Serge and I got into a pretty big argument the other night. It wasn’t your standard divorce argument, though. We weren’t fighting about money or child custody or who is more at fault for the demise of our marriage, although that’s an oldie but goodie. No, we were debating which one of us will have a harder time moving on in life as a result of the way society views divorced thirty or forty-somethings.
This particular disagreement got more heated than deciding our custody arrangement, practically. Here is how it went down:
Serge and I were having a beer together after tucking the kids in at my place. And maybe it was the alcohol talking, and then again, maybe it was the demon that mucks about in the depths of my soul scream-whispering terrible things into my ear during the dark of night like YOU’RE GOING TO DIE OLD AND ALONE! but I was kind of throwing myself a pity party and mentioned that it’s going to be way harder for me to start over than him.
I took another deep swig of my Pilsner, whipped out my violin and began my lament.
Serge perked right up, as he tends to do when I insinuate that my lot is harder than his, and began formulating his response. As my mournful notes permeated the night air, I begin to plead my case. And I could see him mentally loading bullets to begin firing the moment I finished.
What I was attempting to impart is that it’s going to be way harder for me to start over or date because of the way society tends to view divorced moms and women of a certain age. At 37, I hardly qualify for the term “woman of a certain age,” but I’m getting there. At some point in the not-too-distant future I’m going to be minding my business while having a glass of wine at a bar with a gentleman friend who is perhaps a few years my junior and some jackhole is going to refer to me as a “cougar.” And then I will leap onto his head and claw his eyeballs from their sockets and swallow them whole while shrieking YOU WANNA SEE COUGAR, LITTLE MAN? I’LL SHOW YOU COUGAR!
But I digress.
It seems we tend to view divorced moms as these tragic figures deserving of our pity and their kids as baggage not to mention the fact that any man who ‘takes them on’ is a saint. It’s an extension of the way society generally views the aging man as handsome and distinguished while graying women are apparently hags not worthy of the attention of even men their own age because those men are “handsome and distinguished’ and can therefore pull women half their age as a result. It’s just the way it is. Which was what I was trying to explain to Serge who, at 42, is rapidly becoming “handsome and distinguished” and can basically date anyone from 25 to 50 and it’s all good. Nobody’s going to bat an eye or consider his kids “baggage” the way they tend to when evaluating a divorced mom.
My range is far more limited. If I date someone ten years younger I’m a cougar and at that age the guy likely doesn’t have kids and still wants them and once I’m in my forties that ain’t likely to happen, while dudes are virile well into their, what, eighties? And often start over in in their mid-forties with entirely new families — Larry King and Hugh Hefner is all I need to say to finish that thought …
So I’m violin-ing my way through my pity party and Serge calls me out for B.S. before I can even finish my song. He tells me fatherhood has changed and that a lot more men are very involved with their kids, which means he has the same baggage as me. As usual, he’s missing my point which is that it doesn’t matter that he has the same baggage as me society doesn’t perceive that to be the case. And that’s really what we’re talking about here, isn’t it? Perceptions. The way divorced women are viewed versus the way divorced men are viewed.
Still, Serge goes on to tell me that the older woman cougar thing is a concept created by women. “The whole cougar thing is based on a female mentality — women judging other women — and has nothing to do with men. Men will sleep with anyone. Cougar, cat, kitten … Whatever.”
Again. Missing the point. Do you see what I’m up against? It doesn’t matter who created the concept — it’s out there now victimizing any nice woman who dates a man even just a few years younger. Suddenly she’s a skeezy cougar stalking prey to ravage in the sack and not just some nice woman looking for love. Add kids to the mix and she’s a skeezy cougar with “baggage.”
As usual, when dating other people comes up in conversation Serge and I both end up tiptoeing through a minefield of awkward weirdness so, at that point, our conversation fizzled faster than a dime store sparkler and I fear my point was lost. As lost as society is when viewing divorced women of a certain age because I can tell you with absolute certainty I am far more badass at 37 with kids than my 25-year-old childless self could have ever hoped to be and it’s too damn bad society is stuck worshipping the latter.More On