Northwest Cougars Hunt—and Are Hunted by—Younger Men

Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson.

Three years ago, Dahli Bennett found herself newly single after 19 years of marriage. Despite being mired in all the various logistics that accompany a divorce, Bennett had one thing on her mind: getting laid. She'd spent the last few years of her marriage depressed and sexually unsatisfied, and although she frequently fantasized about sleeping with other men, she'd never indulged.

Bennett eased back into the dating scene through the Internet, a low-pressure way to polish her rusty flirting skills. She began exchanging messages with a local man her age; they traded photographs, and decided to meet. By then, Bennett was so horny that she could hardly stand it. At the end of the night, as they exchanged tender embraces, she blurted out, "We're going to fuck, right?"

Bennett's forwardness took the man by surprise. "But what about romance?" he replied.

Having an attractive, naked woman next to him in bed loosened him up a bit, but he still refused to have intercourse. Bennett had to make do with "other stuff." "I'm like, come on," she recalls. "I don't have any clothes on and I want to have sex with you. What are you thinking? How old are you?"

Not long after, she went out with a man in his 20s. They had been attracted to each other for a while, and one night they went to see a band together. This time, Bennett felt swept along by a current that eventually carried her back to her companion's apartment to have sex, with nary a protest from the man. "Women my age, we're at our sexual peak," says Bennett, 47. "I'm more interested in sex now than I ever was in my 20s, and I was always interested in sex. If you don't go out and have sex, you go crazy."

There's a word for older women who like to sleep with much younger men: cougars. Though the behavior it describes is as old as time, its acceptance and emergence in popular culture has been longer in coming. The term is fairly new but is far more complex than the way it's typically used, a trope loaded with imagery and connotations that range from pejorative to empowering.

For her part, Bennett rejects the cougar label, insisting that her dalliance with a younger man was an isolated incident born of desperation, but she doesn't dispute it. "As a woman, you go through a sexual renaissance in your 40s," she explains. "You've raised kids, you've kicked out your bum of a husband, you've got some money, you've got some experience. You know what you want; there's no bullshit about trying to get a man and get married. It's just about enjoying really good sex. Younger men have the same kind of sex drive. Biologically, I think it's a great match."

Horny teenage boys were throwing around the term "MILF" (i.e., Mom I'd Like to Fuck) long before Stifler's mom made her appearance in 1999's American Pie. Before that, Anne Bancroft made a generation of boys feel funny down there as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. But it was Jennifer Coolidge's American Pie character—a blond, buxom, and boozy divorcée who seduces her son's classmate by remarking that she likes her scotch and men the same way ("aged 18 years")—that cemented the term in the cultural lexicon.

Perhaps the most oft-cited example of a cougar, Kim Cattrall's Samantha in Sex and the City, actually predates Stifler's mom by a year. In fact, the archetype of the oversexed, predatory older woman stretches back to antiquity. In Aristophanes' Ecclesiazusae ("Assemblywomen"), produced in approximately 391 B.C.E., Praxagora leads a group of older women who take over the Athenian legislature and pass a law that forces young men to satisfy an old, ugly woman before they're allowed to have sex with a "maiden." Near the end of the play, a young man tries to navigate a gauntlet of cougars to reach a young lass but ends up being dragged away by a pair of old women. "Let him who wishes to taste pleasure come to my side," an old woman tells the younger one. "These young things know nothing about it; it's only the women of ripe age who understand the art of love, and no one could know how to fondle the lover who possessed me so well as myself."

Though some use MILF and cougar interchangeably, cougar seems to have surpassed MILF as the moniker of choice for sexy older women. To wit, a current T-Mobile television commercial depicts two Junior League types chatting at a wedding reception. One is incredulous that the other doesn't know whose numbers her boyfriend keeps on speed dial. The camera cuts to the boyfriend talking with a giggly woman in her 50s, with salt-and-pepper hair in a simple yet fashionable cut, toned arms, and a spaghetti-strap gold slip dress accentuating her curvy body. "Because there's an old cougar chatting him up right now," the woman remarks. (It turns out the "cougar" is actually the boyfriend's mother.)

This summer, NBC debuted a new reality show, Age of Love, which borrows heavily from The Bachelor, except that there are two groups of women vying for Australian tennis pro Mark Philippoussis' attention. One, "the kittens," is comprised of women in their 20s, while the other, "the cougars," consists of women in their 40s. Predictably, the younger women dismiss the older women as past their prime; the older women respond to the youthful hubris of their competitors with indignation. Unintentional hilarity ensues.

