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Say It Isn't So, Demi! (A Cougar Survival Guide)

Demi Moore was my beacon of light, my guide into Cougarland, lending hope, positive image, respectability, and a sense of possibility. If she can make it work, I figured, so can I.
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When I heard that Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher might split up, I was devastated. Now, you might ask, "Diane, why do you care so much about seeing this couple succeed?" It's simple -- I have a May-December romance, and whenever I had any doubts I could always fall back on the thought that if Demi can make it work... well, so can I!

Five years ago, on a flight from New York to Tampa to do my show on HSN, I found myself seated next to a gorgeous guy who looked like he was in his forties -- ten to fifteen years younger than me. We started small-talking about travels and work and ended up engaged in one of those electrifying conversations where the intellectual and spiritual connection is as potent as the sexual chemistry. After we landed, we wanted to keep the encounter going, but logistics of life dictated otherwise.

Three months later, he showed up at my door with champagne and strawberries, literally ripped the little black dress from my body, and threw me into a full-on, Fabio-on-the-cover romance novel of an affair. I'd had a few tepid flings since being widowed several years earlier, but in many ways, I felt like I was in love for the first time in my life. It was thrilling. Dizzying! Then it hit me:

Oh, my God. I'm a cougar!

Demi was my beacon of light, my guide into Cougarland, lending hope, positive image, respectability, and a sense of possibility. If she can make it work, I figured, so can I.

Now, the cougars she inspired will have to continue blazing the trail. So here are a few tips from my personal Cougar Survival Guide:

  1. Be soft in private, tough in public. Consider keeping the relationship quiet for the first year, and develop a thick skin. Unlike Silver Foxes who marry younger women, and even if you're a smoking hot Hollywood power-player like Demi, you're not allowed to have a beautiful younger male spouse without a lot of judgmental criticism. So be brave and learn to blow off those snide remarks! Tell yourself, "They'd be in my shoes in a heartbeat if they could!"

  • Be honest with yourself. Does vanity play into your decision to get with a younger man? I won't deny it: my affair with a younger man does make me view myself in a more flattering, positive light. There's no denying I feel hipper, edgier, cooler, and, yes, younger. Chances are you're having a brilliantly passionate encounter and in most cases red-hot intensity just doesn't last. Now, I don't say this as the final buzz-kill. These odds shouldn't make your experience any less fabulous...just asking for a little realism here.
  • Embrace the energy budget. We should all do it anyway, but since I've been keeping up with this naturally nocturnal creature fourteen years younger than me, I've redoubled my efforts to optimize my body, maximize my time, and safeguard my health. Take those vitamins, sister. You'll need them!
  • Learn the difference between "mommy" and mentor. I've often heard, "If you marry a child-groom you wind up becoming the Mommy-bride." Not necessarily true. Personally, I think of myself as confidant, advisor, and mentor! I love that he respects my wisdom, opinions, and advice as much as he craves my body.
  • Redefine "happily ever after." Was Demi a sucker for thinking her marriage would work? 50% of American marriages end in divorce. Everyone's a sucker for thinking it'll work! We do it because we believe in love, and five years of love is a hell of a lot better than 70 years of closed-off, uptight loneliness. A writer friend once told me, "There's no such thing as a happy ending -- only happy intervals and inevitable conclusions." The inevitable conclusion for any relationship: the couple splits or one partner dies. I've been widowed, and it was agony. Why would I wish that on this man I love? (Granted, Demi might be wishing she was a widow right now, but she'll get over it.) I refuse to waste precious time analyzing or dreading the future. Today is my happily ever after, and I'm loving it.
  • I once asked my boyfriend if he was ever bothered by the difference in our ages, and he looked truly puzzled. "Diane," he said, "everyone cannot be born the same year, the same day, the same hour, the same minute. It's impossible. Knowing this, what does age matter?"

    Wow, right? I love him even more for that beautiful sentiment... and yet, in the back of my mind, there's the thought: Chances are, some day it will matter... But until then...