It’s a familiar scenario. A MUCH older man approaches you on the street or the train, and tries to kick some game. Never mind that he is just a few years younger than your father. Or, because you have aged well, he actually believes he is stepping to someone more than half his age. This is a common phenomenon – the older man who wants a much younger woman. But I seem to be meeting more and more men who are more than willing to act on what seem to be unreasonable desires than I have at any other time in my life.

When I was in my early twenties, this type of man just made me laugh. Did the typical 50-year-old really think he could pull a hot young twenty-year-old with some tired lines and a sloppy grin, all while licking his lips as he looked at you? But as a woman of 36, I find the trend more than troubling. And even more so is the fact that not only the near-grandpas of the world want a pert woman of 22 for a wife; men my own age also seem to want women who are younger and younger, giving no thought to the idea that desiring a whole class of people ten years younger than you are might be strange. Stories I hear from friends lead me to believe that this is a wide-spread trend.

I am hearing more and more that men are looking for “a woman in her twenties” no matter how much older the man himself is. Or good-looking. Or accomplished. And that a woman over thirty, no matter what she has achieved, or how well she has kept up her body, is just not a desirable thing to them. I have also heard similar statements from men of all races and creeds. And I have experienced the evidence of this as men in their 50s who think I am 25 are routinely stupefied to have found that they are trying to date someone only 15 years their junior.

Are these men delusional? Just being pigs? Some combination of the two? Or are they actually having enough success with much younger women that this dating style is not experimental at all, and actually a sure thing? What does this mean for all the women out there like me?

We know who we are – we are pretty, sexy, fun, accomplished, but for some reason, still single. Add to that this growing trend, and our chances for coupledom might seem rather slim. But luckily for us, there is another trend peaking now that can counter the fact that many eligible men in our age group (and much further beyond), might consider you already over the hill, no matter how fly you are.

There was a time when dating or marrying someone more than ten years older or younger than you was considered unusual – especially if the older party was the woman. But today, through observing celebrity couples like Ashton and Demi, Madonna and Jesus, and even the short-lived romance between Whitney and Ray J, the option is now in place for women to flip the script on these age-discriminating men and date down – in terms of age that is.

For the familiar scene of the much older man hitting on me, is being joined by the ever-increasing frequency of the much younger man who approaches me on the sidewalk because he likes my style. He can tell I am really in good shape. He likes the shape of my lips. He loves how comfortable I am with myself. He just wants to get to know me.

And when I tell him my age? That’s when the compliments really start coming. There is nothing like a man who is 22 telling you that you have the girls around his way beaten in every category to give you a scintillating ego boost. And it seems as though the 14 year difference in your ages just makes him want to work that much more to prove that as a young boy he can still be worthy as a romantic partner.

Whereas a man my age, sometimes oh so subtly, will make you feel like you are just lucky to be with him. And the much older man, while still willing to date you, seldom has the grace to hide the fact that he was looking for a much-younger prize. When you compare these two characters to a chocolaty-brown, chiseled youth willing to do anything and everything to prove he is worthy of your sophisticated presence, becoming a cougar seems like a pretty good thing to me.

Yeah, I said it. The shortage in men is making me look not only to other races, but other ages. And the move to a lower age bracket actually seems more promising.

But I don’t know. Something about dating a man ten to fifteen years younger than me has always struck me as wrong – just the way a 50 year old doing the same thing to a woman in her twenties appears, at least to me, to be nothing but a dirty old man. But maybe they have it right, and I have it wrong. Perhaps the next time that cute young boy with quite a bit of swagger rolls around, I will forgo my high sense of morality and take him up on his sweetly offered promises.

I have been on the other side of the game for too long. I am ready to try my hand at being a cougar.

Are you ready, willing and able to take the plunge?

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