I knew that I was never going to become a supermodel, even before the last forty years had its ugly way with me. It’s not like I had a face that could scare roaches, but I wasn’t winning any awards for my looks. Well, except for that time in eighth grade when I was chosen with about a hundred other girls to wear poofy antebellum dresses and wave at cars as townspeople rode through the neighborhoods looking at all the azaleas in full bloom. About ninety percent of the people we waved at were looking at the flowers, but for those of you in the ten percent who were checking out the little girls, I wrote down your license plate numbers.
The attention that older women are getting from pop culture has raised the ire of people who have nothing better to do than complain when someone thinks they’re pretty. Sure, terms like “cougar” do tend to objectify women and portray them negatively, which I think we’re supposed to say is bad. The ones I really feel sorry for are the poor cougars, proud members of the regal family of big cats, for being compared to a sad and frazzled middle-aged woman who dared to let her gaze linger a little longer than necessary on the sweet athletic young man who took her order of sixteen Happy Meals before the peewee soccer game. Trust me, she’s not adoring his boyish good looks, she’s star-struck by someone who made that much food appear without her having to cook any of it.
Recently, I was holding my two kids’ hands as we crossed a massive parking lot while foot-pushing my overloaded shopping cart in the general direction of an eight-year-old minivan whose engine light has been on since Bush The Lesser left office. A twenty-somethingish guy walking past me did that annoying “cough a word into his hand” thing and barked the acronym, “MILF.” By the time I figured out that he was actually trying to communicate something and not out to infect my children with a horrendous disease that would mean I had to keep them home from school for several days, the moment had passed and the magic was gone.
On behalf of liberated women everywhere I should have been totally offended. The fact that my two daughters were beside me means I should have turned on him like a cougar (only this one has rabies AND tuberculosis) and demanded to be treated like a human being and not a sex object.
Instead, I was just freakin’ jazzed that someone thought I vaguely resembled something akin to physical attractiveness. It must have been the clean shirt I had bothered to put on that day.
I’m still trying to figure out when we decided that being complimented for our appearance was a bad thing. Okay, I freely admit that the term he used is a little on the icky side, but it’s not like PILD (Plumber I’d Like to Date) or SAN (Sexy Awesome Nun) or GIHF (Goat I’m Hot For). Crude? Why, yes he was. Violated? Why, no I wasn’t. Flattered? I probably shouldn’t be.
But in my dark moments when I’ve thrown a winter coat of my pajamas to finally get more Cascade because my kids are eating cereal with chopsticks out of my nine-by-thirteen pans, and some weirdo with a thing for bunny slippers takes the time to comment in passing on my waaaay-inner beauty (and I have to say, IN PASSING is crucial to his surviving this little conversation), I won’t use my cougar fangs to bite his head off.