I have an unusual name. Not a wildly rare name like Patches or Pequod or Persephone, but a name just unusual enough that I could never find one of those preprinted keychains or a novelty license plate with my name on it. Instead, tellingly, I owned a keychain with the dirt-common name of the boy I had a crush on engraved inside of a heart. At age 12, I liked to take it out and look at it.
I told all this to Dig, the emotionally-available man, after our yoga-date last Sunday, and when he shows up this afternoon for our second date he places a tin rectangle in my hands: a license plate with my name on it.
Some people are just naturally thoughtful, and Dig is a member of this tribe. Utterly unaccustomed to this sort of treatment, I am initially flummoxed when he comes over to the passenger side of his car. Does he expect me to drive? Is he lost? No, he is opening the car door for me. “I don’t care if you want to wear combat boots in August,” he says. “You are still a lady.”
Meeee??? The gentleness with which he treats me is so unexpected that I find myself looking at him with some side-eye, filled with pleasure and distrust. This is the relationship equivalent of someone ringing your doorbell with a giant check. What are you hiding behind that giant check, emotionally-available man?
Despite myself, I get invested and more interested, and conversation gets tougher as I begin to earnestly give a shit about what he thinks about my answers. He’s handsome: silver hair, silver scruff, jet eyebrows. He shows me a picture of a schnauzer he fostered when its owner was in the hospital for months and months because he is the kind of guy who would watch your dog if you had to be in the hospital for months and months, and he looks kind of exactly like this schnauzer.
It is highly adorable, and we kiss a long goodnight, but he does not try to fuck me in his car.
What the fuck is going on here? I’m used to it being about the sex, and I’m not sure what to do with all this unexpected intimacy that is not-sex. Maybe that’s why I tend to go for beautiful young guys. They are easily distracted by the potential for a blow-job and so they don’t ask me any tough questions. I can vanish behind all the innuendo.
Dig makes it hard for me to hide. I tell him I don’t drink, and he asks if I am in “recovery.“ I can just faintly hear the quotation marks, and I dodge the question, mumbling “I just don’t drink.” This, despite the fact that tonight I will celebrate seven years of just not drinking, in a church basement where there will be balloons and a sheet cake. Exactly how much truthiness do I owe someone after two dates and an hour of making out in the grass at the park?
Of course, two dates and a license plate with my name on it is not enough to make me pull my other irons from the fire. Squeeze arrives in New York in two weeks, and I have been merrily chatting online with this gorgeous young guy I know from yoga. When I let him know that I am dying to wrap my legs around him and do all the things, he asks if we can take it slow. When men who haven’t yet hit thirty yet are asking you to slow your roll, you know you have a problem.
There is, of course a word for women who mercilessly pursue boys whose generation starts with a totally different letter, and that word is cougar. Gross. Despite a cougar being a sleek, powerful man-eater that people do not fuck with, no one wants to be called a cougar. A girl I know recently called me up crying, utterly devastated because someone called her a cougar on the street. Cougars are women, not girls, the kind of women who own expensive espresso machines. A cougar wears dangly earrings and scarves to distract from the problem-area that is her neck and steps into $400 stiletto shoes. She takes cabs everywhere, showing a maximum stretch of leg when she gets out. She walks up to groups of young men and addresses them as boys.
There is something simultaneously frightening and comical about cougars. A cursory Internet search reveals a level of cultural fascination with them. There is that television show, and an entire dating site dedicated to them (CougarLife, which I think sounds like a prison gang). The men cougars date are referred to as cubs, which is kind of incredibly patronizing and icky. But according to Urban Dictionary, the cougar “is not necessarily a slut, nor is she desperate. She offers sexual expertise and is open to new experiences… She will not attempt to trap her mate into marriage, children, or even an exclusive relationship. She is not interested in drama or games, as that would interfere with the pleasure she enjoys.”
Right on, cougars! But still: I identify more with the cubs. I don’t have my shit together, and I still feel like a teenager. Do I look ridiculous? Forty and I still dress like a kid: combat boots, a short skater skirt, a hoodie with cat ears. I just never found my niche as an adult woman. When I tell a 29-year-old man that I want to throw down with him, it’s not as an older woman that will teach him about fine wines and make eggs benedict in the morning. It is as a contemporary.
Dig doesn’t feel like my contemporary. He is a grownup, with a car and a condo. I have literally no idea what is wrong with him, and it terrifies me because clearly there has to be something wrong with him. Kitten-dick is the theory that I am running with until I am proven wrong.
Whatever. I don’t really care about the numbers: how many inches, how much in the bank, how many texts he sends me, how many birthdays he has celebrated. I’m going to be nice to him. I’m going to make him motherfucking cookies, because cougars do not bake cookies. And no matter what happens, my bike now has my name on it, one more cue to help me remember who I am.