OK, so here's the Science behind a good Cougar Party...
Not many people can boast about having not one but two brilliant jobs; fewer still can claim their favourite of these is a party planner for Cougars and Cubs! What exactly are cougar parties? and what does the planner of such events actually do? If I was to describe it in a nutshell, it's actually quite simple. A cougar event planner operates at the hub of the vibrant, sassy and incredibly sexy world of age-gap dating.
To elaborate on my opening statement. My name's Maria and my day job is a property developer. I adore setting up renovation projects - it's such a thrill watching a charming but run-down historic building gradually evolving from a tumbledown ruin, with a garden that Tarzan could quite easily get lost in, into a fabulous dwelling-place. It's even more thrilling when said property eventually goes onto the market and captures the imagination of a host of house-hunters who begin to seriously out-bid one another in their clamour to secure this place.
So where does the cougar party planning bit come into it? Firstly, I'd openly declare myself as a cougar myself. I'm 48 next month and ever since my husband left me for one of his office staff three years ago, I've been relishing the life of a mature, sophisticated single female, with a demanding but thoroughly rewarding career, a lot of disposable income, and a fine bunch of friends who are in exactly the same position.
I'm naturally gregarious. So when I've finished a hard week managing my various property projects, I like nothing better than hooking up with my foxy girlfriends to arrange the next cougar event. It's one thing getting excited about blueprints of kitchen extensions and architecturally experimental patio designs, but it's also a terrific buzz being relied upon by a host of demanding, intelligent older women to suggest and then arrange cougar parties. And when I say demanding, I'm not using that description lightly.
All of my friends share extremely high standards when it comes to their leisure time. I suppose this is because, like me, they spent so much of their adult lives locked in mundane relationships. Now they've become free agents with so much of their time still ahead of them while they're young enough to appreciate it, they don't want to waste a second.
I kind of grew into the cougar party planner position by default. I don't like to think of myself as argumentative or bolshie, but years of dealing with building contractors and an idiotic husband, has provided me with layers of assertion. During my working week, this gets jobs finished according to schedule. But when I transfer those same skills to the arena of planning some fun events for my friends, I can guarantee to set up some stimulating nights out (or in, depending on what particular variation of the cougar party theme I've dreamt up for any weekend).
To give example of the types of scenario I'm talking about. I like to arrange what I've christened 'cougar away days'. Because most of us have professional jobs, amongst the group we have many business contacts in other parts of the UK, many of whom are on exactly the same wavelength as ourselves. So rather than arranging a get-together at our local wine bar of a Friday evening, I'll arrange a gathering in some far-flung location.
Last month we convened in Norwich. There were cougar friends up from London, over from the West Country, three of our Welsh colleagues, several Northerners and one of my best friends, Alison, a Glaswegian cougar I got to know when we developed holiday cottages by Loch Lomond. We spent the Saturday afternoon exploring the fine historic city, indulging in some serious retail therapy in the charming boutiques we uncovered. In the early evening, we stopped off for delicious food in a gorgeous Malaysian restaurant recommended to me. After charging batteries and then changing back at our hotels, we used knowledge gleaned from local cougars that we all Facebook regularly, and headed for the best cougar bars. Finally, we wound up taking our cougar party to an upmarket night club.
Here we danced the night away, while flirting shamelessly with the young local guys who seemed to congregate around ourselves rather than the uninspiring, cheaply-dressed females their own age.
Holidays are another occasion when my organisational skills are brought to the fore. We do like to get away as a large group, but naturally, within a gathering of such forceful and strong-minded women, there are always clashes about the preferable venue. Some are drawn to the architecture and cultural uniqueness of a country. Others are serious culinary snobs who can't wait to give their opinions about the fine wine and delicious local cuisine. Most of us will agree that decent bars and late-night clubs are pretty much de rigueur.
What I have to do is find the ideal venue that combines most of the aspects that will tick the boxes of the majority of aspirations. This can be quite a headache, and one which few of the others in my cougar team seem willing to take on board!
Luckily, where sophisticated females are concerned, I find that a degree of flexibility and compromise is always possible. With all the years planning experience I've had, both during the day job and as the chief organiser, I'm adept at factoring in enough activities to satisfy everyone in the group. There is always the option for any of the girls to go off and do their own thing. And if, for whatever reason, a particular country proves not to be to anyone's tastes, there's always the knowledge that I'll be arranging a getaway to a completely different venue within the next couple of months. Last year we visited Portugal, Slovenia, Haiti, Canada and the Bahamas. Believe you me, looking over the Facebook chats, there were absolutely no dissenting messages.
Another cougar party I organised recently was by way of celebrating my friend Susanne's divorce. This might seem a bit disingenuous, as if the 'D word' is something we shouldn't treat with flippancy. Au contraire. With us cougars it's almost like a badge of honour! Seriously, while I fully appreciate a divorce can be a harrowing experience, especially when children are caught in the crossfire, in the cougar context becoming divorced is almost like passing the basic admission requirements for joining our select club.
Of course, we all have friends in partnerships of all persuasions and backgrounds: married, divorced, same-sex, toyboys, sugar daddies, sugar mommas, you name it … But when it comes to the world of the cougar party, I'm talking about a specific segment of my widespread friendships: single, mature women, looking for fun, intelligent connections and, every now and then, passionate flings with virile and buff young men!
Throwing a cougar party under the banner of celebrating a marriage break-up is not churlish at all. A cougar party is our way of welcoming a kindred spirit into a body of women who have all been there, done that, worn the t-shirt. We're almost like a support group who will guide a close friend through difficult times. And a cougar party can be a riotous affair, with much wine, good food and serious merrymaking, and a smattering of handsome young men thrown into the fabulous cocktail!