Friday, July 04, 2008

This sounds like a line, but...

I haven't had cable for three years. I have a steady supply of DVDs to continue to rot my mind when required, and I'm too cheap to give either Rogers or Bell my money for 57 channels I won't watch. This means that I’ve missed three years of reality TV, so I’m still in a position to be horrified by it.

And this is depressing. Truly, truly depressing. I know it’s a year old or so, but damn.

Look up the term ‘Cougar’ in the Urban Dictionary and you will find 2 classes of definition:

- The punchy, ain’t-we-got-fun variant written by women of a certain age (or who will one day be a certain age) who think the whole idea is cool and kicky, and

- The patronizing, aren’t-they-past-their-prime-and-of-dubious-moral-character dismissals written (presumably) by men who have had bad luck with somebody who matched their definition of cougar

There’s not a lot of dignity to either definition, but the phrase is out there and it’s hard to avoid. I worked at a consulting firm a few years ago, and I’d occasionally prowl around the pricey Bay Street restaurants at lunch. I was looking at the menu of a very expensive Japanese place (where they appeared to want $17.50 for a small bowl of steamed rice with with a piece of fish cut into the shape of a chrysanthemum), when an older woman surprised me by saying “Anything look good?”

She looked to be in her early 50’s, very attractive, expensively but conservatively dressed, looking like an investment counsellor with well-to-do clients. The situation didn't feel weird, I just thought she was just being friendly in a way that you don’t usually encounter at King and Bay.

I said, “It all looks good, but it’s a little rich for my taste.”

She peered at the menu for a moment before saying “Well, it looks great to me. And I’m having a great day. Why don’t I buy you lunch?”

Despite disliking the expression, my first thought was “This can’t be happening. I’m over 35. I’m too old to be cougared.”

I’m not even sure that I was being cougared in the first place. It's possible that she was just an exceptionally nice person who’d had a good day and wanted company for lunch. Regardless of her motivation, I declined the offer. Being happily married and uninterested in getting picked up was the primary reason, along with a gut feeling that she was far more likely to discuss an exciting new investment opportunity or invite me to a bible study group rather than offer an afternoon of erotic bliss. But most of the women I knew (with the pointed exception of my wife) told me that I should have accepted the lunch, found out what she really wanted, excused myself to the bathroom after the last cup of green tea and sneaked out the fire exit to share my story with the universe.

That kind of thing hadn’t happened to me for ages. The last time was when I was in my mid twenties and videotaping string quartets for Mae, a woman who ran a small recording studio in a loft on Queen East. She was in her late 40’s, warm and friendly, and decidedly lived in her own universe. She talked a lot about an upcoming spiritual awakening that related to a Druid prophecy (which alienated a few people 'round the place), but her running narrative was never boring and her cheques always cleared.

I liked Mae. I didn’t think she had any designs on me (other than perhaps raiding my CD collection), until the day I dropped by to deliver a videotape and she came to the door in a towel.

This was unexpected.

I knew she lived at the back of the loft, but it was usually filled with people and I’d never been alone with her before. I apologized for bothering her and offered to come back later, but she insisted on drawing me a cheque as soon as she was done with her shower.

She led me to the back of the loft to her apartment (saying it was more comfortable than the waiting room), and sat me at a table in plain view of her bathroom door, which was pretty much open (to let the steam out, of course). She went back into the shower, and I couldn't help but notice that the curtain was short and was pretty much open as well (I didn’t dwell on it). We carried on a brief conversation about the benefits of goat’s milk soap and salt scrubs as she shampooed, rinsed and repeated.

This might read as an unsubtle exercise on her part, but it didn’t quite play out that way. Mae was the kind of person who wouldn't use 10 words when 100 would do, and she was just as likely to give me a play-by-play of her shower regimen as she was to explain the inspiration for the names of her 4 dogs (Celtic deities, for the record). I honestly had no idea if this was a series of ‘how about it?’ manoeuvres, or if she was just somebody without personal space issues taking a shower. Either way, I wasn’t interested in joining her.

(pause) That’s not quite true.

I was having problems with my girlfriend at the time. I was lonely. And barely-employed. And without direction. And all of the other petty torments of one’s mid-twenties. Even with all carnality aside (yes, please put it aside in its little carnality box), I felt that it would be nice for someone to invite me into a shower right around that time, I just didn’t think that this someone should be an occasional employer with her own reality principle.

She eventually left the shower in as loose a robe as was structurally possible. She wrote my cheque and gave me a cup of hemp tea as we chatted about her dogs and Riz Ortolani and campy Italian film music in general. Then I went home. I continued to videotape her recitals for a few months, but wasn't invited to any further shower confabs. I was, however, treated to a lot of hemp tea and baklava. She was a chatty sort. I looked unhappy. She was trying to be nice.


STAG said...


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