Bennett happened to catch a commercial for Age of Love in which the kittens belittle the cougars behind their backs, and refuses to watch the show. "That made me angry," Bennett says, before offering some unsolicited advice to the kittens on the show. "Honey, you're going to be there, too, and you'll feel bad about what you said."

Still, both MILFs and cougars epitomize a fantasy harbored by scores of randy but self-conscious teenage boys everywhere: the older, experienced woman who can teach them a few tricks. And the fantasy works both ways. "The attraction, in an older woman's point of view, might be the attractiveness of the younger partner, the sexual vigor of the younger partner, and the fact that the younger partner might come to her with some degree of respect for her sexual experience," says Carol Queen, director of the San Francisco–based Center for Sex and Culture. "[The woman] doesn't have the same kind of power struggle with someone in a younger generation that she'd have with men her own age. Plenty of women from the second-wave feminist movement and on have looked at middle-aged men's tendencies to have much younger partners, and there's a bit of thinking what's good for the gander might be good for the goose."

The slang use of the term "cougar" is believed to have originated in Canada, specifically in the locker room of the National Hockey League's Vancouver Canucks. According to Elspeth Sage, co-founder of CougarDate.com (a sort of Match.com for cougars and those seeking them), hockey players began using the term in the 1980s to describe the older, single women who would come to their games.

Sage, who first heard the term when her nephew teased her for being a cougar, says she takes no offense to this fetishizing of older women. "I call myself a cougar," she says. "I love it. It's not derogatory at all."

The term appears to have remained a provincial one until 2001, when the Toronto Sun published a story on cougars. Then, in 2002, Toronto Sun columnist Valerie Gibson published Cougar: A Guide for Older Women Dating Younger Men, a book about her exploits with men 10 to 20 years her junior.

The term subsequently spread throughout Canada before filtering into the States, turning Gibson and Sage into minor celebrities. Gibson recently wrapped filming of a reality show, Cougar Camp, in which she teaches a group of women in Los Angeles how to hunt young flesh. And Sage has done interviews for media outlets from Vancouver to Florida (where a large percentage of CougarDate.com members reside), and participated on a panel with a University of British Columbia etymologist considering "cougar" for submission to the Oxford English Dictionary.

"It's a very funny word, isn't it?" Sage says. "I guess it's apt because of the pouncing thing. And they're very elusive. If you see one, it's too close. You're ready to be attacked. They're absolutely beautiful, too; so of all animals to be compared to, it's fabulous."

The proliferation of cougar Web sites certainly makes it appear as though plenty of women are capable of reconciling a quick lay with someone half their age. In addition to CougarDate.com, there is CougarHunter.ca, which offers tips for picking up cougars, and UrbanCougar.com, which lists cougar "dens" in all 50 states. In a post about UrbanCougar.com in February 2006, Fleshbot.com, Gawker Media's sex blog, wrote, "Still getting off to MILF porn? That's so '97."

Cougars have also infiltrated the industry that serves as one of the final arbiters of cultural trends: pornography. The Internet porn portal Naughty America recently unveiled a new site, Seduced by a Cougar (other Naughty America offerings include My Friend's Hot Mom, My Sister's Hot Friend, and My First Sex Teacher—clearly there is big money in selling adolescent male fantasies), which defines a cougar as: "A female, usually between thirty and fifty years-old, who desires the sexual company of younger men." An eponymous 136-minute DVD is also for sale. "Cougars: Older Women on the Prowl!" the catalog copy reads. "They're older, bolder, experienced and they know what they want—young cock! These lusty 'cougars' pounce on pricks with their well-seasoned pussies and mouths—and turn younger guys into real men!"

Queen confirms that she's noticed a recent increase in the amount of pornography pairing older women with younger men. "This whole MILF business must make it seem like it has more potential than before," she says. "With the Web fueling this stuff in a way that didn't exist 20 years ago, anybody's flashy idea, particularly if it's got a cute, catchy name, will get some traction."

Whistler, B.C., which sits two hours north of the term's alleged birthplace, has earned a reputation for having the densest concentration of cougars in North America. There are thousands of jobs for young men in the resort town, a popular destination for older women—particularly during the summertime. "On any given summer night, you can sit on the porch and just count groups of cougars until you can't count anymore," says Mike Varrin, the general manager of the Garibaldi Lift Company bar and restaurant.

