For their 2011 iteration of the California Cougar Convention, event organizers chose a convention center befitting the dignity of their celebration: a bar next to a Goodwill in a San Bruno strip mall. Getting there from the BART station required a walk through the Chuck E. Cheese’s’ parking lot and across a highway four lanes wide in both directions. We battled a wind so fierce that we almost missed my favorite welcome sign, seen by all incoming passengers to SFO: “South San Francisco: The Industrial City.”

I’d managed to recruit three friends for this project without even directing them to, the “world’s largest non-profit for singles,” and probably also the first to include the phrase “vise versa” in its mission statement. The website promised a speech by Ms. Cougar 2010, the selection and crowning of Ms. 2011, and a raging dance party from 9 – midnight.

We entered the bar and were steered through a labyrinthine series of doors, bars, and empty ballrooms to a back dance hall. A man with a mustache immediately requested a lot of contact information, which should have scared me a lot more than it did at the time. Then he opened the doors, calling out apologetically, “I’ve got lots and lots of people coming!” as we entered.

Ms. 2010- Amy Luna- was in the midst of a speech that would have called into question the fundamental assumptions of cougar-ism, had there been more than 35 people in the room at time. At the very least, it was one of the most accomplished and subtle feats of rhetoric ever spoken in a suburban bar. She used phrases like “sex positive” to insist on the ability of women to take ownership of their own careers, relationships, and sex drives.

I have boundless respect for this woman

In the second half of her speech, she urged men to be “Sherlock, not Sherman” in the bedroom, bringing the curiosity of a detective rather than a “battle plan.” She also elaborated on a six step method to P.L.E.A.S.E. your cougar or cub:



Endogenous Zone




It was only later that I looked at Amy’s bio and saw that, in addition to being named 2010 Miss Cougar International, she was the owner of two dance companies as well as a “certified rescue scuba diver, motorcyclist, nature and wildlife photographer and member of American Mensa, the high IQ society.” 

Needless to say 2011 had big shoes to fill, which is probably why said mustached organizer of the event had devised a very sophisticated selection process involving the petition and collection of plastic coins by cougars from cubs (their man prey, each of whom had one doubloon). You’d expect that the cougars would have to do the heavy lifting. But because there were, to be generous, 20 women in the room, half of whom who claimed to have been dragged there by friends they now hated, most people in attendance barely budged.

My friends and I decided to buck the trend and take initiative. One of us talked to a cute lady who was dressed for the tea party in Alice in Wonderland and  appeared to be about 4/5 of the way to becoming a centenarian. She seemed generally confused about her whereabouts and when my friend handed her his coin, she asked him what it was for.

All the queen's men

All the queen’s men

Meanwhile, I spoke to a woman in a red dress who had started her own cleaning company at age 19. When I gave her my token, she looked up at me like I was that guy who pays for a coffee with dimes and nickels.

Finally, after ten minutes of collective cross-armed faux-texting navel-gazing, our winner was announced. Kimerly Marsh, 48 year-old divorced mother of two, had won paid passage on the 2011 Cougar Cruise and a five night stay at a resort called Hedonism II, where, if she got lucky, she might meet the studs featured in that resorts’ Men of Hedonism 2011 calendar.

Chris Merritt’s “She Wolf”

And the night, if not the crowd, was still young…