Cougars and Cubs Convene in California

Cougar Convention

Just after midnight, a couple wandered past a handful of singles gyrating on the dance floor and headed for the door. They traded information and kissed goodbye.

"We danced all night, and we have great chemistry," said Catherine Shores, 49, a self-proclaimed "cougar" who works for an Internet security firm.

She hugged the 25-year-old "cub" with whom she'd been seductively swaying all night. "We're both excited and want to see where this goes," she said, her cub nodding in agreement.

The couple-to-be met at the first Miss Cougar California Convention in Beverly Hills Friday. The evening was designed to help older women and younger men, so-called cubs, find love.

More than 300 dolled-up bachelors and bachelorettes paid $30 to attend the event, which was sponsored by the Society of Single Professionals, the world's largest nonprofit singles organization. Cubs outnumbered cougars nearly two to one.

One of the highlights of the evening was a dramatic scene after the crowning of Miss Cougar California, 40-year-old Tyana Alvarado. Alvarado, who was wearing a low-cut, tight dress that accentuated her cleavage and a strategically placed name-tag stuck to her behind, was given a tiara and a free cruise for gathering the most votes from the cubs.

Her victory infuriated the curvy first runner-up, who repeatedly shouted that Alvarado looked too good to be older than 40 and demanded to see her identification.

The night, filled with drama, drinking and wandering hands, was a glimpse into the world of cougars, cubs and the growing number of businesses trying to spark romance between them.

Things have changed since the 1967 film "The Graduate" was released. Demi Moore, Halle Berry, Sharon Stone and a growing list of celebrities now proudly dates younger men. There's even an ABC show called "Cougar Town" starring Courteney Cox.

Here's to You Mrs. Robinson

It's a "cougar revolution," according to Lucia, author and host of "The Art of Love" radio show, as well as keynote speaker at the convention.

Thirty-four percent of women older than 40 are dating younger men, according to a 2003 AARP survey.

Of the 3,500 female and male singles between the ages of 40 and 69 who were polled, 56 percent had been separated or divorced, and 31 percent had never been married. Also, seven in 10 of the formerly married singles in their 50s had been single for five years or more. The study suggested that a higher divorce rate fueled a higher number of older women looking for love.

The growing numbers of cougars, however, aren't "desperate, horny old women in stilettos and leopard print who drink until they drag a man home," said Fayr "YaYa" Barkley, a founding member of the CougarInternational.com dating site.

Lucia agreed. A cougar is "a single woman over 40 who is attractive, sexy, classy, confident, fit, independent and healthy" who dates men 10 years or more younger. "They're the total package ... mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally and sexually."

"I've got it going on," one cougar said. "Younger men love that I know who I am and know what I want."

Another woman, who spent the evening suggestively dancing with a cub her son's age, winked and said cubs love that she's more experienced than younger women.

Most of the ladies at the convention said they believed the term "cougar" was empowering.

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