Hit & Run: Claws are out

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The Independent Online

Nobody likes being labelled for their romantic preferences. Not even the "womanisers" and "heartbreakers" and "ice queens", who at least sound like they're having fun. The "cradle snatcher" and the "gold-digger" come off badly, though Hit & Run always thought there's something pleasantly reliable about the "serial monogamist".

But what about the "cougar", a name coined three years ago to describe middle-aged, successful and financially independent women who sleep with much younger men? Punch the word into a Google search and the results are a weird mix of porn, dating sites and tips from mad-sounding "empowered" American female bloggers on how to ensnare "cubs" in bars. It makes for queasy reading, but everybody seems to be enjoying themselves and it's clearly getting more popular. This month a million teenage hearts were shattered when a rumour flew around the net that Robert Pattinson preferred "older ladies", while on Friday a National Single Cougars Convention opens in Palo Alto, California.

So where exactly does "cougar" fall on the scale that runs from insult to badge of honour? Candace Bushnell, the American author and creator of Sex and the City hates the word. In an editorial called "Cougar Attack" in a US edition of More magazine published today, Bushnell, who has perpetuated more gender-polarising clichés than Joan Collins has eaten young boyfriends, hits out: "How come every time women manage to break out of traditional roles, someone comes along and tries to ruin it with a derogatory label? If you're a female CEO, you're a ballbuster. And let's not even go there with Hillary Clinton. In comparison with what she gets called, I suppose cougar is fairly harmless."

She's got a point, of course, but the cause of Bushnell's outburst is personal. The 50-year-old writer discovered that, with Demi Moore and Cameron Diaz, her name is cited on the internet as an example of the type.

"Why was I labelled a cougar?" she continues. "Yes, my husband [ballet dancer Charles Askegard] is 10 years younger, but we've been married for seven years. And he's 40, ferchrist's sake." A lifelong attraction to youthful men isn't fuelled by lust, argues the creator of Samantha Jones. "The fact a man is open to being with an older woman suggests that he doesn't give a hang what other people think of him. More likely, he's confident, open-min-ded and willing to make his own rules. All of which just happen to be qualities that, much more than a great six-pack, make for a great relationship." The six-pack was just a happy, happy coincidence. Susie Rushton

It's punctual Pete Doherty, the man they could gag

Well, it wouldn't be a Pete Doherty set without some kind of melodrama; but for once his antics, on display at a performance at V Festival, were not his fault (take note m'lud). The blame falls on a "highly emotional" Amy Winehouse, who appeared on stage on Sunday to provide Doherty with some impromptu lip-on-lip action over a set of 17 songs.

To the sound of several hundred camera phones being pulled from people's pockets, Doherty escorted Wino from the stage before pulling things together to belt through a stormer of a performance (he turned up on time, he even remembered the words). But then what happened? The festival organisers cut the sound during his final song, apparently because it was running beyond his allotted time. The ignominy. Doherty was nailing a cover of "Twist and Shout" when silence descended on the Stafford shindig's Virgin Mobile Union Tent. Even his British stiff-upper-lip, which inspired the former Libertines guitarist to soldier on without electricity, couldn't save him. He looked visibly confused (though that could be said about his expression most days) and the gig ended with fans throwing bottles and glasses at the stage for 15 minutes while chanting for Doherty to return.

Festival organisers have yet to issue an explanation; but do they not think their action was a little premature? What are they going to do next, saw the sharp edges off the sarnies on his rider? Rob Sharp

The musky smell of Ashes success

Were you watching the Ashes thinking: "Hm, I wonder what eau de toilette our side are wearing?" Luckily, Hugo Boss has been quick to remind us that Boss In Motion White is the official fragrance of the England team.

Setting aside that it would only have helped at the crease if Flintoff had stunned Ponting in a cloud of its "musky woody" notes, it is bound to fly off shelves. It is, after all, bottled success. But after spending Saturday in the stands at the Oval, I think if any odour spurred England to victory over the tourists, it was that of the 23,500 sweaty fans – and their Pimm's. Jamie Merrill