Walk Back the Cat

I spent the last week with Viking and it was delicious. Our conversations meander always. We talk about our future, my past, his past, saints and sinners, love and other drugs. We have four marriages between us, a handful and a half of relationships, break-ups, hook-ups, and if dates were seeds, we would have a bountiful, wild garden. This isn’t unexpected, and the stories fall from our mouths, sharing ourselves, telling our secrets, showing the best and worst of each of us. We laugh a lot. We Googled to verify, and decide that I was married to a narcissist, probably two, and Viking had a long term relationship with a woman with a suspected paranoid personality disorder. This is in addition to Rebecca 1.0, the cancer liar, for those keeping score at home. Viking was pretty sure I wasn’t a virgin when we met, and vice versa, so there isn’t any jealousy in speaking of the past, but there was something, something I couldn’t quite define, but it was familiar. This has been a thing before with men my age, my past cougarness, my spending the last 16 years with younger men. My last boyfriend is younger than Viking’s daughter. We needed to talk about it. I needed to lay my cougar cards on the table. Clear the cougar air. It was time to walk back the cat.

Walk back the cat means a detailed review, an analysis of events, in essence, to walk the cat back into the bag. I can’t speak for other women who have dated younger men, I can only tell you my experience. It felt very ordinary, but is perceived by others differently. For context, Tim was 21 to my 34 when we met and Jake was 28 to my 45. This is layered, so I’ll start at the top. This is how the conversation with Viking went. I think he thought I had sought out only younger men, that it was purposeful, to the exclusion of men my own age. This is not so. I stumbled into it, and if I get down to the naked bare truth of it, I was lost at the times I met both Tim and Jake, looking for a little short term salvation, indifferent to the imbalance of age. It comes down to this, Tim saved me from myself, unbearable loneliness, and Jake saved me from my addiction to the wretchedness of Tim. There was love, and there was purpose and symbiosis in the madness. I wasn’t seeking a younger man, I didn’t have a number in my head. It was, in both instances, an accident that grew, serving a fateful purpose maybe, but my age, their age, wasn’t in the lens, not then. I wasn’t a heat seeking missile for younger men, I was only heat seeking. And that’s on me.

Those were both long term relationships, but we are walking back so I will tell you the truth. In between the relationships, when I did date, it was typically with younger men. The second layer. Younger men were the ones asking me out, making the moves. Men my age were gun shy, tentative with my having children at home, thinking I was possibly looking for a meal ticket or father for my sons. I needed neither and their fear smelled like weakness, and that is not my jam, at any age. And time went by, as is does, and I spent my 30’s with men in their 20’s, and then I spent my 40’s with the same, recognizing the pattern, acknowledging it, and just raising my kids, doing homework, doing the dishes, having a career, living a life. You can only swing at the balls that come over the plate, and for me, the pitcher was throwing vicenarians, and I swung. I’ve thought about this, too. I’ve asked around, most men have had a time with an older woman. Viking, at one point in his life, had a cougar FWB, she fell in love with him. For a dynamic that is pretty common, it is still always the punchline. I can tell you this – other people thought more about the age difference than I ever did. It was all so ordinary, and that takes us to the third layer.

The third layer. There is what is real, and then there is hyperbole. There are two schools of thought in cougar relations. The first is the Mrs. Robinson effect. With garters and bedroom eyes, the younger man is seduced and schooled in the ways of knockin’ boots. This one makes me laugh. This is Texas, not Amish country, no one needed any tutoring.

The second school is what I call the Stamina Syndrome. If I had a nickel for every time I got the wink and knowing  “we must go at it all night long” nudge, I’d have a buck fifty. This is Texas, not 7-11,  and younger men are still just men. It was exactly like any other relationship, sometimes we could burn it down, and sometimes we phoned it in. It’s so much more “Netflix and chill” than “ass-less chaps and reverse cowgirl”. If we are walking back the cat, in the final analysis, I can say that my cougar relationships, in and out of the bedroom, look just like everyone else’s minus some of the 80’s pop cultural references.

Here’s the thing. My past looks just like Viking’s. I think he sees that now. I’ve had failed relationships as has he, mine just happened to be with men younger than myself, but they felt exactly ordinary in their good times and exactly ordinary in their failures. I know this. I love Viking and this is richer, fuller, and more satisfying. I don’t know if that’s because we are closer in age or if we are simply one another’s lobsters. I know this – I feel like I’ve been looking for him for a long time. It’s never been about an age. It’s always been about this. The cat’s back in the bag, the past is smoke, and for the first time I can ask my man, “Where were you when the Challenger exploded?” and the answer isn’t “In diapers”.

Go forth and conquer.

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