Are you a cougar?

Manni Bradshaw thinks dating younger men shouldn't be an issue. Do you agree?

The great Aaliyah once sang, "age ain't nothing but a number", and while it was rumored to have been written about her very public affair with a much older R. Kelly at the time, a fine line needs to be drawn between cradle snatching and dating someone within the legal age limit. We've come a long way since the nineties, what with cougars, M.I.L.F's and yummy mummy's taking over the predatory roles that once belonged to men. Sisters are definitely doing it for themselves. And while dating someone young enough to be your son has become more and more socially acceptable, there is still a heavy stigma around dating someone in the minor leagues.

It's in our nature to judge the desperate whore that throws herself at the youngest hottie at the local club every Thursday night, or the sugar daddy who reminds you of a dirty uncle, fawning over some escort who seems surprisingly interested in what he has to say. Gold digger, paedophile, prostitute. We automatically assume the worst about people. Why is it so difficult to believe in relationships that roam where angels fear to tread? Is it because it goes against all our own conventional ideologies of love and dating or are we perhaps just a little bit jealous? You know the night's a bust when a hot forty-year-old has out-drunk you ten shots to one and still manages to take home the guy just to prove she can. Is it the fear and pressure of being judged and ridiculed by our friends and family that prevents us from taking younger guys seriously?

"Divide your age in half and add nine. Anything younger than that and you can give them my number." Auntie Ava, who hated it whenever someone called her that, was an absolute legend. She was the uber-cougar before Courtney Cox even had a hit show, before Stifler's mom became the object of every young man's desire and before Stacey's mom had it going on. She was the type of matriarch that every boyfriend dreamed of; hot, flirtatious, shameless and the owner of a 2002 Softail Harley Davidson. She purred like a kitten and, oh, the motorbike wasn't that bad either.

She'd been going steady with Teddy for about six years now, a mechanical engineer who was just about twenty years younger than her. I was always intrigued by their relationship and for the sake of research, wanted to know more. Not being one to leave anything to the imagination, she proceeded to tell me about the many perks that came with dating a younger guy. "First there's the sex which is of course ten times better. A 27-year old can keep it coming much longer than a 50-year old can my darling. Plus you get to teach them all kinds of new tricks through your own experiences. They love it. It keeps them wanting more. I've not once had to fake a headache with this one."

"And then there's the independence. Younger guys don't get threatened by your success or your career objectives. In fact, they respect it and are a helluva lot more supportive than the older guys that I've been with. You can earn ten times more than he does and he won't think anything of it other than give you praise. There's none of that childish silent treatment that goes on for weeks because of his damaged ego or guilt hanging over you because of something you paid for out of your own pocket. "

But what about the emotional and psychological side? "Younger men are good for the mind and spirit because they keep you young and active all the time. They appreciate your maturity as much as your growing sense of adventure. I may be hitting menopause soon but I sure as hell don't feel like it. I've still got loads to do and I finally have the confidence to do it. Don't get me wrong, I've always been confident but even more so since I turned 30 when all that insecure bull in my twenties finally went away. If I was with an older man at my age, we'd be picking out matching bedpans and his and hers rocking chairs by now. That's not what older women want."

To all the haters out there who regard men and women like Ava as perverts or desperate singles trying to cling onto whatever shred of youth they have left, perhaps it's time you loosen your underwire? Dating someone who falls under a younger age category than you clearly has an upside, and feeling like you're 22 again can't be all that bad. Ignore adversity because someone is always going to put you down because of their own insecurities and judgements no matter where and what you do. Think of it like shopping for meat. Instead of  buying the same heavy grump steak, why not sample a little tender veal. It's much lighter that older cattle and definitely much lower in fat. You never know. You might just surprise yourself.

Have you dated someone much younger or older? Share your experiences in the box below.

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