By day, Whistler is a typical high-priced ski town, its plazas packed with families, outdoorsy types, and lots of tourists. But by 9 p.m., the visitor profile narrows to people in their 20s and 30s, dressed to go out. On a recent Friday night at about 10 p.m., at a bar called Moe Joe's, the bartender tells me that while he occasionally sees some cougars, "Buffalo Bill's is the cougar bar. Has been for as long as I can remember, and I've been here for 10 years."

I order a drink and am quickly adopted by a group of Australians led by a bloke named Chris, who introduces me to his friends, Daniel and "Fuckhead." They've been in Whistler since April and work as electricians. "You got a missus or are you single?" Chris asks. "Single? Well, let's get you some pussy!"

"Chris is the fuckhead tonight," Fuckhead whispers, adding that his real name is Brendan. "He's high as fuck on Ecstasy."

The Australians take me to another club, Tommy Africa's. Along the way, they echo the bartender's take on Buffalo Bill's. "Go there tomorrow night," Daniel says. "It'll be overflowing with cougars."

"They come up Saturday night with their girlfriends, they're away from their husbands and families, and they're looking for a good time," Brendan explains. "They're sluts. I think 'cougar' is too generous a term, really. They're just old sluts."

At 11:15, Brendan points to two women walking to a table and exclaims, "Cougars!" The women join up with a half-dozen others. I soon learn that they are a group of friends, ranging from age 25 to 50, who live near Vancouver and get together in Whistler every year for a girls' weekend. Most of them are married and celebrated their bachelorette parties—"stagettes" in Canadian parlance—in Whistler. All of them are drop-dead gorgeous.

Oddly, they describe Buffalo Bill's as too young. "It's full of young kids—idiots—who think it's an orgy on the dance floor," says Alannah Flint, a platinum-blond, 39-year-old former model and mother of two. "The last time we were there, someone tried to shove a beer bottle up one of our asses."

Monika Stamdke, 40, was that unfortunate soul. "We're not here to get laid," she says. "We're just here to have fun. The last time I went to Buffalo Bill's, I felt old."

"Buffalo Bill's is full of bimblets," Flint adds. "Half bimbos and half chicklets. You might look good in that, but too bad you can't think for yourself. That sounds bitchy, but it's the truth."

"I don't think Whistler is the place for cougars," Stamdke remarks. "I haven't really seen any."

"Maybe we don't notice them because we are the cougars," one of their friends offers.

Earlier that night at Moe Joe's, Stamdke says, a kid who couldn't have been older than 19 made eye contact with her and gave her a lascivious wink. She burst out laughing, and loudly and sarcastically praised him for such a skillful move.

"I give him credit," she says, chuckling. "There are a lot of guys who want this. You gotta give it a shot, right? I told him, 'Guys twice your age wouldn't have [had] the guts to try that.'"

Stamdke, who's married, adds that she doesn't mind being called a cougar (which she defines as anywhere from 30 to 40; beyond that, you're a "heater"). "Life starts at 40," she says. "You can blame the rest of the years on growing up, but at 40, you know yourself better, you're confident. Young girls, they're kind of stupid, so slutty and so into sex. Those girls will do anything. But doing it and knowing how to do it are two different things."

"It's cool to have sex with a cougar," adds Flint. "You ever had sex with a woman over 35? She pushes back, instead of lying there like a starfish, waiting for the big O. Some guy here tonight said something about heaven glowing, because I'm an angel. I mean, come on. This is not the '80s. Give me a break. All these young guys thinking they're going to bag a cougar, they [had] better have their game together."

"You know what, I'm curious," Stamdke says. She grabs a young, muscular guy in jeans and a tight T-shirt leaning against a nearby wall and asks him about the male fascination with cougars.

"Why not?" he says. "They're attractive, they've got experience, they're wild in bed. They know what they're doing....If a cougar falls in your trap, take it." Stamdke laughs. "You think I'd pick that to sleep with when I'm 40?" she says once she's out of earshot.

A young guy wearing a baseball cap, T-shirt, cargo shorts, and hikers with white socks then approaches Stamdke. He's so drunk he can barely speak, and tries to invite himself to sit down on the bar stool next to her. Stamdke looks slightly panicked, and tries to reject his advances without paying too much attention to him. After a few more tries, he gives up and slumps in a booth. "I have no idea what he said," Stamdke says with a bemused expression.

The drunkard tells me his name is Colorado, and I ask about the run he made at Stamdke. "Fuck yeah," he says. "She was beautiful."

I ask if he's ever been successful. "The last time I took a cougar home was three weeks ago," he says. "I met her at the Domino's Pizza. It's open until 3 a.m., so when things close and you didn't find anything, you go to Domino's. It's all good in Whistler."

