Dating doesn’t need to come with a lifetime warranty

GIRL TALK

MARIE CELANO

There’s a name used to describe older women who date much younger men — “cougar.” And kudos to actress Kim Cattrall for refusing to pose on the cover of a magazine for women over 40 with a live cougar as her sidekick.

Cattrall called it an insult. The term “cougar” is derogatory and implies predator, hunter, someone ready to prowl and attack. It might be nice to bestow a similar pejorative on older men who date much younger women. “Sugar daddy” comes to mind, but that does not project the image of one who attacks and hunts, merely one who indulges another with sweet goodies.

While on the subject of older women and younger men, one must be aware that these relationships are becoming more and more common, and not just for those on the big screen like Cattrall, Cher, CLARE Madonna, Demi Moore and Susan Sarandon, but also for regular gals like us.

Ever wonder why it is becoming so commonplace? I have a theory. Most of the guys I have dated or been in a relationship with over the past 10 years have all been significantly younger. There are articles that will tell you that dating younger men, in addition to men our own age, helps to expand the dating pool for middle-age women. Dating pool for us? What dating pool?

Men my age rarely look at me, but they will take a serious glance at my daughters when we’re together. Because the truth is, most men my age are not looking for someone who looks like me; they’re looking for someone who looks like my daughters, thereby reducing the available dating pool of men my age to a wading pool the size of my left thumb. Not too much room in there to stake your claim on anyone. And for some unknown reason, younger guys are looking at “women of a certain age.”

So here’s the conundrum: You may want to find a relationship with someone who remembers the Beatles, the Bee Gees and the Stones before they were on MTV; you want someone who remembers “Batman” the TV show (not the movies), and the original “Hawaii Five-0,” “The Mod Squad,” “Charlie’s Angels” and “Happy Days” while they were still on prime time, not late-night reruns on TV Land or Nick at Nite. You may want to find someone who is looking for the same things you’re looking for, but today that someone may just come wrapped in faded, ripped jeans, listen to very loud music and be a whiz at Facebook, Twitter and iPhones. For those of us who are looking for a little romance, a little companionship, someone to share a meal, a movie or some live music, what’s a gal to do?

If I had not been involved with younger men all this time, I wonder if I’d have had any dates at all. I figure this could have gone one of two ways: I may have had more time to devote to looking for someone my own age, or I could have just hung out in my apartment with Ben and Jerry reading Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” and her sister Emily’s “Wuthering Heights,” pining for what I didn’t have.

There’s a great dialogue in the film “Something’s Gotta Give” with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson that quite well describes where single women over 50 are in that proverbial dating pool. In a conversation with Nicholson, Frances McDormand, who plays Zoe, Keaton’s sister, a feminist-studies teacher, tells Nicholson (who is 63 and dates only women under 30) that Keaton “stays in night after night after night” because men her age are looking for a woman who looks like Keaton’s daughter.

“The over-50 dating scene is geared towards men leaving older women out. And as a result, the women become more and more productive and therefore more and more interesting. Which, in turn, makes them even less desirable because as we all know, men — especially older men — are threatened and afraid of productive, interesting women. It is just so clear! Single older women as a demographic are about as [expletive deleted] a group as can ever exist,” Zoe says in exasperation.

Ironically, Keaton ends up having a serious relationship with a man 20 years her junior (Keanu Reeves), who sees her accomplishments as attractive, even sexy, something Nicholson does not even recognize, at least not for a while.

Maybe that’s part of it; younger guys see women over 50 as unique. Maybe they feel we are better at knowing who we are and what we want than our younger counterparts. We have fewer expectations and are less dependent on them for our needs because we’ve been taking care of our own needs for a while now. We are at a point where we can just let me “be.”

The big question is, should we get accustomed to the idea of romance and love, even if perhaps it’s not for the long haul? We’re not talking casual here. We’re talking soul-touching relationships, even if that connection is brief. I’ve always believed people are brought into our lives for a reason. And that reason isn’t always accompanied by a lifetime warranty.

Author and spiritual lecturer Marianne Williamson addresses this in her book “Embracing the New Mid-Life” when she references an episode of TV’s “Sex and the City” titled “Expiration Dating.” She tells of her own experience dating a younger man. She tells her readers that you know this may be a “limited run.” But the fact that a certain product cannot be used past a certain date never stopped her from enjoying yogurt, so why should it stop her from enjoying men?

Food for thought, gals.

Clare Celano may be reached at ccelano@gmnews.com.