Cautionary Advice For Closet Cougars: Do Not Shop Drunk With 20-Something Girls


A few summers ago I signed up to spend a whole month in Paris at a writing workshop. “Those things are for kids,” my mother had said. “Nuh-uh,” I replied, even though I feared she might be right. I actually tried justifying the learning aspect and talked up the inexpensive housing that would allow me to explore the City of Light on a budget. But, somehow she predicted imminent behavior of the moronic kind. The night before I left, her parting words were, “Don’t act like an idiot and remember how many calories there are in alcohol.”

After a week of settling into my two-star hotel room, I’d become friends with a couple of girls in the program, Tina-Marie and Sara. Although my new buds were half my age, they remarked that I could “totally pass for thirty,” and I stupidly started to believe it. My energy was boundless. My thirst to drink up that potent city and relive my younger days became a literal interpretation. (Gunning for perpetually intoxicated seems about right.)

One day the three of us were strolling around St. Germain. We had stopped in front of a shop and the slutty display brought back fond memories from my ‘80s punk rock phase.

“Too bad I can’t wear shoes like that anymore,” I said to my pals with nonexistent pores.

“Honey, you should. You’re still hot,” Tina-Marie quipped.

I hate it when someone says that. It makes me think of a chicken that’s been taken out of the oven and left on the counter, but might still be edible. Even though the time limit for actual hotness has passed, its lukewarm state could be overlooked by the truly starving.

She and Sara dragged me in amongst the stacks of shoeboxes. Maybe it was Paris, maybe it was the umpteen Kir Royales I’d consumed, or maybe it was the fact I was shopping with twenty-four year olds? I’m not quite sure, but I spied a pair of metallic T-strapped five-inch platforms and slapped them on. I caught a glimpse of knotted calf in the mirror.

“You HAVE to get those!” they both shrieked.

I teetered around the boutique trying to recall the last time I’d worn heels so high. Oh, right. How could I forget that wasted night at Nell’s? Those pleather vintage boots designed solely for leaning against a brick wall in a dark alley, or anything that did not involve walking. I sprained my ankle so badly, the next day my foot looked like an over-stuffed meatloaf.

Yet, the optimism in the girls’ eyes led me to believe I could pull them off.

“Okay,” I agreed. Why not?

“You should totally wear those tonight,” the girls chimed in unison.

For some stupid-ass reason, I’d also packed a Victoria’s Secret push-up bra I’d bought the year before to appease the guy I was dating after he’d pointed at Tyra Banks’ cleavage during America’s Next Top Model and grunted, “I like.” Jesus. Whatever possessed me to Kardashian-up is unknown, but somehow I figured the hoisting of the boobs went nicely with the hooker heels. A plunging v-neck dress completed my new persona. I could have been a living ad for a doll named “Menopausal Cougar Barbie” (*Detachable paunch sold separately).

It reminded me of when I used to trade tops with some prettier friend in Junior High. Back then I thought sporting a disguise would lead to a better, zit-free life. The idea of donning another girl’s threads was moderately thrilling and usually lasted until somebody complimented her for wearing my blouse.

Later at a crowded, hipster brasserie with the rankest unisex toilet in Western Europe, our trio kicked back under an awning and naturally ordered more drinks. Underneath the glimmering streetlights, there he stood, this swizzle-stick in a dirty suit, smoking a long, brown cigarette. He looked majorly cool in his too-tight jacket, like the dude from Twilight, only without the pallid skin tone.

“He’s totally checking you out,” said Tina-Marie.

“Oh, yeah, sure,” I laughed.

He flicked his cigarette butt onto the wet cobblestones and sauntered over to our table. His arrogant eyes locked with mine. But, as he moved closer, his B.O. reeked worse than the bathroom’s stench, if that was possible. I quickly rose with an attempt to gasp fresher air and fell forward knocking my purse off an empty chair. The drunk-ass scramble caused my legs to wobble like a newborn colt on cocaine. I always wondered if I could still do the splits.

“From a deestance, I thought your mother waz one of those housewives from your American television,” he said in broken English, looking at Sara.

If only I’d learned the French translation for “Blow me.” I should have kicked that stinky prick upside the Balzac. But, technically he was right. Forgetting your age can often backfire on your ass. And, it feels just as shitty as the first time some Jack-wad called me “Ma’am.”

I quietly limped off into the darkness and hailed a taxi back to the hotel, which seemed to be the most non-idiotic thing I’d done since arriving in Paris. I’m pretty sure I called my mom and bitched about the eight-pound weight gain situation, but maturely blamed it on the macarons.

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image – Julien Haler