indice + Jean-Marc's recorded letter...

cougar (and the French word for "boy toy")

Cat on the isle of Ré (c) Kristin Espinasse
Watch out, you middle-aged skirt chasers—here come les couguars! (Note: I didn't see any cougars to photograph on the island of Ré; I hope this cat will do! Also, enjoy these white umbrella flowers, which covered the island, competing with all those hollyhocks.)

 un coug(o)uar (koo-gar)

Le mot couguar désigne une femme, généralement de plus de 40 ans (la génération de trentenaires qui précède la cougar est plutôt appelée "puma"), qui cherche ou fréquente des hommes plus jeunes, typiquement ayant au moins quatre ans de moins qu'elles. Ces hommes sont généralement appelés des toy boys ou des lionceaux. --definition from Wikipedia

The word cougar designates a woman, generally over 40 (the generation of 30-year-olds who precede cougars are called "pumas"), who looks for or hangs out with younger men, typically at least four years younger than herself. These men are generally referred to as "toy boys" or lionceaux.

Audio File (Note: waiting for my LION to return from his errands in time to record today's definition... ) Update: the sound files are ready, listen here: Download MP3 file or listen to Wav file

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Our second day on l'île de Ré we rode our vélos from the beach to the farmers' market. I parked my rental bike in front of the tourist office, waved goodbye to Jean-Marc, and set out to discover the busy marché, with its fishmonger, its beachwear vendor, its olive merchant, and its obese man selling figure-slimming cookware. Step right up, Madame! Check out this pan!

The pots and pans salesman wasn't the only curious sight, there was that aspirin-white American woman with the two giant watermarks on her shirt... My bathing suit had soaked through! Thankfully, I was unaware of the state of my chemise, and could suffer the embarrassment later, upon checking my appearance in the mirror back at our rental.

As I checked myself in la glace, scrutinizing every detail of my person, I remembered the remark my husband had made after we met up outside l'office de tourisme. Unlocking our bikes for the ride home, Jean-Marc teased me:

"Ça va le maraîcher?" he snickered. 

The produce guy? So my husband had seen me lingering at the vegetable stand... chatting with that young man!

The embarrassment bubbling up from within soon showed itself on my face, which reddened visibly despite a precautionary thick white mask of sunblock.

I laughed it off. After all, that student selling onions and cantaloupes was only a few years older than our son, Max! What did my husband think I was—a cougar

Of all people! The truth is, while my barely-clad French contemporaries were busy watching Sex and The City (around the time we were reaching our 40s), I was poring over Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, fearful my sinful nature would betray me at any moment! The word "cougar" never even entered my lexicon until my friend Diana shared the term with me, over an evening barbecue in which our middle-aged husbands smoked cigars and helped themselves to seconds from the dessert tray.

Facing the mirror, searching my face, with its crows feet and cicatrices, I couldn't help but think how ridiculous my husband's insinuation was, that an out-of-shape, 44-year-old femme mariée had been flirting with a charming student! 

(Did I say charmant?)

To be continued... (Click here for the 2nd half of this story)

Note, the underlined (or highlighted) words within the article contain links to archived stories, including the story in which Jean-Marc is caring, for the first time, for his very own vines. Don't miss "Surrogate Mother" (La Mère Porteuse) here.

French Vocabulary 

le vélo = bicycle

le marché = (farmers') market

la chemise = shirt

l'office de tourisme = tourist office

Ça va le maraîcher? = How's the produce guy doing?

une femme mariée = a married woman

Fun French expression: in the story, I referred to my skin tone as aspirin white. I borrowed the expression from the French, who use the following idiom: blanc comme un cachet d'aspirine (as white as an aspirin pill)

Kristin (left) with Kris Hendrickson
If you're new to this journal—welcome! That's me, Kristin, on the left and this is the 10th year that I have written this blog. One of the rewards of writing is meeting readers. Kris (right) joined us for one of our last tastings of the season. She eventually traveled back to Brittany after being stuck in Tulette one week no thanks to car problems. Kris tells me the Domaine Rouge-Bleu wine she and her husband bought helped them through this extended visit! 

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Spotted another cougar on the way back from the beach.... There's Jean-Marc heading to the market.

Holding up the hollyhocks. Islanders take such good care of their emblematic flower. One woman told me that a hollyhock, or rose trémière's, lifespan is two years. Lucky for us, each season they drop hundreds of graines,  reseeding themselves.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety