Cougar Comeback

by Suzanne Lehrer | 11/15/07 2:06am

The revolution of the older woman has arrived. It seems that finally, in 2007, Hollywood has come to realize that middle-aged women are no longer just your second-grade teacher or the soccer moms on the sidelines or the ladies who play bridge and talk about menopause on Sunday nights. Hollywood has finally realized that older women are, well, hot.

Some may argue that it all started back in 1967 when Mrs. Robinson's sexy black stockings hit the big screen, but if you ask me, "The Graduate" was a little bit ahead of its time; even if the younger Dustin Hoffman cemented his place in movie history with his memorable naivet: "Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?" Let's say that he was merely planting a seed for the future.

Fast-forward to American Pie in 1999, and that's where I think it all began: with Stifler's Mom. The moment she declared she liked it "aged 18 years" and then got exactly that on the pool table minutes later, Hollywood's era of the "cougar revolution" was born. America was ready to catch on. Unfortunately, however, it seems that the Dartmouth male population is not.

I'm talking, of course, about the urban legend that carries just a little too much reality for comfort: The Dartmouth X-Factor. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, imagine, if you will, a graph with two intersecting lines, one for females and one for males. If the x-axis is the progression of age and y-axis sex appeal, or, more crudely, number of hookups, then the "male" line goes diagonally in one direction to demonstrate an increase in male sex appeal with age, while the "female" line does the opposite: by senior year, our line is a nice big zero on the y-axis.

It seems that for Dartmouth upperclass women, Stifler's Mom has done us no good. Why is it that, suddenly, after years of control-top tights, stretch marks and worry lines, Hollywood has finally started to respect older women and regard them as sexy in their own right, while upperclassmen girls are told that their relationship fates are already mapped out and more doomed as each day passes?

"Say it ain't so!" I cried, as my sophomore year came to a close. But my silent fears were confirmed when fairly recently I was introduced to a fraternity pledge who, upon learning my age, abruptly reminded me that I was "washed up." Thank you, pledge. Nice to meet you, too. Personal experience aside, it seems that, indeed, the conception of the x-factor endures and is everlastingly imprinted on the conscience of the vast majority of Dartmouth students.

Being the optimist that I am, I would like to believe that this trend is not due to a conscious effort on the part of the males, but sometimes I'm not so sure. Maybe it's because upperclass women tend to take on a certain cynicism by their third or fourth year, usually due to a string of relationship disappointments during our better, younger days. Maybe we've become bitter, emotionally guarded, and disillusioned as we grow older, thus repelling boys and driving them into the arms of the more bubbly, hopeful, younger girls.

Or maybe all our experience as female bystanders in fraternity basements has somehow strengthened us, made us more sure of ourselves and our role on campus, and then maybe it is our boldness with age that repels males who fear assertiveness. Or, lastly, maybe it is the misconception that we just really want to be dating the male population more than anything else, because we are so desperate and needy and old, and therefore should be avoided at all costs.

Clearly, this is all just speculation due to observation. But, like I said, I would love to give the Dartmouth males the benefit of the doubt.

It is no doubt that ages 18 to 22 are quite the formative ones, and maybe, just like our parents told us we would, we really do grow and mature a lot from year to year. Maybe this makes us more self-centered with age as well, in which case maybe both sexes are really just looking for significant others who are as of yet uncorrupted and unaffected, whether that is determined by age or not. However, understand it or not, the X-Factor still stands in many ways, and the age-old debate of nature versus nurture remains unanswered: Is it us, it is them, or is it Dartmouth?

We may never know. In the meantime, here's to you, Mrs. Robinson. I'll thank you when I'm older.