Maude Rising: A new, improved super-cougar is beguiling younger men

The original Maude was ahead of her time in 1970 (Tom Wargacki/Wire Image)The original Maude was ahead of her time in 1970 (Tom Wargacki/Wire Image)

Ron, a 33 year-old electrician, knew his date was going to be significantly older. Her name was Hattie, for crying out loud. "If you don't date an older woman at least once in your life you're missing out," says the self-proclaimed "cub" whose date with a 73 year-old woman is the premise of the first episode of TLC's series "Strange Sex," which premiered this week.

Hattie, his septugenerian internet date, calls herself a cougar. She's not. She's a Maude. Of "Harold and Maude"--the cult Hal Ashby film where a 19 year-old and an 80 year-old fall in love. And it makes sense. If you haven't seen the movie, trust me.

In the film, Ruth Gordon's character nude models, has multiple sex partners, and never asks her young cub to define their relationship. She's dying anyway.

This is just the attitude, as strange as it sounds, that's making much older women so attractive to young men. They're confident in a way that's almost existential. It's a fearlessness that's just the opposite of classic "cougars".

Dressed for her date with Rob in a gold cowboy hat, a cut-out dress, and a matching gold bolero jacket, Hattie proudly displays her years--without a hint of plastic surgery. "I know the first thing a guy is going to do when he sees me is rip my clothes off," she proclaims.

This is not the cougar that came of age on "Desperate Housewives". The one portrayed in pop culture as fighting off her 40's with Botox, Restyln and over-sized cowboy hats; the one that's supposed to ask "Why can't I date younger men?" too defensively; the one that's fighting for youth.

Hattie is part of a new trend in "cougar-dom": the super-cougar or Maude. Older, yes, but far more confident. She embraces her wrinkles, and if you're into that too, kid, you can get in line.

The line starts with Betty White: Calender Girl. Not long after 65 year-old Helen Mirren posed topless in New York Magazine, 88 year old White has her own pin-up calander. And a recent survey showed more people prefer the Golden Girl to younger celebrities like Lindsay Lohan. Even Robert Pattinson has a crush on her. It's not because she's trying to be young and hip.

On her legendary Saturday Night Live hosting gig, her sitcom show "Hot in Cleveland" and even a Snickers ad, her schtick is that she was born before Ben Franklin. And it doesn't get old. With so many celebrities crawling backwards through a time machine and coming out the other end looking worse for the wear, a woman who embraces her age, her sex and even to put it bluntly, her death, is magnetic.

That may be why someone like Russell Brand-- a comic known for his history of drugs and sex-- is tweeting about "defiling" Helen Mirren. She doesn't scare easily.

Ron, the cub, puts this way: "Older women are more established, they have their own car, they're not going to call you up and ask to borrow 20 bucks," he says. "Younger women want a happily ever after." If they're anything like Maude, or Hattie for that matter, much older women don't even need a second date.

Let's all agree to hate the term cougar. It's misogynistic and triggers thoughts of a woman pining after her lost-youth. The Maude, on the other hand, uses her age as an asset. You don't have to take care of her and you don't have to be too precious about her feelings. She knows how old she is and it's okay that you do too. It's fitting that the boomer generation, who burnt their bras in the first go-round, who saw "Harold and Maude" on dates in the theater, are now re-defining what it means to be an old lady. And teaching us a thing or two about the rules of attraction in the process.