I was about 27 or 28. There was a certain dance club we used to frequent in my town. When you entered, you had to walk through a corridor to get to the bar and dance floor. The wall was lined with men, drinks in hand, all eyeing you up and down as you passed by. I hated it.
It was like running the gauntlet. I became so fed up with being ogled by lecherous creeps that I began to stare them in the eye, just long enough to make them uncomfortable, then I’d run my eyes slowly down to their feet and back up again, to once more challenge them by looking directly into their eyes. Seldom would a man meet my gaze. They could dish it out, but they sure as hell couldn’t take it.
I was nobody’s prey. I was a hunter. But I didn’t know that then.
This role-reversal was uncommon. I didn’t know why I found it so distasteful to be sized up by these drooling, sloppy predators when other women didn’t seem to mind.
The years went by, and I found myself dating younger men. Men my age just couldn’t keep up with me. They bored me. I couldn’t fathom how people did what they did, day in and day out. I needed to shake things up on a daily basis, whether it was changing my hair color, my apartment, my job, or my men, it didn’t matter: something had to change.
Then I got my ADHD diagnosis. I learned that there was a biological reason that my brain needed extra stimulation. I kept reading, which led me to Thom Hartmann’s ground-breaking book, ADD: A Different Perception. In it, Hartmann expounds the theory that people with ADHD are genetically the hunters of society, while others are the farmers. Constantly scanning our surroundings, we’re on the alert for prey. When we see it, we leap into action, jump into the chase.
Once satiated, we loll about until we’re hungry again, then we’re on the hunt.
Nothing could describe my love life better.
Turning 40, I began to wonder why it was that younger and younger men were attracted to me. When I was 50, my lover was 26. The whole cougar phenomenon was popularized, and I knew I fell into that category, but in some ways, not. I didn’t date younger men to feel younger; I looked, acted, spoke, and thought younger already. I didn’t know it then, but my ADHD has contributed to this significantly.
I was hyperactive (energetic); I was emotionally immature for my age, living in the moment, unable to postpone gratification (much like a teenager); I was attracted to high-energy music; constantly on the go. I didn’t conform to the feminine status quo and broke all the rules. I dated younger men because they weren’t sexist; weren’t patriarchal; were more intellectually open; more sexually awake; more energetic; more fun and playful; more experimental and engaged in the world. I could be myself.
Before my diagnosis, I simultaneously longed for a long-time love, while becoming bored beyond the chase and falling in love stage. When I read Hartmann’s book, I suddenly realized that I came by the cougar label honestly: I was a hunter, revved up for the chase.
Along with every other challenge of ADHD, I realized after diagnosis and through years of reading and re-assessing, that I could take my natural ADHD tendencies and channel them in a way that served me. Rather than be driven by my hunter instincts, I could nurture my farmer tendencies, that part of me that longs for home; longs for belonging. I’ll always be chasing down exciting opportunities, variety and stimulation. But now, for the first time, it might be possible to bring my quarry home to a long-term love who’s waiting in the cave, all cozy and warm, waiting for me to return from the hunt. Yum.