Some people who read this column - all three of them - are perplexed that I don't write about, you know, numbers and stuff. "Why is your column in the business section?" the most fabulously literal of them like to ask.

I could give them the Wodehousian spiel about how succeeding in business is about understanding the psychology of the individual - there is money to be made in deciphering our fears and insecurities. I could skite that I spent 11 years poring over Eastlight folders on transfer pricing, Basel II, thin capitalisation and all that sexy, filthy, dirty stuff till my eyes were bloodshot.

But maybe later. This week I'd rather write about cougars.

A high-powered female executive friend emailed me this week to say she had been in the Hawkes Bay for Labour Weekend; she was leaving a fancy restaurant with another 40-something female friend waiting for their husbands to get their cars and overheard a comment from some gauche young fullas coming into the hotspot: "Boy, the cougars are out tonight." This made me throw up in my mouth a little.

Cougars, in case you haven't heard this rotten term, are women aged over 40 who pursue younger men, typically more than eight years their junior.

Lexicographer Grant Barrett says there is a connotation of a wily, experienced feline going after a toothsome little rabbit. Cougars are middle-class, which gives them the luxury of satisfying their neglected libido rather than, say, mending socks and making quick meals with mince.

I am now smack bang in the middle of the cougar demographic. I am 42 and newly single. I have several pairs of shoes that are more expensive than a cheap car. I know society snapper Norrie Montgomery, am revving up my mojo after having escaped from Devonport new mummy hell and am inclined to release my inner lap dancer after a few wines. All of these things would combine to suggest I would be perfect cougar material.

And maybe I am just being a sour old harridan, but I find the term and its use teeth-grindingly offensive.

You can't win as a woman of a certain age. If you don't make an effort to touch up your roots occasionally you are easily dismissed as a dried-up old trout. Or even worse, you are just invisible.

If you do make an effort you are a shameful self-loathing trollop sucking the life blood out of virile young men. The Washington Post's Hank Stuever describes it as "our culture's ur-text on desperate women in desperate times. Women today are more than ever uncertain of themselves, nearly broken, worried about senescence, intimidated by the youth around them and depleted by various cads."

Well I'm sorry, but you can sod right off, Hank. Most women in their 40s, at least the ones I know, although sometimes confused, aren't actually spiralling into self-doubting despair, but are actually rocking it up every which way. Jealous, much?

Of course, the wily ones, like me, would not be caught dead with our claws in toothsome young rabbits. This is not because we can't pull - it's amazing what expensive heels can do - but because young men are insufferably dull. Young men are babies. Young men don't remember Muldoon, they use too much hair product and listen to insipid dance music. Young men are frequently earnest, have silly tattoos and think a good night out is talking about the environment.

My advice is look for someone older but immature - use Jeremy Clarkson as your cragginess barometer. You're not a cougar.

You're a member of the panthera genus - the only cats which are able to roar. And don't forget, there is always Cialis.

deborah@coneandco.com