The Web site UrbanCougar.com lists Daniel's Broiler on South Lake Union as one of two Seattle cougar "dens" (the other is Wild Ginger)—in other words, a sure bet for cougar hunters. The steak house certainly feels like prime habitat, with dark wood, even darker upholstery, 1980s interior flourishes, and an older clientele of business types and pleasure boaters. But on a Wednesday night in mid-July, there's nary a cougar in sight, despite the man seated at the baby grand in the lounge, producing jazzy renditions of 20- and 30-year-old pop chestnuts.

At the bar, a trio of young women with immaculate tans and expensive purses snack on chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne. They check their cell phones frequently, chatting about men and relationships. One of them, a brunette with her hair swept over one shoulder, a lower-back tattoo, low-slung jeans, and a camouflage tube top, perks up when I mention that I'm looking for cougars.

"Washington State University?" she says. "I went there!"

No, I say. The other kind.

The brunette's name is Reva, a 24-year-old who worked as a cocktail waitress at Daniel's for almost three years. She attests to Daniel's reputation for cougars, describing them as female counterparts to "the boat dudes." "Wednesday isn't the best night for cougars," she says. "The weekends are better. They post themselves at the bar and wait for younger guys to come in. Everyone knows what they're looking for."

"A lot of them, older women, this is their spot," Reva adds. "They're comfortable bringing their Internet dates here. I'd see women with five different dates in a week. We'd stay in the back and elbow each other, like, 'You go, girl,' and they'd come by and ask, 'What do you think of this one?'"

Young and attractive, Reva would appear to be the type of woman who might disparage an older woman for trying to compete with her for men. But she says she finds it refreshing. "If I was 55 and with it," she says, snapping her fingers, "I'd be the same way. It's a good example of how society has advanced to accept women doing what men have always been able to do. A cougar's someone who knows that being a woman holds you back from certain things and flips it, like, 'I'm a woman and 55 and divorced, and that's the coolest thing ever and you should be jealous.' As a cougar, you're not the prey—you're the queen of the fucking whatever. The women who get the label are the strong ones."

As if on cue, a top-heavy woman in a peach-colored dress enters. With big blond hair and a tattoo on her right shoulder, she carries herself without a trace of self-consciousness and theatrically takes a seat in the lounge. Minutes later, an older guy with a receding hairline, an expanding waistline, and cowboy boots walks in—her date, apparently. One of the bartenders points her out as a regular and remarks that it's the first time he's seen her with the man.

The bartender, who gives his age, 32, but not his name, says Daniel's has been "cougar central" for all four and a half years he's worked there. He defines a cougar as "a woman, 35 or older, who's been out of the dating game for a while and puts on her claws and comes down looking to get laid by pretty much anything."

He also claims that older women are an integral part of the social ecosystem. "In fact, I'd rather have an older woman sitting at my bar," he says. "They're a hell of a lot more fun, they cut loose, and they've got a little bit more season to them. They start very reserved, but after a couple drinks, they realize they have nothing to lose, and they're whooping and hollering and getting phone numbers. And you realize they're doing exactly what I'd do with my boys if we were out and there was a hot woman bartender serving us."

The bartender's job affords him a courtside view of the mating game and, occasionally, an invitation. "Yeah, we definitely get attention from these older women," he says. "And if I find them attractive, I'll go out with them." However, he cautions, just because an older woman chats up a younger guy doesn't mean it goes any further. "We get a lot of women 35-plus that just like yapping with younger men. There's this misperception that this chick is banging that guy, but they're just there for attention and conversation and having a good time. Women are still pretty discreet about walking out of a bar with a stranger. As opposed to guys, who get high fives."

Bennett's trial run as a cougar didn't turn out well. Her twentysomething date's apartment was filthy, he had clothes and CDs strewn all over his bed, and he was too drunk to sustain an erection. "He was terrible in bed," Bennett laughs. "I'm like, 'Come on, I don't have time for this.' I don't want to teach someone. I want to go to bed with someone who knows what they're doing. That's the lesson: Just because you're with younger men doesn't mean you'll have a better sexual experience. It doesn't matter if you're 20 or 50 if you're bad in bed."

As looks go, the Belltown resident should have no problem getting dates. A slim woman with a healthy tan and toned arms, she fits into David Kahn jeans without trouble, wears fashionable bags and shoes, and sometimes puts her blond hair in short, coquettish braids on either side of her head. But with no interest in the pleated slacks and smooth jazz favored by men her age, and having now sworn off greenhorns, Bennett has found the pickings slim since her divorce. "I have a daughter who's 24, and she says all her friends want to hit on me," she chuckles. "That's flattering and everything, but I don't have a lot in common with a 20-year-old."

