Sometimes a Cougar is just a Cougar

October 16, 2009 § 2 Comments

UT_Cougar19

photo, E.J. Peiker

From the New York Times, “The term cougar raises hackles among women who say the image of a wild animal, however sleek and beautiful, prowling for victims…is demeaning.”

My reaction is the opposite. The human “cougars’ on TV shows and in movies are demeaning to the animal; and as a writer, I’m upset that the word now is so heavily imbued with that mostly ridiculous meaning.

I’m not talking about older women in general. Of course the ones who are appealing are appealing to younger men; this isn’t rocket science. Men may be wary of getting involved with someone older, but we’re all wary of potential lovers for any number of reasons. Women are wary of older men and younger men. Dominant men and passive men. Men. Many middle-aged women have concluded the best solution to loneliness is an animal.

What feline admirer wouldn’t want a real cougar if she had the space and if wild animals weren’t so unpredictable? I can imagine living far out in the country with a big cat allowed to come and go, not expecting it to be as docile as my housecats—but even such an arrangement isn’t workable. Wild animals are truly wild.

There was a study done by a Russian scientist, Dmitri Belyaev, beginning in the 1950’s. He captured a number of silver foxes and bred them, keeping only the pups that showed no fear of humans (a small minority). After many generations—different sources cite different numbers—he had foxes as tame as dogs. What if someone did that with cougars, ending up with an animal with the relative tameness of a housecat? It would still be dangerous. You know how wicked your dear kitty, not to mention my sister’s beautiful psycho cat Bradley, can be on occasion. Still, such a creature would be a possible companion for the careful, steady, outdoorswoman.

The few times, in my 40’s, that I slept with much younger men, I enjoyed them for the usual things—their smooth skin, their sweet breath, their different outlook, their high spirits—and I wouldn’t rule out a relationship with one, should I ever again dare to engage in a love affair.

But from my recent immersion in contemporary romance novels, I can tell you what women really want: a shapeshifting cougar (or leopard or tiger). Picture it. A woman in a sleeveless white cotton nightgown, long hair loose on her pillow. The big cat enters through the open window, landing on the bed, and looks at her with those alien, golden eyes.

Cat breath, fang. The moonlight glimmering in his fur. Big paws on either side of her head. Then that moment of transformation, which in my fantasy is not brutal, but happens as quickly as a dream changes scenery. The animal above me, the man in my arms. A real human, who can laugh and talk politics, bring me coffee the next morning.

Somebody figures out how to breed those? With no females of their own species? Men would just have to pack their bags and go.

For some really stunning photos of cougars look here

To see me being silly with my silly cats, look here

The Mountain Lion

Climbing through the January snow, into the Lobo canyon
Dark grow the spruce-trees, blue is the balsam, water sounds
still unfrozen, and the trail is still evident.

Men!
Two men!
Men! The only animal in the world to fear!

They hesitate.
We hesitate.
They have a gun.
We have no gun.

Then we all advance, to meet.

Two Mexicans, strangers, emerging out of tile dark and snow
and inwardness of the Lobo valley.
What are you doing here on this vanishing trail’?

What is he carrying?
Something yellow.
A deer?

Que tiene, amigo?
Leon –
He smiles, foolishly, as if he were caught doing wrong.
And we smile, foolishly, as if we didn’t know.
He is quite gentle and dark-faced.

It is a mountain lion,
A long, long slim cat, yellow like a lioness.
Dead.
He trapped her this morning, he says, smiling foolishly.

Lift up her face,
Her round, bright face, bright as frost.
Her round, fine-fashioned head, with two dead ears;
And stripes in the brilliant frost of her face, sharp, fine dark rays,
Dark, keen, fine eyes in the brilliant frost of her face.
Beautiful dead eyes.

Hermoso es!

They go out towards the open;
We go on into the gloom of Lobo.
And above the trees I found her lair,
A hole in the blood-orange brilliant rocks that stick up, a little cave,
And bones, and twigs, and a perilous ascent.

So, she will never leap up that way again, with the yellow
flash of a mountain lion’s long shoot!
And her bright striped frost-face will never watch any more,
out of the shadow of the cave in the blood-orange rock,
Above the trees of the Lobo dark valley-mouth!

Instead, I look out.
And out to the dim of the desert, like a dream, never real;
To the snow of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the ice of
the mountains of Picoris,
And near across at the opposite steep of snow, green trees
motionless standing in snow, like a Christmas toy.

And I think in this empty world there was room for me and
a mountain lion.
And I think in the world beyond, how easily we might spare
a million or two of humans
And never miss them.
Yet what a gap in the world, the missing white frost-face of
that slim yellow mountain lion!

–D.H. Lawrence

bradleyBradley


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