By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Aug 26, 2008 at 5:31 AM Photography: Whitney Teska

For ages it has been socially acceptable for men to date much younger women -- which contributes to a large pool of single, middle-aged women.

Some of these seasoned, yet still-lovely ladies admit to feeling "invisible" to the opposite sex. But there’s a group of older gals in the dating scene, often referred to as "cougars," and these ladies aren’t turning to a houseful of cats for companionship. Instead, they’re dating dudes a decade or more younger than they are, and in some cases, calling the shots.

The definition of "cougar" varies, but usually it refers to a woman in her 40s, 50s or 60s who likes to date guys between 10 and 20 years her junior. Allegedly, the term originated in 2001 in Vancouver.

Alex Grove, a 25-year-old bartender at Taylor’s says he's regularly approached by older women, but the word "cougar" doesn’t really make sense to him.

"I never understood the word," says Grove. "I still think of (the character in) ‘Top Gun’ when I hear the word."

Whereas the "cougar" term once described a creepy matron with a tickle in her mom jeans, it has better connotation these days. Often times, these women are financially stable, physically attractive and determined to have a good time despite the fact society brands most females over 40 as unsexy.

Despite stereotypes, cougar relationships are mutual, and not synonymous with a spider snagging a fly. Some men -- especially those on a professional fast track -- are less interested in committed relationships and simply into fun and frolic with the fairer sex.

"Some older women prefer going after younger guys, and that’s cool," says Grove.

Plus, some guys find the older woman more attractive because she doesn’t have the "biological ticking clock." Many cougars have grown children or have reached menopause.

Actresses like "Desperate Housewives’" Felicity Huffman and Kim Cattrall from "Sex and the City" bushwhacked the path for seasoned gals to reclaim their sensuality. Cattrall, 52, played her real age in "Sex," and her character, Samantha, remained sexy even in the midst of breast cancer.

Hollywood has been obsessed with May-to-December relationships for generations, cranking out films like "The Graduate," "Harold and Maude" and "American Beauty."

In the 2007 straight-to-DVD movie, "Cougar Club," Warren Kole and Jason Jurman play college grads who have relationships with a series of older women, including female characters played by Carrie Fisher and Faye Dunaway.

Vic Jones is the co-owner of Victor’s, a nightclub that attracts guests from age 25 to 65. Jones says he witnesses the cougar / fresh meat hook-up, but that the women are pickier than one might think.

"Most of these women are interested in guys in their 30s, maybe late 20s, but usually not the extremely young men," he says.

Jones points out that women, including women on the prowl, are more cautious, concerned about safety and generally don't come on as strongly as males who are looking for a one-nighter.

"Places that have a dance floor -- like Victor's -- make it easier for women to meet men because they just have to ask them to dance," says Jones.

Multiple Web sites celebrate the cougar lifestyle, like the Britain-based Gocougar.com. This site says, "Feel comfortable with the possibility of starting an age-gap relationship in a community where people think just like you."

Another site, Urbancougar.com, defines the cougar as "a sophisticated species of female who seeks the pleasure of younger males. She avoids the entanglements of a relationship, in favor of the freedom of the hunt."

According to Grove, Milwaukee has a thriving cougar community. He says about one in every 10 times that he goes out, an older woman hits on him.

"I usually like it," says Grove. "I like their personality. Younger women can be more emotional, whereas the older ones are usually more stable."

Also, older women teach young men bedroom skills and are generally more comfortable with their bodies.

Grove says his "cut off" age is 45, and that most of the older women he meets are divorced.

"I meet a lot of (cougars) in hotel bars," he says.

Anjl Rodee, a 45-year-old creative designer, musician and OnMilwaukee.com blogger, says she doesn’t find the word "cougar" offensive.

"No, I don't think 'cougar' is a derogatory term," says Rodee. "By common definition, a cougar is a sexy, attractive older woman of independent means. Real life examples that come to mind are Demi Moore, Madonna, Courtney Cox and Sheryl Crow. Hardly a shabby crowd to be associated with."

Rodee expresses multiple reasons why older women like to date younger guys.

"You hear (older women say) 'I look young so younger men are attracted to me' and 'younger men have more energy' and 'we have more in common' sort of thing," says Rodee. "In my opinion, it boils down to this: I think they do it for the same reason that older men like to date younger women. Because they can."

Jones voices a similar sentiment.

"The most attractive flowers get the attention, regardless of age," says Jones.

Here are some local establishments that may have a few extra cougar types prowling around:

Blu
424 E. Wisconsin Ave., (414) 298-3196
www.pfisterhotel.com

Apparently, Blu is a place where ripe-on-the-vine enchantresses go to check out more than just the great view of the city.

Elsa’s On The Park
833 N. Jefferson St., (414) 765-0615
www.elsas.com

Elsa’s attracts the classier "cougar," who is usually in good physical condition and bejeweled with fancy adornments.

Libby Montana
5616 W. Donges Bay Rd., (262) 242-2232
www.libby-montana.com

This indoor bar and grill features an indoor volleyball pit and, apparently, experienced women looking to team up with tender footed fellows.

Metro Bar & Café
411 E. Mason St., (414) 272-1937
www.hotelmetro.com

With well-crafted drinks and a hip, sophisticated environment, it’s not surprising that mature women with good taste might frequent this place.

Shepherds in Tosa
6715 W. North Ave., (414) 257-9107

According to West Side sources, spirited older ladies like to round up younger dudes at this popular Wauwatosa watering hole.

Taylor’s
795 N. Jefferson St., (414) 271-2855
www.taylorsmilwaukee.com

Corporate cougars need love, too, which is why they occasionally stalk this popular post-work drinkery.

Victor’s On Van Buren
1230 N. Van Buren St., (414) 272-2522
www.victorsonvanburen.net

Jokingly referred to as "Victims," Victor’s is a hot spot for all kinds of hooks ups, including those featuring a woman in her prime and a younger chap.

Village Pub
4488 N. Oakland Ave., (414) 961-9879
www.shorewoodvillagepub.com

This pub has an eclectic mix of drinkers, including the occasional older gal who’s lookin’ for love in the ‘burbs.

Yester Years Pub & Grill
9427 W. Greenfield Ave., (414) 476-9055

This West Allis sports bar / dance club sometimes attracts mature ladies in search of strapping, sports-minded lads.

Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.

As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.

She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that. 

Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.

Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.

In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!

When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.