Bennett says that while intellectually she understands that age shouldn't matter, she still can't reconcile dating someone her daughter's age. After all, young men, being what they are, routinely talk about "bagging" a cougar in less-than-flattering terms. "There's the broad generalization that you can fuck older women easier," Bennett says. "And subconsciously, that's what I think when younger men approach me or [when I] think about dating younger men: that they'll make fun of me because I'm older."

One of Gibson's motivations for writing her book was to appropriate a term that recalled a sleazy, sexually starved predator and recast it as something desirable for both men and women. And to hear Sage tell it, cougardom is less a phenomenon than a state of mind, a counterintuitive, postfeminist attitude for strong, independent women. "As cougars, we don't have to be perceived as winning the battle in the same way the feminists did," she says. "As long as we get what we want, we don't care. We're fine with appearing beguiling or whatever. It's all by any means necessary."

Sage, who grew up in the 1970s with a front-row seat for the feminist movement, says that many of her male peers still resent women for the gains they've made. "If I can generalize in a terrible way, 50-year-old men are really grumpy about the Web site, the term 'cougar,' and our encouraging older women to date younger men," Sage says. "Even if they're kind of cool and pretend to be OK with it, deep down they wouldn't want to be with a cougar. They were raised really sexist and were allowed to get away with it." (The male equivalent of a cougar, according to Sage, is a "manther.")

In such a climate, it's no wonder that older women will gravitate to men who grew up with mothers who worked, sisters who earned athletic scholarships, and female friends who graduated at the top of the class. "Younger men are way more relaxed," says Sage. "The bottom line is it's really about celebrating women, encouraging women at all ages to be happy about themselves and confident. And if they want to dress young, it doesn't matter. Who decides what's fashionable for someone? It's breaking out of the societal norms of what's OK."

Although the caricature of the desperate older woman appears to have faded, men still drive the cougar "movement." Gibson runs a "cougar cruise" every year on Lake Ontario, and attendees have typically been an even mix of men and women. But this year, the cruise was swamped with younger men, who lined up three-deep on the docks and outnumbered the women 4-to-1. "We let them all in," Gibson says. "And the women had the ball of their lives that night."

Sage estimates that out of CougarDate.com's 50,000 members, 45,000 are men seeking cougars. And of the 5,000 women, Sage says only about 1,000 would actually fit the profile of a cougar. "You know what's funny?" Sage says. "It's probably the same as the ratio in the wild. Cougars are a fairly rare animal, and, of course, white-tailed deer are not."

At a shade past 10 on a Saturday night in Whistler, there is already a line of 15 guys waiting outside the door of Buffalo Bill's. The doorman mentions that there are at least a dozen stagettes in the club, which convinces everyone that it's worth staying in line.

It takes me an hour to get into the club, which charges a $20 cover and $6.25 for Bud Lights. While waiting in line, a statuesque blonde walks out holding her coat. The guy behind me excitedly says to his friends, "That's the MILF!"

Apparently, the night before, Matt Hudon, 19, and his buddies from Vancouver were at Buffalo Bill's and spotted a group of older women dancing. "I figured, 'Why not? It's worth a shot,'" he says. "So I went and danced with them. I was dancing with this one chick, and we put our foreheads close, and we started making out. We made out all night, and then she brought me to the bar and bought me a drink."

Hudon describes the woman as "in her late 30s or early 40s, petite, tan, and big guns." "That was my first older-woman experience," he adds, grinning. "She was hot. I've been bragging about it all day."

Interestingly, Hudon defines a cougar as 30 to 32 years old. Alas, along with currency and measurement systems, the parameters for cougars also change north of the border. The drinking age in Canada is 18, so when people talk about the "older crowd" at Buffalo Bill's, they mean people in their 20s, functionally dropping the minimum age requirement for cougardom to about 30.

Inside, one of the first people I notice is an older woman in a white, long-sleeved DKNY shirt and jeans. I ask the guy next to me if he thinks she's a cougar. "Oh yeah!" he says. "Look at her; she's drinking a martini, and she's got that face—something about it."

I study her face and realize he's talking about the shiny grimace of a face-lift and the wide-eyed, almost stunned countenance resulting from a Botox treatment. Once I start inspecting other faces instead of clothing or stature, the older women begin to stand out. I spot a quartet of women with visages similar to Miss DKNY, surrounded by men taking turns hitting on them. All four are wearing tight jeans, heels, and tops with plunging necklines. One of them leaps up and wraps her legs around her dance partner.

