Jennifer Coolidge is one of the most famous "cougars," seen here in a scene of American Pie.
A man who made headlines running for California governor in the 2003 recall election on a "singles platform" now plans to host a national convention in Palo Alto later this month focused on bringing together young men and older women.
The National Single Cougars Convention, scheduled for Aug. 28, is sponsored by Rich Gosse's Society of Single Professionals, which defines a "cougar" as a single, older woman who is confident, sophisticated and desirable - and romantically interested in younger men.
Gosse ran for governor in 2003 on a "fairness for singles" platform, arguing that singles are treated like second-class citizens in California because they pay more taxes and higher insurance premiums, and don't have the same benefits as spouses.
Gosse is married now but still working to improve the lives of single people, he said. Although he said his wife is slightly younger than he is, he believes an older woman is just what many young men need and vice versa.
"We truly believe the best romantic relationships are where the woman is older than the man," said Gosse, who has written eight books about relationships and taught more than 60 college courses on love and dating.
Many men like the idea of being with an older woman because they're more mature, and women tend to live longer than men on average, Gosse said. "Cougars" like "cubs," or young men, because they're attractive, fun and trainable, he said.
He said his organization has been sponsoring "cougar" parties for about 15 years and that the parties have been so popular that about two months ago, the group decided to organize a national convention.
The convention will include a keynote address by author Francesca Gentille and her romantic partner, who is 14 years younger than she is, as well as a reception, dance party and the crowning of Miss Cougar America.
The title will be determined by the men in attendance, who will each vote for their favorite cougar. The winner must be at least 40 years old, legally single and present at the convention.
Gosse said Silicon Valley is the perfect place for the convention because it has a surplus of single men, many of whom are well educated with good jobs but may lack experience with women because they're workaholics.
He said one goal of the convention is to bring such relationships into the mainstream and try to counter a common double standard. When an older man is dating a beautiful young woman, nobody thinks twice, he said. The public is much more likely to judge an older woman who is with a younger man.
"What's good for the goose is good for the gander, and we're going to prove it at the National Cougar Convention," he said.
He also hopes the convention will help popularize the idea that women over 40 are attractive.
"We live in a youth-obsessed nation," Gosse said. "We think we're really combating that stereotype."
The event starts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 28 at Dinah's Garden Hotel in Palo Alto.