True Stories The Twenty One Year Old And Me

On the perks and perils of dating younger men.

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When you sleep with someone from work, it's surprising to see them at work the next day. They never vaporize in a bad toaster-oven accident like you hope. The coworker I slept with is a college student eleven years my junior, and he brags the next day at the office about an even older woman he has been seeing for months. Though news of this older woman has been trickling through the office gossip chain for some time, I still find it disturbing.

I pull him aside. They are "not really dating," he admits, which is worse, because now I imagine that their sex is amazing enough to power California for a month. I figure they'll hit it until she moves to Vegas, where all the chosen cougars go.

This is how it is when I meet younger men. It's never this romance novel where I'm the first older woman, we break boundaries, and then there's some tawdry scene where we're caught zesting lemons together. It's more like the perv classic Lolita — that moment when Humbert Humbert realizes his corruption of Lolita is a sham, that she's been having threesomes at sleepaway camp for years.

My Lolito has been pretty busy. The other woman is about twice his age. Cougar One, Original Cougar, as I call her, has a more impressive degree than me and a far more impressive job. This other woman is a good thing, friends point out, because it means he's been taught already. I always wonder about this. Taught what? And what twenty-one-year old is humble and willing to learn?

Yet there must be real older-woman teachers out there, because I keep hearing about them, and not just when Susan Sarandon craps out another movie. Sexually confident women. Cosmopolitan women. I envision a whole trade fair of nipple clamps under the bed, coordinated with cream wool boucle suits. They eat at French restaurants with amuse bouches. I've decided amuse bouches are sexy. I've decided people who eat amuse bouches are sexy. This older woman he's dating must be one of them. A mythical creature-teacher. An unapologetic amuse boucher.

I would like to be one of these women. Like Bianca Jagger. Caftans look like ass on the rest of America, but I pull them off. I spend afternoons eating caviar out of the pool boy's bellybutton. I call myself "dirty old woman" the way men are called dirty old man. "Dirty old" just means you're perverted and aged. I can respect that. "Cougar" means you sit around in cheetah-print robes and eat a lot of Activia.

Most twenty-eight-year-old women would run away when they hear college freshman. I should have too. But I was strangely curious.

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