Many years ago, when smoking was more socially acceptable, a cigarette ad told women, "You've come a long way, baby." I always thought that if that's the case, why are they still calling women baby? But it turns out these pseudo-feminist ads of the 1970s were prophetic. We have come a long way, and new studies reflect a radical shift in relationship dynamics.
There is an upward trend of women with more education and earning power than the partners they date or choose to marry. This economic power shift for women has been a long time coming and should be a societal marker that we celebrate. But it is not. Oh no, instead of the country bursting into applause, professional women (of a certain age) are taken down a notch or two every time they get hit with the venomous zinger - COUGAR. Bam. The power of words. In one instant, a woman's accomplishments are completely disregarded so that she is only judged by one thing - her sexuality.
The label Cougar conjures images not of women of merit and achievement, but of fountain-of-youth seeking desperation. "Cougars" are painted as wildcats armed with bottles of Botox, stiletto-stalking the kind of six-pack that doesn't come in a can. What a sexist double standard. You know what they call successful men who keep the company of younger women? "Sir." Or "damn lucky." "Cougar" is never mistaken as a complement. It's a term laced with underlying disrespect and derogatory inferences that minimize and objectify even the most successful of women.
I say enough with the denigrating cougar references. It is time to show women the respect they deserve. I coined a term in my upcoming book, The Real Secrets Women Only Whisper, which I use to describe women who dominate in a relationship through their education, power, or accomplishment. I refer to them as "Cleos." Just like Cleopatra, the magnificent Egyptian queen herself, these powerful women rule. Women have indeed come a long way and modern-day incarnations abound. Famous American Cleos include such powerhouse women as Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King, Barbara Walters, Kelly Ripa, Paula Deen, Demi Moore, Christine Peters, Ellen DeGeneres, Whoopi Goldberg, Rachael Ray, Tyra Banks, Joan Rivers, Cheryl Tiegs, Halle Berry, Joy Behar and of course, Arianna Huffington. These women deserve our admiration. From bartenders to billionaires, a Cleo can bring home the bacon and share it with anyone she pleases!
Cleos are not cougars on the prowl looking for sex with younger men. Cleos don't have to prowl! Cleos are highly desired - at any age. Cleos don't need a powerful man to boost their self-esteem. Cleos have their own power. There are Cleos living all over the country who bring home the bacon, while their significant others are pouring them a glass of wine after a long day, or packing the school lunches in the morning.
If you are fortunate enough to be a Cleo, there are still some things that will never change. Nobody, not even a Cleo, gets a free pass with men. Oh no, just like the rest of us mere mortals, a Cleo still has to stay on guard and mind her relationship. A Cleo must not make the assumption that because her loved one is fortunate to be with her fabulous self, she can relax and enjoy a relationship on cruise control. A Cleo still has to see that her significant other doesn't feel "less than" significant and seek adoration from a lowly "Weed" (a woman who sleeps with other women's husbands). A Weed will gladly spend the afternoon giving the royal treatment just so that during the middle of a siesta, she can slip out of bed and sneak into Cleo's closet to try on her clothes and count her shoes. (Yes, she really will.) A Cleo must always remember to take time to mind the homefront - and keep a lock on her closet door!
If you are a Weed, or considering becoming one, here's a word of advice: you don't want to tangle with a Cleo. Ever. If you get caught, Cleo will silently destroy you. She will drop your name to her allies and mark you with a Scarlet Letter A. And without Cleo ever having to say another word, the world will show its respect by blocking your advancement. You will wake up one day and wonder why nothing is working in your life - why jobs disappear, why clients disappear, and why men disappear. And as your years waste away, you will eventually figure it out - a Cleo rules - and she never forgets.
As for me, the word cougar is out of my vocabulary. I don't want to hear anymore about them. I'm ready for women to take their rightful place and lead. It's Cleos who will one day take over the world.