If you do, you’ve tipped your hand and lost the chance. “It won’t matter.” He fixes me with a steely gaze he’s learned from government jobs he can’t discuss unless he kills you, and tells me to strap on the big girl pants and make the approach. “It’s an experiment.” “I don’t like being a cougar,” my friend says. I’m going home.” “You’ve got to head to Adams-Morgan,” the man beside me says. ” A man whose few remaining hairs are a streaky mix of gray and white is standing nearby. He’s holding court in Russia House and dispensing wisdom while my Cougar Coach hits on two women who likely got in with fake IDs. “But you’ve got to go where the beer’s cheap and the night’s almost over.” -like scene. It’s as if he’s caught me at the Krispy Kreme with a dozen doughnuts. “If you want to pose as a cougar, paint your nails. To be the cougar who seeks out her cub for a night or a weekend, you can’t care too much about what people think. Beer costs less than five dollars a bottle and no cover is charged.
My fellow cougar-poser is inching toward the stairs. “Ask if the fire’s wood-burning or gas.” “That’s stupid,” I tell him. Within five minutes, we return to our Cougar Coach. “We didn’t want anything more to happen,” I remind him. I mean, let’s face it: who wouldn’t rather be with someone closer to their own age if they can before last call? It’s filled with bars no one over the age of 24 wants to enter, very cheap beer, even cheaper pizza by the slice just outside. “The cougar relationship is a beautiful thing,” the young guy next says. No one’s feelings are hurt.” The men around us nod. More than money or looks, information—about politics, refugees in war-torn countries and even the sex lives of others—is our currency. It’s still raining and the roof’s leaking so the bartender wears a rain slicker. “Do you get a lot of older women and younger men meeting here? “I’m working on a dispatch about whether or not we’ve got a cougar scene in DC.” “Sometimes, sure.” But I look around and realize that, for all the young men and women, we’re the oldest women in the bar. Maybe they’re in Dewey, waiting out the rain with an off-duty lifeguard.
My first stop is Café Milano, a movers-and-shakers kind of restaurant with a very well-dressed meat market bar scene. I try to catch the blonde’s eye while her date checks e-mail, but she doesn’t see me. He engages her, somehow gets her to admit to having cougar-ed in the past, and then distracts her date so I can move in for a conversation.
I considered the bar a place where older men hit on younger women. She’s lived here several years, still speaks with a heavy British accent and says she’s met a few younger men at Milano.
It’s a long drive for someone who doesn’t own a car. “Perfect,” I tell my 40-year-old girlfriend and our 30-year-old male sidekick.
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Unless both parties are a) very drunk, b) ready for sex, and c) able to ignore the watchful crowd around them, the center will not hold. If you’ve visited DC, you’ve probably noticed that we’re not overly fit or fashion-forward. We like talk and, if someone’s got enough time to keep their bodies too perfect, that person’s probably not talking, or thinking, enough.
Jobs, extended stays abroad and favorite high school movies are all off the table. He won’t discuss cougar escapades in front of them. Maybe it’s the government vibe or the political air that tinges everything here, including who hires you some of the time.
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