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How to Be a Cougar

7 steps to snagging a younger man — hypothetically, that is!

En español │Unless you've been living under a rock, you no doubt know that the term "cougar" no longer just applies to dangerous mountain lions. Now it's all about older women who hook up with younger men: Demi Moore, Joan Collins, Susan Sarandon, Naomi Watts, Madonna … the list goes on.

How to Be A Cougar

— Image Source/Corbis

As you read through the celebrity mags, you may find yourself wondering what life would be like if you, too, could prowl the cougar dens. Maybe you're even thinking seriously about finding yourself a strapping young stud, wondering if you still have the right stuff. Or perhaps (more likely) you're just fantasizing­ about what you'd need to do if you ever decided you wanted to try out the Mrs. Robinson thing.

The bad news: There's more to becoming a cougar than hanging out a "sex wanted" sign. The good news: It's all totally within your reach — hypothetically, that is.

Here are seven steps you'd need to take to get in on the action:

Abandon Your Outmoded Standards of Good Taste. So a lady never shows so much as a hint of lingerie lace? Always makes sure not to mix prints, flash too much jewelry or wear sequins before sundown? That old-fashioned advice is as irrelevant to cougar style as white gloves and a hankie. In Cougarland, the fashion watchwords are shorter, tighter, brighter and barer. If your mother's comment on your outfit would have been that you look like you're asking for it, then you're dressed exactly right. (Never mind that you may not look as great as you might have in your glory days.)

Pay Attention to What They Don't See. Hair: check. Makeup: great. Perfume: perfect. White cotton standard issue underwear: whoa!

If you think you don't have to worry about what's underneath your clothes, then you haven't been with a 20-something guy since, yeah, you were 20-something. The natural, let-it-all-hang-loose look of our younger years is long gone. Today's guys have come to expect that women will be outfitted in such exotica as pushup bras, garter belts and (ouch) thongs. They'll also expect that you'll be waxing salon smooth: underarms, legs, even places that rarely see the light of day. By the way: Don't be surprised to find your young man similarly shaved (except for maybe his face). And by all means, don't gasp if you notice that he's got a heart manscaped into his chest hair.

Access Your Inner Bad Girl. Remember those nasty girls at your junior high dances, who wore too much makeup and made out in public with all the boys? Well, they're your new role models. Forget about playing hard to get or feeling like you have to follow "The Rules" in order to bag a man. If you're wearing cougar clothes and prowling the cougar den, then own up to why you're there and what you want! Crass? Maybe. But remember, this is all hypothetical — isn't it?

Stifle the Advice. Just because he's young enough to be your son doesn't mean you have to act like Mom. Resist the impulse to listen too sympathetically to his problems, to warn him that he really shouldn't be smoking or drinking so much, to tell him how he might rev up his career or do better in school (yikes), much less to give him too-explicit directions in the romance arena. And, whatever you do, never ever tell him to clean up his room.

One Word for You: Awesome! Younger men may have less flab, more stamina and a better appreciation for strong women than their older counterparts, but they're exactly like guys your age in one way: They love attention. The only thing that's changed is the response required from you. Rather than saying, "You're so smart" or "That's so interesting," you only need to memorize one word: Awesome!

Let's practice.

Young guy: "I'm in my third year of law school." You: "Awesome!"

Young guy: "I'm into skateboarding and hanging out with my dog, Spike." You: "Awesome!"

Young guy: "Let's get naked." You: "Whoa there! I mean, awesome!"

Don't Make Love. Depending on how far you decide to take this thing, you may have sex with your youthful partner — if you're lucky, that is. But sex is what it is and what he's going to call it, if not something blunter, and so should you. Calling it "making love" or "sleeping with" is not only old-fashioned; it could mean you're fooling yourself about the "relationship." 

One thing you shouldn't fool yourself about, even in your fantasies: You still have to make sure he uses a condom. Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise, especially among the middle-aged who may think they no longer need protection. Nothing hypothetical about that.

Welcome to the Other Side of Forever. Alas, even Demi and Ashton didn't live happily ever after. The cougar-cub liaison can be great for the ego, for fun, for adventure, but you're not going to bring this guy home to your parents or, God forbid, your kids. At our age, we've already seen the other side of forever. Stripped of our illusions, honest about our intentions, we're now free to love the one we're with — and maybe his roommate tomorrow.

And if all this advice about your potential cougar adventures makes you want to settle back with your same old guy — or a bag of chocolate kisses and a Jake Gyllenhaal movie — then you can take comfort in knowing how much you're going to save on lingerie.

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