On the Prowl with the Cougar Hunters

 

It’s half past 11 and Rosa hasn’t moved beyond Red Bull. He doesn’t like to be drunk when he talks to cougars, says it messes with his game. Plus, he says, "it’s hard to keep track of the chicks." (Davidson, for his part, does not subscribe to this strategy. "I’m getting really shit-faced," he says.)

A pair of women we’d seen on our way in begin staring unflinchingly in our direction. The dynamic already feels different: There are no coy looks, no sidelong glances, no halfway stares. The guys look over invitingly and then pretend to watch the Celtics game on the television above the bar while keeping their bodies turned toward the women. It’s all the enticement the ladies need. They slide/lurch forward—brushing past annoyed older men as they introduce themselves to the guys.

The one in the red dress touches Rosa’s messy hair and calls him pretty. Her friend has teeth the color of merlot, and a Jokeresque grin that’s been stamped by her wineglass around the edges of her mouth. She swears she’s seen Davidson before. "Beacon Hill, definitely," she says, her wandering hands working their way over his chest and arms. "Nantucket, yes. Maybe the Chatham Bars Inn?" Davidson’s not so sure, but plays along. As he does, I forget the soft light of the wood-paneled room and the necktied barkeeps and I realize that I’ve seen the same giddy courtship scene play out among 19-year-olds in Cancun. When I share this thought with Davidson, he agrees. "Dude, it’s like adult spring break for these chicks," he says, as his new friend rubs his shoulders, "except they do this every week."

This is confirmed by the staff at the once-staid watering hole. "Oh yeah, after nights like this, when the restaurant clears out, I’ve seen people locking themselves in bathrooms, doing stuff around corners," says our bartender friend. "It’s pretty nuts."

For the young men involved, it’s all very alluring, this tableau of lusty tongue kissing and expensive cocktails. And they say it’s refreshing, too, for them to find women who know what they want and why they want it, and who refuse to play games. But you haven’t been reading closely if you’ve failed to notice a vapid quality to all this as well. Scratch anywhere near the surface, and the spoils of the hunt look rather shallow. Most guys get this. Even for its most dedicated practitioners, the game feels a lot like looking for love at summer camp: It’s intense and crazy and more than a little awkward. And in the end, there’s an almost perfect chance that nothing’s going to last.

Of course, that’s totally fine with Rosa and Davidson. As the crowd dwindles, p
hone numbers that will never be used are exchanged. Kisses are shared, but nothing more. As they leave the bar to hop into a cab, Rosa explains why they let the evening’s quarry get away. "Those chicks were too hammered, it was too much of a lay-up," he says. "I just couldn’t do it." He directs the cabbie to the Liberty Hotel, a place with "iffy cougar potential," and looks back at a gaggle of cougars spilling blissfully out of the bar.

"Plus," he says matter-of-factly, "they just weren’t that hot."