>*Editor’s note: Names of some of the interviewees have been changed for privacy.
Annette Wheeler* didn’t recall the exact moment she first heard the term “cougar,” but she did remember dashing to her computer to look it up. To her shock and bemusement, there was a new term to describe what she had been doing most of her life—dating younger men.
Wheeler, a fiery redhead who lives outside Baltimore, leaned back in her chair and sighed. “I adore younger men,” the 60-year-old purred. “I liked younger guys even when I was in high school—like a year or two younger. I was a cougar before there were cougars.”
Indeed, Wheeler’s pre-marriage and post-divorce dating history reads like a steamy screenplay. She listed a string of young men with whom she had various relationships, occasionally punching numbers into a calculator to determine age differences she had never considered in the first place. She never analyzed her attraction to younger men (or their attraction to her), but with “cougar” an increasingly popular term used to describe older women dating significantly younger men, her longtime preference is suddenly in the spotlight.