Cougar self-deception

One thing jumped out at me from Dan's alternately amusing and terrifying post below on ChatRoulette (talk about treating people as mere means!):
Social rejection. Feeling old in one's mid-30s. Random masturbators. Poor spelling.

This put me in mind of something I've been thinking recently, after I shelled out embarrassing amounts of dollars for a teensy jar of face cream. I am 36, and therefore, in that charming quoted man's words, "too old." But I don't believe it.

Apparently, there are a bunch of studies that show that heterosexual men regularly mistake mere friendliness on the part of a woman (a smile, say) as sexual interest. Men regularly deceive themselves as to how interested women are, and in what way they are interested.

Alas, I've come to think we women deceive ourselves, too.

I am aware that it is a fact that men, in general, prefer younger women. But this doesn't hit home. I totally think I'm more attractive now than I was when younger. Part of that is because I was much heavier when younger. But the thing is, even setting that mitigating factor aside, I don't feel as if my age impacts my looks at all. And while I am aware of male preference for whippersnappers, I am always absolutely shocked whenever I read of its existence, as I did recently. Past my prime at 26, or 31? Bah, humbug!

I used to wonder, when I was a snotty little young'un, why older women bothered putting on make-up. Now I know. We post-prime women are totally lying to ourselves.

Ah, well. I'm married.


  1. Fascinating. But why is this OKCupid site laboring under the delusion that 'unrealistic male expectations' are the product of a rational decision? Do people not believe in evolution? Males are going to have a built in bias for youth and good genes, with physical attactiveness as a proxy. Females likewise for stability and social standing, with money as a proxy.

  2. Gadfly, that's true for initial attraction. One does find people attractive on the street after an informed rational process. But choosing a partner is more complex. Those factors perhaps circumscribe the subset of people from whom one will choose a partner. But other somewhat more rational decisions come into play.

    I know plenty of men who are not married to the hottest youngest person they possibly could be. I know plenty of women who are not with the absolute richest, most socially respectable man she could be.

  3. Sure, I think (I'm not sure I'm following your 2nd sentence). But this is about a dating site, right? And the dating site facilitates that initial intro meeting, when all the proxies are most effective.

    Which reminds me... Remember the story of Rabbi Yosi and the Roman asking about how G-d spends his time? "What has G-d been doing since the Creation?" R. Yosi replied "He has been busy paring couples." "What? Even I can do that." "Perhaps it is simple to you, but to G-d it is as intricate as splitting the Red Sea." So the Roman paired off 1,000 servants. The next morning, all the pairs were back, complaining bitterly "I do not want this person!" The Roman went to R. Yosi and said "Your Torah is true."

  4. Sorry, meant to say that who one finds attractive on the street is obviously not the product of a rational process, but even on a dating site, one begins to let some more reflective calculations in.

  5. Yes, I don't disagree at all that choosing a mate is complex, involves rationality, and even at the beginning involves conscious reflection. But. The dice are loaded by our genetic heritage, so it shouldn't be surprising to find men like more fertile (read, younger) women even if older women have, ummm, stronger desires. Women are just as unconsciously choosy, but for different proxies.

    It might be interesting to know what proxies are in play for gay dating sites, from a psychological perspective.