When I was a child, I stumbled upon a wasp nest in an old barn. No, not nest. It was more of a wasp continent. There must have been thousands of them, all buzzing and circling and bumping into one another like they were caught in an insect mosh pit.
At first, I felt scared. But that melted into amusement and finally awe, as I stood paralyzed and entranced by the yellow and black insanity.
A few years later, I experienced that same wave of emotions, at a Bon Jovi concert. Only, instead of wasps, it was cougars. Actually, maybe the cougars were also W.A.S.P.s.
Open: Encyclopedia Of Modern American Mating Rituals.
The cougar: A female homo sapiens mammal, late 30s to 55 years old, known to prey on younger males, never older than 25.
Physical characteristics: The cougar has distinct markings that include leopard print, fluorescent pink and push-up bras. The cougar has a slender, muscular and agile body, ideal for stalking and ambushing. The traditional cougar has long, painted claws, and she looks about 15 years younger than she is. She bathes in self-tanning lotion and hibernates in a tanning bed.
The mountain lion is another subcategory of the cougar, distinguishable not by behavior but purely by appearance. The mountain lion features overly tanned skin of a leather and/or tree bark consistency and highly processed hair that is either significantly longer or significantly poofier than other females of her age. From a distance, the mountain lion camouflages with the college crowd and the "pumas" (cougars-in-training). But upon closer observation, you will notice that although the face is flawless beneath the Botox, foundation and clothespins, you can count the age rings on the below-hanging neck, much like you can count the rings in a tree stump.
"Cougar hunters" must take extra precaution not to confuse a mountain lion with a cougar, or the end result could be catastrophic.
Habitat: During the day, cougars are found in one of two extremes: In an executive business position or as a stay-at-home wife. At night, this largely nocturnal animal flocks to nightclubs, "lounges," hotel bars and, apparently, concerts by rock stars of yesteryear. The cougar thrives in dim lighting.
Demeanor: Determined, goal-oriented, independent, quick and noncommittal. Cougars are also wise and highly skilled in the hunt. A cougar also knows every word to the Bon Jovi songs pre-1990, but stands stunned at the newer music. Despite the cougar's trendy attire, modern pop-culture trivia is the surest way to unearth a cougar's true genetic age.
Diet: Rose zinfandel, gin and tonic and lettuce.
Popularity: The cougar population seems to be growing, possibly following in the stilettos of Samantha Jones of Sex and the City. Famous cougars include Demi Moore, Susan Sarandon and Naomi Watts. The term "cougar" has also appeared on shows such as 30 Rock and in the movie Ocean's Thirteen. There was also the horrible NBC reality dating show Age of Love, which pitted so-called kittens in their 20s against cougars in their 40s.
Researcher's environmental observations: On the eve of the Bon Jovi concert, I began noticing the proliferation of cougars as far away from the Pepsi Center as Interstate 25 and Park Avenue in downtown Denver. Cigarette smoke billowed from the windows of Cadillacs, driven by women in oversized sunglasses and faux fur coats.
Inside the venue, I found more tall bangs, hoop earrings, skin-tight jeans and leather jackets. One woman even sported fingerless leather gloves, revealing her blood-red nails, sharpened for the hunt.
It was as if I had discovered Colorado's most prominent cougar nest. No, more like cougar continent. There must have been thousands of them, all buzzing and circling and bumping into one another like they were caught in a mosh pit. Which they were.
At first, I felt scared. But then I looked down at my own claws: blood red, accented by fingerless gloves. My fear melted into amusement as I gave myself a looky-loo. Tall bangs. Tight jeans. Leopard print and bright pink. And what was all of this "new" Bon Jovi music? All I wanted to hear was "Bad Medicine."
But alas, in my early 30s, I knew I was safe from cougar-hood.
On the other hand, I think I need to buy some new Puma sneakers.
This article originally appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera. Photo by Flickr user Maegan Tintari.