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Wednesday, September 27, 2023


How one Cougar is reinventing herself at UH

When I was stationed in Okinawa, my sister sent me a Christmas package.

uh tshirt

A 2010 Christmas present gift from Samora’s sister would predict her future both academically and personally. | Sara Samora/The Cougar

Inside were two or three pairs of jeans and some blouses. She also threw in a couple of T-shirts, one of them a baseball T-shirt with the word “Cougars” in a cursive font and the UH logo underneath it.

My roommate Selena and I exploded in laughter.

“How did she know?” I asked aloud.

See, I was a cougar before I even contemplated attending UH. During my tour in Okinawa, I was the 30-year-old junior Marine surrounded by 18- to 23-year-old junior Marines. Meanwhile, the Marines and officers closer to my age were out reach: fraternization was a violation, so it meant my personal life would suffer.

Except it didn’t. I was surprised by how many 20-somethings hit on me, asked me out on dates and told me how beautiful I am. Granted, I knew they were primarily motivated by the hope of sex.

This dating boom in my life made me wonder if I was a cougar. But isn’t a cougar in her 40s and over? I felt I was too young to be considered or even called one.

“According to the Urban Dictionary, which lists many definitions of cougar too unsavory to print, the cougar woman is generally at least 35 — and always on the hunt,” reported The New York Times. “Sociologists studying these relationships generally are looking at women of those ages involved with men 10 to 15 years younger.”

I am not on the hunt, and I was not on the hunt back then. Three years later, I’m now out of the service and free to date whomever I want. Finally, I can date a man my age or older.

But the men my age at UH are already married, and I don’t just mean the professors.

I’m finding myself in the same place I was before: in another location full of young men.

This time it’s different; while I am attracted to younger men, it is men closer to their 30s. However, I still don’t look for them. I’m around them every day, and these same men are currently going through the same experiences as me: a mature individual attending a school full of a younger population. We’re trying to survive socially. “Adapt and overcome” is what we say in the Marines.

While I’m a year shy of fitting Urban Dictionary’s definition of a Cougar, I have to carry the title. Not only relationship-wise, but as a UH student.

The shirt my sister sent me predicted my future; I am a Cougar until the day I die.

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