Sunday, April 26, 2009

Out of the Spotlight

Ashton Kutcher is making news for something other than being married to a woman 15 years older. He’s the first Twitterer to reach 1 million followers (up to 1.4 million when I checked today) and donated $100k to fight malaria. I'm a twitterer myself, (but not an @aplusk follower), but I scratch my head over Kutcher's recent post:

@Mazzant @mooneybooster@toojiggy @ryanposner that indy donald brown pick is big impac on addai's #s

Piling up Twitter followers is a great thing for a good cause. Mostly though, I’m glad to start reading about the twittering and stop reading all the tittering about his relationship with Demi Moore. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

We love TV!

So, yeah. We watched The Cougar. We did it so you don’t have to.

“Age is just a number, right?” asks one of the Boy Toys during the opening promo.

“No,” answers Sheri from her spot on the couch and from that place in life that gives perspective. “Age is not just a number.”

Then Vivica A. Fox, the show’s celebrity host, tells us that society treats men and women differently. When an older woman dates a younger woman, “Hoooo! Heads turn and people start talking!” About this time, we start to wonder who other than us is watching?
In TVLand, viewers are mostly boomers who miss George Jefferson and Andy Griffith. The Cougar show seems to be saying: “TVLand ladies, you might be old as Aunt Bee, but you still sizzle! And look at Opie now! Six-pack abs and a fauxhawk!”

The show continues, and we meet the actual Cougar, who tells us she's excited to live in Los Angeles with twenty “young hot guys.” What does she like about boys? “They’re very spontaneous.” That spontaneity, she adds, shows up outside of the bedroom – but inside the bedroom, too!

Meanwhile, my wife watches from the couch in an oversized sweatshirt with a pig on it, baggy socks, reading glasses perched on her head … I’m telling you, I’m about to go all spontaneous!

So, in the courtyard of an L.A. mansion, Vivica introduces the Coug to the boys as “an incredibly sexy woman,” which in TVLand means that she’s blonde, skinny, willing to wear off-the-shoulder tops and mini skirts. The boys step forward to impress her with their best opening line. The Coug giggles at each awkward effort, but in a nervous, forced way. Says my wife: “She’s regretting this.” Says the Cougar: “OhmiGod!”

Back when I first posted about this show, I asked what word would describe a male harem. After watching the young lions try to impress the Coug – with a song about being dirty, a military salute, a fake arrest, a yucky come-on about an Australian kiss – I know what word fits: Idjits.

Then the show shifts indoors. Time to par-TAY! The Cougar slams shots with the boys, who cannonball into the pool, argue, and try to win her by wagging their tails and drooling on her skirt. And I’m struck that instead of them maturing to her level she’s lowering herself to theirs. When Sheri and I started dating, I needed to grow up and start wearing ties to formal events and cooking with a proper oven. But in the fantasy of reality TV, the Idjits don’t try to be men; instead, they indulge their beer-pong selves as the Cougar channels her inner Cougette to join their frat party. When an Idjit tells the Cougar he’s a musician, she says, “I
love music!” How she must look forward to meeting a short-order cook: “I love food!”

We watch, and we suspect that in real life the Coug is more mature and more interesting than this. We’re willing to think the Idjits are, too. At least we hope so. We know that reality TV folks edit to make people dumber and less interesting, and they edit to exaggerate tension and drama.

But we’re still troubled. “It’s like a bad porn movie,” says Sheri. I know what she means. Good porn movies are bad movies that promise sex and deliver. The Cougar is bad and promises sex, but this is TVLand – the payoff is likely to be a man’s naked torso and mood lighting.

Says the Cougar: “I feel like Eve in a garden of forbidden fruit.”

Says Sheri: “Could this be any further away from our lives?”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Like a gray squirrel?

Cougar, a new reality dating show, starts on TVLand tomorrow night. You know this older woman/younger man thing is catching on when TVLand hypes the show on National Public Radio. (“All Things Considered is brought to you by Cougar starting tomorrow night on TVLand,” said my local WYPR announcer in Baltimore this afternoon.)

