Thursday 19 October 2017

Is the cougar facing extinction?

Peak Cougar: Moore and Trucker Cap, a 15-year age gap, in 2006
Peak Cougar: Moore and Trucker Cap, a 15-year age gap, in 2006
DJ Arveene
Vogue Williams on The Cutting Edge
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

The word cougar prowled its way into common parlance roughly 10 years ago.

Cradle-snatchers and toyboys were already well ensconced in the lexicon of words used to describe an older woman-younger man relationship. Cougar, however, described something else entirely.

A cougar hunts rather than dates and has sexual instincts rather than a sexual appetite. This fierce predator stalks the vast plains of Café en Seine on a Saturday night before returning to her natural habitat of Botox parties, Pilates classes and appointments with her family law solicitor. Or at least that's how she was sold to us.

During Peak Cougar, Madonna was dating a 22-year-old male model, Demi Moore had recently married a trucker cap and magazine editors rushed to publish interviews with 'real-life' cougars, who were apparently obliged by law to wear brightly-coloured body-con dresses and pose with glasses of champagne.

It wasn't long before Hollywood piggybacked the trend and gave us a film called Cougar Club, a reality TV show called The Cougar and a sitcom called Cougar Town.

Eventually - mercifully - someone somewhere realised that there are only so many gags you can make about an older woman who has the audacity to be sexually active and the trend finally began to fade out of popular culture.

The producer of the Cougar Town TV series talked about changing the name of the show. Celebrities said they found the term offensive. Demi Moore tried to popularise the term 'puma' instead. Nobody suggested that we come up with a word for the male equivalent. Buffalo, perhaps?

The term cougar didn't become extinct, but the prurient interest and casual derision that these relationships attracted at last began to die out. The next wave of female celebrities dating younger men were still christened cougars but their relationships didn't generate the same amount of column inches or provoke the same level of MUCH YOUNGER opprobrium.

While the minutiae of Demi Moore and Trucker Cap's relationship was examined in forensic detail a few years previously, the age-gap relationships between Nicole Scherzinger and Lewis Hamilton; Robin Wright and Ben Foster and Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling were left well enough alone. No longer were these relationships characterised by the cliché of a woman with a face full of filler sporting a younger man with an eight-pack and a limited grasp of English. Suddenly we had sophisticated, serious older woman-younger man relationships in which neither party had anything to prove.

All you have to do is compare the way Aaron Taylor-Johnson looks adoringly at wife Sam-Taylor Wood and compare it the perpetual 'FML' look on the face of Rossano Rubicondi, the current lover, and former husband, of Ivana Trump.

Where once we looked at these relationships and imagined the woman sneaking out of bed at 6am every morning to put on a full face of make-up, we can now look past our initial reservations and consider them as bona fide partnerships.

The rise of liberalism was a turning point, but the introduction of Brigitte Macron to international affairs was the tipping point. As we all know by now, Brigitte, the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, is her husband's former school teacher and the story about how they first met when he was 15 and she was 40 is outrageous by anyone's standards.

Ten years ago, the media would have feasted on this SHOCKING tale for weeks, yet examine the coverage around it - and compare it to the scandal when MP Iris Robinson's affair with a 19-year-old was discovered - and you'll notice that a sea change is occurring.

Maybe we don't want to seem provincial in front of the sexually liberated French. Maybe we feel that expressing an opinion on these matters in hyper-PC society is akin to openly disagreeing with gender pronouns or cultural appropriation.

Or maybe, just maybe, we've realised that older woman-younger man relationships are becoming more common - and the term cougar is slowly facing extinction.

Arveene is putting the soul into the Absolut stage

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DJ Arveene

While most people will leave this month's Body&Soul festival in Westmeath on Monday morning and not think about it again for another 11 months, Dublin DJ, producer and all-around gentleman, Arveene (above), will already be thinking towards 2018.

As the curator of the festival's Absolut stage, he's responsible for assembling a line-up of Irish and international DJs and producers for the Midsommar at Body&Soul programme.

Arveene, who commutes between Dublin and East London, says he has all of his acts booked by March but keeps his ear to the ground for emerging acts all year long. "I'm always looking for new talent," he says. "A lot of people think of Dublin as the centrepoint of creativity when they're booking acts, but that's completely the wrong attitude because the whole country is doing great things."

Sure enough, this year's line-up includes acts from across Ireland, with newcomers like Kildare producers Mix & Fairbanks, Belfast duo Black Bones and Little Disco resident, Ciara Brady, playing alongside stalwarts like Billy Scurry, Donal Dineen and Kelly-Anne Byrne.

"It's a mix of the old guard and the new guard," says Arveene. "We're nurturing new talent while respecting the people who have kept the scene alive over the years."

New talent tends to get the earlier slots at festivals, but Arveene is eager to give newcomers a taste of the bigger crowds. "I have a slot called Arveene & Friends where I invite some of the new kids to jam tracks back to back," he says. "Getting in front of a huge crowd is a great confidence-booster. Plus, people are only going to develop when they're given the chance. And that's what clubbing is about. It's about community. It's about all of us getting together and and inspiring each other."

Arveene can be found manning the decks at the Absolut stage from 3pm on Friday, June 23.

Guests can also look forward to a performance by aerial troupe Loosysmokes.

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