A 27-year-old married man from Madison, Wisconsin, T.N. replies to Unreal's ad before coming to town on business. We converse for a good 45 minutes before he's finally able to admit why he likes having an older woman on the side: "Blowjobs. My wife does not like giving them. In fact, she is dead set against them. I love her for who she is, but it sucks. Pun intended."

There's the 26-year-old Marine who lost his virginity 10 years ago to his 36-year-old married neighbor, the 24-year-old who stalks the wives of outstate hunters the first weekend of deer season, the 21-year-old who offers to "trade" himself in exchange for granting an interview.

And let's not leave out 35-year-old Cordell Calhoun, an electrician who exclusively hounds cougars over 60. Calhoun finds fertile territory early mornings at the grocery store — specifically in the produce section. "It sounds crazy, but I'm looking for the gray hair, the worn skin tone and wrinkles, and the saggy boobies," he says.

Model: Rachel Gunn; Makeup: Rachel Elizabeth Meltzer
Jennifer Silverberg
Model: Rachel Gunn; Makeup: Rachel Elizabeth Meltzer
At age 53, Debra Reed doesn’t do married dudes. But prey with girlfriends are fair game!
Jennifer Silverberg
At age 53, Debra Reed doesn’t do married dudes. But prey with girlfriends are fair game!

Yep, sounds crazy.

Calhoun likes to open with a flirty line. Like: "Sure looks like you'll be making something tasty tonight!" If the lady bites, he'll drop something like: "Oh, you remind me of my grandmother. She used to make everything from scratch." Before long it's: "Well, I'd sure love to taste that sometime. You ever need to fill a seat at the table, you just call me and I'll come running."

Calhoun appreciates the fact that your typical cougar has no use for postcoital cuddling; they're more likely to offer a snack or a glass of iced tea. "You don't really miss them [after it's over], but you do think about them," he says.

Unreal's favorite male interviewee may have been Anthony Moore, a 30-year-old divorced computer programmer. "I don't do butt-love," he says one night while tailing cougars at Café Eau. "I am fundamentally against butt-love. I draw the line at butt-love.

"However, I will do butt-love on request," he concedes.

"I'm like a DJ in that respect."

The cougars, mind you, are just as adventurous as the prey they stalk. Take DeeAnne Grant, 38, a self-described thick chick, divorced with three kids. She tells Unreal she dated a 21-year-old for two years intermittently while diddling other young studs. One of the more memorable occasions transpired when an eighteen-year-old and a nineteen-year-old helped her move.

"They came up with a plan to tag-team me," she recounts. "I said, 'Let's just do it one after the other.'"

Then there's Gina T., 43, who took time out of her busy schedule to talk to Unreal after a three-hour morning romp through the mud of Falling Springs Park in Cahokia with a 26-year-old Marine she's been seeing for the past two months. (What is it with Marines?) "We're doing little sightseeing tours, exploring the area," she says. "Along the way we've ended up doing it in a stairwell, a restroom and, Lord help me, a church!"

Gina's married with two kids at home, and her husband knows she fools around. She says he gave her his blessing three years ago and that the arrangement has worked out splendidly. The kids have no idea Mom's messing around, because the guys aren't allowed to call after 3 p.m. Plus, the dalliances have exposed her to the kinds of activities her teens could be up to. And sex with her husband is gradually improving, she reports.

"But the best part is, I carry myself differently. I've changed not just my whole personality, but my appearance, too. I keep my nails long and painted. I never leave the house without a little bit of makeup. I feel the confidence coming out of my body. I walk out the door, look in the mirror and say, 'That's right! Who's gonna whistle at this bitch today?'"

It was at a dinner party back in 1997 when Elspeth Sage's 21-year-old nephew called her a "cougar." At the time, Sage was on the near side of 40 (but barely). She and a pal (who prefers to go unnamed for "security" purposes) began inquiring about the term's origin and before long had traced it back, anecdotally, to 1982, when the Vancouver Canucks took to calling the foxy older women who procured front-row seats at their hockey games "cougars."

"We found it really funny," recalls Sage, who's now 49. "But we also loved the association, because a cougar is a really magnificent animal, so attuned to odors and scents and tastes."

Sage and her friend promptly created a website, cougardate.com, and posted a "Cougar Manifesto." Salient points: The most successful cougars "married well and got huge divorce settlements. Lesser cougars were feminists who clawed their way to the top and made their own money." Cougars love shopping, dinner-party planning and traveling. Other characteristics include "a penchant for home decorating, an interest in dogs (the only other species they can live with), an avid consumption of home products such as tinfoil and Cheez Whiz, and a limited interest in technology."

Ten years in, cougardate.com gets 60,000 hits a day, Sage claims. "And all we did was put a name to something which had been going on for thousands of years."

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