These are strange times we're living in. Thursday morning, the only thing that stopped me from getting up at 3 a.m. to join the throngs of screaming fans hoping to catch a glimpse of newly crowned American Idol David Cook's Today Show performance at Rockefeller Plaza was the fear of jeopardizing my gainful employment. But after watching him and runner-up David Archuleta perform back on my DVR later in the day, I realized I would have felt extremely out of place in that crowd. And for once, it wasn't because I would've been the only adult there on a non-chaperoning basis, but because the majority of the screaming ladies there were old enough to be, to put it delicately, my much older sisters.
Apparently, loving David Cook is a cougar thing. Do you have any idea how weird it is to hear, from Meredith Vieira no less, that you're too young to have a crush on a guy that's actually two years younger than you?
The whole cougar thing started during the Idol finale, when the camera panned to a 40-something-year-old woman holding up a sign that read "Cougars for Cook." A cougar, for those of you who didn't tune in to last year's reality sleaze-fest Age of Love, is a woman over the age of 40 who's hot for younger men. On Age of Love, the younger man in question was tennis pro Mark Philippoussis. But this summer's crop of cougars apparently have their eyes set on our freshly minted Idol champ. And the poor guy hasn't been able to make a television appearance yet without having to comment on all the middle-aged lady love he's been receiving. For the record, he's cool with it.
Maybe this was Cook's plan all along. Everyone thought the frenzied dialing fingers of tweens and grandmas would propel young Archuleta to victory. But could it be that the cougar vote was the key to Cook's coup? And just what is it about the self-professed word nerd that sets the hearts of these single soccer moms aflutter? Was it the way he revolutionized the arrangements of hits from their era, like "Hello" and "Billie Jean," causing them to feel both nostalgic and relevant at the same time? Was it the potential paternal skills he showed in his kindness and obvious affection towards little Archie? Or was it that after years of dating emotionally stunted men their own age, they couldn't help but fall for a younger man who was in touch with his feelings enough to cry his eyes out on national TV?
Well, if it was the cougars who led David Cook on his victory parade to the Nokia Theater, Idol's producers should be thanking them for helping to elect an Idol that could significantly raise the show's fortunes. David is the first Idol winner since season four's Carrie Underwood who has the potential to achieve the success the show promises its champions. Although the media finds it amusing to focus their attention on David's ability to attract fans of a certain age, all of America seems to have fallen for his gravelly voice, musical versatility, and understated charm. This guy is going to sell a ton of records, and when the world sees that the show found a true star, the fans who tuned out of Idol this season just may come back to see if Simon, Paula and Randy will find another one next year.
And all you Cook-loving cougars out there better watch your backs. Need I remind you that it was a 24-year-old kitten who won Mark's heart on Age of Love? You don't have to be over 40 to appreciate a man with a guitar who looks his best when he forgets to shave. If things don't work out for David on his alleged (please let it stay alleged!) date with season two Idol finalist Kimberly Caldwell, you won't be the only ones ready to pounce.