The ultimate cougar: Mrs Robinson (seen here in a scene from the movie The Graduate).

QUESTION: I’ve always regarded myself as sensible, grateful for a fulfilling job and family I love. But as I approach 50, I find myself suddenly drawn to young men. I flirt with my gardener and get crushes on my son’s 20-something friends. I’ve no intention of acting on such impulses, but it makes me feel undignified. Is this just a symptom of the menopause?


ANSWER: When Germaine Greer’s The Boy was published a decade ago, there were some raised eyebrows that a feminist writer, then in her mid-60s, should glorify the impact of young male beauty in our culture.

Women are usually more sensible than men about actively pursuing far younger conquests, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel a similar nostalgia for smooth skin and uncrushed optimism.

It’s certainly true that acute wistfulness can accompany the loss of fertility. Many 50-something women fear becoming invisible to junior generations and therefore a spot of light flirtation is incredibly bolstering. It can feel like the last-chance saloon: flirt now, while hormones allow.

You don’t have to be lecherous to appreciate having young men in your kitchen. Nor is it criminally flirtatious to respond to gallantries with appreciation and a spot of light joshing.

You only lose dignity when you read more into this exchange of pleasantries than is warranted, or become overly familiar.

It’s fine to make your children’s friends feel welcome, but you certainly don’t want them to feel hounded by Mrs Robinson.

The trick here is keeping things in perspective. Rare is the woman who doesn’t mourn a few of life’s missed opportunities as she moves through menopause.

It’s just important, for one’s own sense of dignity, to keep in mind that these charming boys almost certainly view us as geriatrics. There’s mutual appreciation, but rarely mutual lust. - Daily Mail