Really, how “real” is this show, in which 20 guys in their 20s compete for the affections of (read:
“sex with”) Stacey Anderson, a 40-year-old Arizona real estate agent with four kids? You be the decider. Stacey’s cast as a diva, a vixen, a blonde bombshell. The guys? bartenders, personal trainers, a pool boy, a Chicago cop, a surfer, an advertising consultant, a pair of twins. See them all here.  

The show’s message boards are full of complaints that the guys are “dorky,” “baby-faced,” “goofy-looking.” On the other hand, there’s this: “Such a delicious bunch of cubs.”

My favorite clip, from the advance promo on the show’s Web site: The twin cub on the left has just said to his brother: “Stacey’s like a gray squirrel I just wanna pounce on!”

Oh boy! Watch tomorrow, April 15, 10 p.m. EDT. After the pounce, it's sure to end in true love.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

… And try to be a little more vivacious

Back in January, after watching
The Reader, we posted a list of movies we’d seen featuring older woman/younger man combos. Chided by those who noted we hadn’t listed Harold and Maude, we added the film to our Netflix queue.

Now I’ve fallen in love with Maude. And the fall felt familiar.

By stealing cars, posing nude, and drawing happy faces on dour saints, Maude gave Harold permission to enjoy life, to live out the request his walking-dead mother made of him after one of his fake suicides: “Dinner at eight, Harold, and try to be a little more vivacious.”

I’d never faked a suicide, but before I met Sheri the face I gave the world was too often clench-jawed and squint-eyed. By stripping to skin on a sunny day in a meadow, savoring double-cheeseburgers, admiring a New Year’s moon on a frozen beach, and, yes, by dating me, Sheri blew a metaphorical noise maker in my face and said, “Lighten up, young man.”

Her favorite words were "serendipity" and "whimsy." Her favorite expression was “What larks, Pip!”

Some people say you keep an old dog young by getting it a puppy. But an older woman, I’ve learned, can save a man’s youth.

A sidenote: Ruth Gordon, who played Maude, married a man 16 years her junior when she was 46. Garson Kanin, a writer, and Ruth Gordon lived together until her death at age 88. Here's a
great interview they conducted with People magazine four years before she died.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


M: Can we write about this? Can you write about this?

S: Not sure if I’m ready to tackle this subject yet … What if your mother reads it?

M: I’m more worried about our students. Former and future. But there seems to be an expectation. People want to know, I think.

S: OK. Let’s stop being coy about the topic. It’s sex. What’s it like sleeping with a younger man? an older woman? When does the younger man stop being “younger man” and just become “my husband”? When does the older woman stop being a cougar (if she ever was)?

M: OK. Let’s stop asking questions. Let’s make declarative statements. Your friends told you I could be a fling. No reason to take me seriously. Just have fun. Enjoy the boy toy.

S: Funny thing is, that never was my style.

M: I remember you had cigarettes on your breath. That seemed older to me. I’d never kissed a woman who smoked. Fewer women of my generation did, so kissing you and tasting the cigarettes on your breath seemed, I don’t know, anachronistic and mysterious. It was like time travel, and I'd stepped into a world both familiar and strange. I also remember you kept saying my skin was soft. I didn’t like you saying that. Another thing I remember: There was no Mrs. Robinson-type seduction. You weren’t a cougar; I wasn’t a trembling fawn.

S: Your skin WAS soft! It was such young skin. And you’re right about the Mrs. Robinson thing. But she knew it was just a power trip when she undid those stockings of hers. I didn’t intend to seduce you. At least I didn’t think so.

M: Here’s an idea that might help. Writing about sex, I think, is like writing horror. Concentrate on a few concrete details and what’s going on inside the character. Then let the reader’s imagination go to work.

S: The only way I could go with you to a movie or cook with you in my apartment or brush my fingertips against the back of your neck was to believe none of it would last. That was less about imagining you as a boy toy than making sure you, a younger man, wouldn’t hurt me the way a young man can hurt an older woman.
If I tell myself it’s just a fling, then I won’t be so devastated when he confirms it.

But that changed one afternoon when we met for coffee in the cafeteria at the office. No one knew we were seeing each other. You were so much younger, who could have suspected? But on the way back to our desks, alone in the elevator, you kissed me a long lovers’ kiss. And I did feel powerful. There’s power in the secret pleasure of the unexpected. Also, in the unexpected pleasure of the secret.