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Is the term "cougar" really that bad? As my FWW colleague Debbie Nigro points out, the term is used to “describe a woman who chooses to play/date/carouse/befriend a younger man.”

Debbie thinks the term is demeaning to women because it “makes it sound like older women are pouncing on innocent young men, when truthfully we are treating them” to our wisdom, experience, and an occasional expensive dinner.

“Neither side in this romantic pairing initially embarks innocently and without agenda,” Debbie wrote. “Both find it curious.”

Debbie, however, thinks there should be a new word and is offering radio stations, newspapers, and TV shows the opportunity to run a contest to find a better term. We’ll use their results and then take a national poll.

But here’s the thing: I like the term “cougar.”

First of all, at least men aren’t invoking another animal analogy, like “hog” or “rhinoceros.” A cougar is thin, feline, beautiful, and strong.

It’s also sleek, smart and pursues a wide variety of prey. Variety is always good especially when you’ve lived a life being loyal to one person who then either dumps you or disappoints you.

In fact, this cat has the greatest range of any wild, terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere.

Note: Wider than the wolf.

It’s solitary and doesn’t need to stick around, like those herding animals. Nor does a cougar want to stick around, which, natch, makes them more appealing.

More importantly, it is no secret that a buff bod — no matter the gender — is preferable to the alternative. A few years ago, a divorced women in her 40s, 50s, or 60s had few options other than dating up — meaning visiting the geriatric ward. One writer described men in that age group as burping, mopey, self-centered, walking hair plugs whose bellies bulge like muffin tops, and who think they’re now the middle-aged make-out kings, even though they were the ones with acne in high school.

Now fast forward.

At last, for the first time in history, women look so good that it’s hard to decipher whether they are in their 40’s, 50’s, or 60s. Science has not only given us nifty digital gadgets from the iPhone to Tivo, it’s also insured that we look great. That leaves us with more options. Younger men now want to be with us.

Plus we have an advantage over younger women. We’re confident, fun, and comfortable with our bodies. And we really don’t care if they call in the morning, since we’re not looking for more babies or going steady. For men, we’re the real safe sex.

If we allow them to stay for pillow talk, younger men find that women our age are empowered (which can be sexy), independent, alluring and wise. Jennifer Aniston, Halle Barry, Demi Moore, Susan Sarandon, and Joan Collins are all divorced women who could be called cougars and smile knowingly.

Yes, ladies, we’re “Still Hot,” as a recent book declares. And, we’ve also becoming trendy.

A special thanks obviously goes the uber cougar Samantha Jones (Kim Catrall) on “Sex & the City” for reflecting the cultural shift. She would not have been credible if this phenom wasn’t already happening.

Back in the day, Mrs. Robinson was pitied. Samantha Jones is admired.

The term “cougar” has been used by TV series like “30 Rock” (in the episode “Cougars”), “How I Met Your Mother” (in the episode “Aldrin Justice”), “Two and a Half Men” (in the episode “Waiting for the Right Snapper”), in the show “Supernatural” (in the episode “Red Sky at Morning”), in the NBC reality television show “Age of Love,” in “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (the episode “Betrayed”), and in the TBS show “My Boys” (“John Cougar, Newman Camp”). On film, it’s been used in “National Lampoon’s Going the Distance” (2004) and in “Oceans Thirteen (2007).

The 2007 movie “Cougar Club” was dedicated to the subject: its plot had two men creating a club where other men would get the chance to meet and experience older women.

Do you think that would have happened in our mother’s generation? I think not.

That is why I don’t mind being called a cougar, as well as other terms, such as “President,” “CEO,” and “Supreme Court Justice.”

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