It finally happened. The day all my friends predicted—and just as Courtney Cox’s new show, Cougar Town is about to launch. My cub, Michael, and I broke up after almost two years together. We had met under the most curious of circumstances, which you can read about here. He was 26 and I was 45 and at the time and had never heard the word, “cougar.” Now I was a card-carrying member of the cougar club sitting in Bombay Spice, a local Indian restaurant, about to bring my club membership to an end.
I couldn’t stay long because I was racing off to some networking event. I got to the point quickly.
“Look, you know I’ll always love you,” I said patting his meaty hand. “It just doesn’t make sense for me anymore. We’re at such different places in our lives.”
Michael gave me a questioning look. “It’s not like the age difference just suddenly appeared,” he said. “Why does it matter now?” Michael had just come from the gym. His black hair was combed neatly and his cheeks were rosy red. He leaned forward on the table waiting for an answer.
“Uh, because you’re busy building your empire,” I said. “And I’m busy doing nothing except wondering how to restart my life.”
“I never got in your way from doing that,” he said. “I only encouraged you.”
Of course, Michael was right. Even at my age, I still had to fight the tendency to make a guy the center of my life. It was as though the gravitational pull of a man was just too powerful, and if I didn’t have enough ballast in my own life, I’d be sucked in to his.
“You know I just pretend to be a strong, empowered woman,” I explained. “I need to get a life—a creative life, say.”
“You have a life,” he said. “Maybe it’s not the one you want right now but it’s a life.”
“I need to find the life I really want,” I said. “Not just the one I fell into. I should probably get a job, too. A relationship is too distracting.”
Michael shook his head in disbelief. Then he crossed his arms and leaned back as though wondering if life had a particular direction or it was all just random. “What about sex?” he asked finally. “Can we still have sex?”
“As in no-strings attached sex?” I said raising one eyebrow. “Is that really possible after being in an actual relationship?”
“Anything’s possible,” he said. “Except for you going without sex.”
It’s annoying when someone knows you better than you know yourself, but I held firm. I explained I was entering a new phase in my life, one where my creative passions would reign supreme, where my dedication to my writing craft would hold me in the only relationship I could control – the one between my laptop and myself. He rolled his eyes, laughed hard, calmed down and shook his head. Then he went back to his lentil soup.
“That’ll be the day,” he said.
I finished my iced tea and raced off wondering why it seemed so funny, this idea of me pursuing the cloistered creative life. I’ll show him, I thought to myself. And then it hit me. I was free at last to do the one thing that I’d been itching to do for months now, the one thing that had caused Michael to look at me with fright and horror in eyes. I would cut my hair short and let it go gray.