There was an especially intense electric charge in West Hollywood on the night of Thursday, May 15. The California supreme court had ruled that morning in favor of gay people’s freedom to marry, and the thousands who had gathered in WeHo for a celebratory rally were now pouring into the nightclubs along Santa Monica Boulevard. Among those carousing at Platinum, a popular women’s party at the bar East/ West, was Jackie Warner, the star of the Bravo reality series Work Out. Tanned, blond, buff, and 39 years old, Warner was beaming as two of her 20-something ex-girlfriends, Mimi and Brianna, circled nearby.
The following day, Ellen DeGeneres, 50, proudly announced on her TV talk show that she would marry her longtime love, 35-year-old Portia de Rossi. And when Melissa Etheridge turned 47 a few weeks later, she undoubtedly celebrated with her 33-year-old wife, Tammy Lynn Michaels.
The common thread among these high-profile couples is the presence of “cougars”–older women dating younger women, proving that Demi Moore, Madonna, and Ivana Trump aren’t the only ones who get to enjoy the company of a sexy younger partner. Women are extending the prime of their youth well into middle age. Acting their age no longer means being a boring homebody or settling down. As Mariah Hanson, the 47-year-old founder of the modern Dinah Shore Weekend, puts it, “I think women are suddenly realizing it’s not over at 40.”