No doubt there are certain women who are suited to being cougars. I am not one of them. I learned that the hard way.
Perhaps to be a successful cougar you have to have the ability to have sex with no feelings and possibly you have also long ago stopped believing in fairy-tales and happy endings (I mean the happy endings found in fairy-tales not the other happy endings found in, well, massage parlours).
Long before cougars were the flavour of the month, I became one… I would like to say reluctantly but I don’t know if that’s true.Â I was 34. He was 23 and a backpacker. I should have known better but the attraction was fierce. The first few months were nothing short of mind-boggling but I never dreamed it would go on for as long as it did. Now, of course, I wish it hadn’t.
It went on so long that now, single and 40, I have pretty much said goodbye to the chance of ever becoming a mother, all because I fell in love with an age-inappropriate man and I always knew it. Love, though, can make you ignore even the most glaringly obvious faults in a situation that generally makes you feel warm and fuzzy and slightly ridiculous all at the same time.
We spent a couple of years blissfully happy. I know I loved him more than anyone else before or since. I would joke about him leaving me when I was 45 and barren so he could go off and populate a small Irish village with his offspring all named after obscure Gaelic football players. But those jokes always held a telling tinge of truth â€“ a truth that neither of us wanted to admit, not just yet anyway.
There is nothing more depressing than meeting someone who could almost be your “person”, apart from the fact you were both born in the wrong decades. While I looked younger than my age, and he looked older, that didn’t change basic biology.Â We finally accepted that irrefutable fact outside a John Butler Trio concert in Dublin of all places and then cried buckets of tears together on the pavement.
I always knew he would grow up and want to get married and have kids and by then I would be too old and he would leave me. In fact, one of the last things he ever said to me was: I shouldn’t have let it go on for so long – like in his mind it was always temporary and he was just biding his time while playing idly with my heart. I suppose when you’re in your 20s you have time to do such things. That hurt, but I also learned a very valuable lesson
At the time, I remember thinking having children was still something that I wanted to do. I don’t think like that anymore. Or at least I don’t let myself think like that because my chances are so negligible they are almost transparent. A bit like the chances of our relationship making the distance, in hindsight.
For the past three years, I have had a lot of time to think because for the first time in my life I have been more discerning when it comes to men, and more protective and proud of the love that I have to give – but only to the right man.
He hasn’t turned up yet. Sometimes in my darker moments, I wonder whether he ever will. But most of the time I recognise that in this elongated period of singledom, I have finally learned who I truly am and who I deserve to be with. And I know that every day I spend by myself is another day heading towards the man I am supposed to be with. If that’s the way the cards are meant to be.
These days I also know I am stronger, and hopefully just a little wiser, and am happy to wait relatively patiently until the day I finally meet the man who, I hope, is mature enough to love me.