was open and pretty sweet, even if the guys were in smarmy pick-up mode. There was little to no plastic surgery, and a fair amount of women coming into their own after life changes, embracing age as a state of mind.

Seeing the older female crowd take charge was energizing.

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