At the back of the club, I find bride-to-be Alissa Jackson, a 22-year-old from Surrey, B.C., sitting at a table cradling an inflatable love doll. "This is Rory," she says of her plastic man. "He's my husband, and I have to hold him all night."

Jackson says her mother, sitting nearby, is a cougar. "Every time she goes out on the dance floor, younger guys like 25 to 30 years old hit on her," she says. "She's a dude magnet. It's because she has big knockers. I love it. If I was older, I'd want to be called a cougar."

Jackson's mother, Janice Defereitas, 47, isn't so keen to be called one. "I have a 26-year-old son, so it kind of creeps me out when a young guy approaches me," she says.

Still, Defereitas, who's married, can understand the intrigue. "They're more virile than older men," she says. "And I think now, guys are more apt to go out on the dance floor alone and find women to dance with. In my decade, that would never happen."

A 23-year-old Buffalo Bill's employee named Adam says the bar's male staffers get hit on all the time by older women. "I haven't gotten my cougar card, not yet," he says. "A cougar's gotta be pretty hot. I'm pretty picky. But I see them all the time. There's one, she's like momma bear. She doesn't hit on us because she knows better, but she'll come and pick up kitchen staff at the Longhorn [Saloon & Grill]."

And is she hot?

"No, not at all," says Adam, shaking his head. "She'll use lines, like, 'Oh, my husband isn't home.' And the guys are so drunk they're like, 'OK!'"

Throughout the night, a group of 20 women wearing matching denim miniskirts and cropped red Lycra tops with "Vicious Vixens" lettered in white across their chests circulate through the club. One of them stands on a bench and pulls out the waist of her skirt so a pack of men can confirm she's wearing a thong. Another, a 25-year-old named Andrea, tells me they're part of the same stagette party and that there are no cougars in the group. "We're pumas," she offers. "Cougars in training. That's my favorite term: puma."

Andrea goes on to state that this cougar-ific nomenclature extends even further. "Cougars are like late 30s," she says. "After that, you're a bobcat. Then wildebeest, and then saber-tooth. MILF is a special category. I've thought about this a lot at work. Sometimes we see really gross people and we go, 'That's a total bobcat, or wildebeest.' Cougar, I consider it a derogatory term. People who are actually a cougar, that's not a good thing. I'd rather be called an MILF than a cougar."

Sherry Blake, 24, has been in Whistler since she was 19. "It's pathetic," she says of the older women chasing younger men. "The guys, they hit on them and the women buy them drinks. And you see the guys turn around and snicker to their friends. But the women are oblivious. So the guys drink for free all night and that's it. I find that sort of sad—unless it's me, of course."

As we speak, two women walk to the bar, both with teased-up short haircuts. The brunette is stuffed into white cropped pants and a ring-neck top. Her friend, a blonde, wears jeans and a sequined top. "I saw them in the bathroom, and they both pulled out bottles of hair spray and showered themselves in it," Blake says, drawing halos around her head. "I was like, 'I love your hair!' I'm so mean.

"There are way more cougars in here than you've talked to," Blake adds. "It's just hard to tell because they look so young. After their divorces they get this money," she rubs her fingers together, "and get surgery. And that's what I'll do if I end up like that."

Near the end of the night, I spot a brunette leaning against a column in the middle of the club. I don't even need to consider her feathered, Joan Jett hairstyle and midrise, tapered jeans to know that she's at least in her 40s. I introduce myself and tell her my assignment.

"I tried that line once," she says, regarding me skeptically. "I was on Granville Island and told people I was from the Vancouver Sun. But then I got too drunk and blew my cover."

I insist I'm not lying, and she agrees to answer some questions. I learn that Sally ("I'm not giving you my last name," she says) has been coming to Whistler as a skier since she was 4 years old and now calls it her home. Buffalo Bill's has been around for about 20 years, she says, and she likes it because she doesn't feel "super-old" here. And yes, Sally gets hit on by younger men.

"If I like them, I take them home and fool around with them," she says. In fact, she says she dates younger men exclusively. "They're not fat," she explains. "And they're looking to have fun. They're used to women their age wanting to get married."

Just then, the opening guitar riff of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine" comes on the house sound system, and a friend of Sally's appears at her side. "I love this song!" the friend screams, taking Sally's hand. "Let's go dance!"

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