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Cougar Hunting

Cougars are under fire.

You could call the last decade Cougar-riffic. From "Sex in the City" to Demi Moore, the message to American women has been "You're not getting older, you're getting hotter".

Growing old gracefully is so 2002.

Cougars, in case you've been living under a hormone-replacement-therapy free rock for the last few years, are older women who seek younger men. There's even an app for that. It's called "Cougar Call,"which, for 99 cents, lets you "Empower the sexy in you." I personally would rather pay 99 cents for an app that would clean my kitchen. But that's just me.

Courtney Cox
Jean Baptiste Lacroix | WireImage | Getty Images
Courtney Cox

Now, however, the cougar concept may have "jumped the shark".

The first sign was the creation of a prime time television series based on cougars.

If cougars have gone mainstream, that could mean they're only a couple steps away from being sent to pop culture's elephant graveyard.

The latest sign it's all over: cougars are being called unsafe for families, and even hazardous to their own health.

An article in this weekend's New York Times reveals that Googleis banning ads for cougar-related web sites from appearing on "content" sites like YouTube and MySpace. That impacts dating web sites like Cougar Life, which promises "The Ultimate Catch." Cougar ads can still pop up on search pages, but the Times reports that Google has deemed them "nonfamily safe" for content sites.

Meantime, older men seeking out younger women is still fine. Those ads are apparently family safe and continue to appear on both search and content pages. I asked Google reps why one set of May-December romances is okay and another isn't. "We can't comment on specific advertisers," I was told by a company spokesperson, "but our policy is that adult dating ads are classified as non-family safe meaning that they will not show on the Google Content Network or when Safe Search is enabled on Google.com." So cougars qualify as "adult" but sugar daddies do not. No further explanation coming.

But here's my question. Who is a cougar? How old is she?

According to Cougar Life, "Cougars are Women in their PRIME: independent, sexy and wildly successful. They enjoy men that are youthful, fit with the same zest for life. Cougars are classy, confident women that already possess many of the finer things in life - but now want the young, hot guy to go with it."

Hmmm, pretty vague. I mean, you could possess some finer things by age 30, but if you're dating a grad student, I don't think that makes you a cougar.

One definition at UrbanDictionary.comsays a cougar is "A 35+ year old female who is on the 'hunt' for a much younger, energetic, willing-to-do-anything male. The cougar can frequently be seen in a padded bra, cleavage exposed, propped up against a swanky bar in San Francisco (or other cities) waiting, watching, calculating; gearing up to sink her claws into an innocent young and strapping buck who happens to cross her path. 'Man is cougar's number one prey.'"

Oh, poor helpless strapping young man. How can he possibly defend himself...

But wait!

There's more!

A new study says that cougars die younger. The Daily Beast reports research from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany reveals that women who marry someone seven to nine years younger than they are increase their chances of dying early by 20 percent. Leave it to the Germans to bum everyone out.

Experts point to the stress of looking young for a boy toy as one reason a cougar's life might be cut short, along with the stress that comes from a disapproving society. Women who marry older men also die younger, but the increased mortality risk isn't as high.

Still, is it worth it?

Author Susan Winter, a veteran cougar, says she doesn't care. "I would rather die of a heart attack in bed with my younger man than die of boredom changing adult Pampers."

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