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Every once in a while, something happens in life that startles you as if you were slapped about the head and shoulders with a cold, dead mackerel. Sometimes it is all internally-driven, like staring at the old man in the mirror or realizing reading glasses have morphed from being a “nice to have” into a necessity. Other times, pop culture gives you a shot to the head, leaving you speechless.

Pop culture now calls Jennifer Aniston a cougar, with “cougar” defined as an older woman who pursues younger men. Jennifer Aniston is an “older” woman? When did this happen? She’s almost exactly 10 years younger than me. She’s still a kid!

“Older” always applies nicely to people closer to the grave than you. Cougar doesn’t quite fit. Cougar connotes some supine being, quick and agile, capable of pouncing on a moment’s notice and working with stealth.

That hardly seems to coincide with someone a decade older than me, staring down the double whammy of getting on the waiting list for hip replacement surgery while roaring into the howling night winds, at decibel levels previously unreached, prior to menopausal snits wreaking havoc with their, uh, “demeanor.” This breed of cat fails to see the need to pounce, when tearing the prey’s face off provides just as much thrill.

And let’s face it. Cougar and osteoporosis just don’t go together.

Before some elder boomer, remiss in taking her hormone meds, seeks to hunt me down and gut me with a butter knife, let me state that I realize I’m no box of chocolates myself. But there’s a name for men of my vintage seeking to tip-toe into the fresher end of the gene pool: It’s called being a lecher.

Lecher does not connote quite the same image as a cougar. Lecher seems to suggest some plodding old goat with a bad comb-over, gut hanging over his too-hip genes, leering at the young lovelies as if they see him as he was a quarter century ago or more. He thinks the objects of his desires are laughing with him and not at him, as he braces himself on the door and roof of his sports car to get out of the low-lying beast in a manner akin to the way a commercial fisherman gaffes his catch into the boat.

I, dear readers, am not that man. I have my hair, graying though it may be.

I suppose I should take solace in being at the tail end of the baby boom. There are still very attractive women at the beginning of the boomer generation that I could envision as cougars. Women such as Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon remain beautiful, and good old Diane Keaton certainly gave us full-frontal proof of her cat-like physique in the movie “Something’s Gotta Give.” Sadly, these women wouldn’t give me a second look if my hair was on fire and they were holding a garden hose.

Who’s a cougar for elder boomer males? Bea Arthur?

Alas, we’re on the cusp of generational transition. Generations X and Y take over the work force flitting about with electronic devices we boomers would use if only we could see the 8-point characters on the miniaturized LED readouts. Slowly, on the cultural stage, these whippersnappers flay at us with a cane, trying to hook it around our necks and get us mercilessly off the center stage on which we’ve been whining since the mid-1960s.

I have no doubt we’ll not go quietly into the darkness. We’ll say “right on” as Helen Reddy bounds around the stage on titanium hips, failing to hit the high notes while belting out the early feminist rallying cry, “I am woman Hear me roar.”

Old Helen will always remain a cougar in these fading eyes, while Jennifer Aniston will always remain a kitten.

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