Myna Wallin is a Toronto-based author and editor, who organizes and hosts the Art Bar Reading Series. Her first full-length book of poetry, A Thousand Profane Pieces, involves varied sexual and wry tones. In her second work, Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar, she brings us an erotically adventuresome heroine in Olivia who runs the gauntlet of young men and tells all. I’m glad I got a peek at this rousing narrative from Tightrope Books, which will celebrate its launch in June.

Related pictures: Cougars We Love

Q: What influenced you to consider the older, single woman in your new book?
I started my book as a series of short stories featuring women of all ages. A couple of them featured one character that was significantly older. My editor, Halli Villegas, was interested in seeing me ground the shorter vignettes into a longer narrative piece, and the common thread became “Olivia” an older woman and her much younger boyfriend. Dennis Bolen, a writer in Vancouver, describes my style as an “uber-hip Erica Jong.” I read Fear of Flying when it came out in the ’70s so I consider that a huge compliment. When she wrote about the sexually charged middle-aged woman, it was groundbreaking.

Q: Having dated younger men, what aspects of self do you see in your narrative?
I was into my late-20s when I first dated men who were younger. I took aspects of myself, just as I borrowed aspects of other people I have met, and played them up, exaggerated them. I suppose I also have a sarcastic side, a cynical side, like Olivia. And I love shoes. What woman doesn’t? My sense of humour is there in Olivia, too.

Q: In approaching your protagonist Olivia, were you informed by cougar ideas being bandied around the media?
The cougars in Hollywood as personified by Demi Moore or Madonna are glamorized, admired. Other fictional cougars, like Kim Catrall’s “Samantha” on Sex and The City are often reduced to stereotypes on the one hand and play out female collective fantasies on the other. I guess the difference is that with fiction, you can portray more than a two-dimensional character. You can bring out the complexity, the conflicts inside the woman a bit more. At least that’s what I’ve tried to accomplish. Her conflicts are the “reluctant” part of being a cougar.

Q: What do you think of putting a series of online dating profile categories through the book?
I thought they’d be a funny way of establishing character. The profiles give you a sense of how the man advertizes himself, how he might see himself, and what he thinks he can offer a woman.

Q: Did you research male-seeking-female ads to find tones that your fictive cougar would be responsive to?
I’ve spent years on and off these sites, sure. My “fictive cougar” responds to all kinds of ads. She’s not nearly as choosy as I am!

Q: What do you think of Olivia's journey of pleasure, seemingly directed youthful male physicality? Do you find there are similarities to how we perceive certain older males who desire younger women?
Yes, absolutely. Very observant of you, Louise. I’m intrigued by all sorts of double standards. And that’s one of those double standards. If you’re asking whether Olivia objectifies men, I suppose she does. Just as older men look for trophy wives or girlfriends.

Q: What do you think of Olivia’s serial approach to her encounters with younger men?
Again, that’s supposed to be the male prerogative. I’m interested in turning these stereotypes upside down, giving them a vigorous shake and seeing what comes loose.

Q: How do you see the sense of the sexual experimentation associated with the cougar concept?
I think people project their moral outrage at the idea: witness Google’s recent banning of any Cougar site ads on its search engine, deeming them “Non-family safe.” But mixed in with that so-called outrage, there is also society’s fear of upsetting the status quo.

Q: How do you see your characterization of many of the men she’s meeting? Are you interested in their older-woman fantasies?
Sure, that’s a huge part of it. I’ve always wondered why so many younger men are attracted to older women. And each of the men in Olivia’s life wants something different from her. It can’t be reduced to any simple formula.

Q: What do you make of the notion of the cougar possessing “experience” as supposedly the quantity that some men are seeking?
Funny you said “quantity” instead of “quality.” Yes, I suppose men of all ages wonder what a woman “of experience” could teach them. Maybe they want to see what it’s like when the woman takes charge, maybe they think they can find a more experimental partner. It could be any number of things!

Q: It seems tinged and partly related to the idea of courtesans. What do you make of the idea of female sexual experience being of value?
Isn’t it fascinating that a woman’s sexual experience is simultaneously prized or reviled? It threatens some men and intrigues others.

Q: What do you think of the tensions in the narrative, Olivia's serial pleasuring vs. the idea of settling down?
Louise, you’ve hit on the crux of Olivia’s dilemma: How can she both continue to enjoy sexual excitement and experimentation and yet find true love? Are they mutually exclusive paths?

Q: How do you feel about the cougar stereotype?
The stereotype is coming apart at the seams. Cougars have gone mainstream and once that happens, they aren’t a TV character anymore. They are your friend or your colleague at work or your girlfriend. They’re real.

Q: What do you think of the show like Cougar Town and the commercialization of cougar desire?
I’ve been watching Cougar Town and it’s funny but pretty tame. The websites, believe it or not, I only discovered recently. Google has decided these sites are not family friendly while it continues to run ads for sugar daddies and cheating spouses. It seems as soon as something becomes popular, and there’s money to be made from it, everything goes commercial, eventually.

Q: It seems our current understanding of cougars are relating to women in middle-age, yet what do you think of Betty White who appeared suggestively at 88 with muscled young men comically on SNL?
I think SNL played that up for comic effect. Betty White, as Sue Anne Niven, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show was always a bit of a vamp. It’s like Mae West, who never let go of that persona in her comic repertoire.

confessionscover.jpgQ: You're encouraging folks to come to the book launch in cougar attire. What is cougar attire and what do you like to see on cubs? 
“Cougar attire” is open to interpretation: animal print, décolletage, high heels. Anything that makes a woman feel sexy. As for men, I’m partial to jeans that fit very well. I’ll leave it at that.

Tightrope Books presents Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar
Wednesday, June 23, 8 p.m.
Proof Vodka Bar
220 Bloor Street West, Toronto

More info:

11 Comments | Add a Comment
I would like very much for a mature cougar to confess to me and then we can enjoy Thankyoy.
Here's to hot cougar love!
I will read this. Looks good.
I will read this. God knows it would not hurt
cougar time!
I haven't had a chance to read Myna 's Cougar stories but is it sounds interesting. T
cougar sites were banned by google?!!!!!!!
so articulate. You make a great spokeswoman for cougars!
photo credit: Alexandra Grigorescu
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