Dara Torres probably doesn’t realize it but one of the greatest achievements of her sports career to date isn’t something that will be recorded in the record books. It’s not even the medal haul she took home from Beijing (or Sydney or Barcelona, Seoul or Los Angeles). Heck, it’s not even the fact that she acquired her last three out of 12 career Olympic medals at the age of 41, and is now barreling on in 2009.
No, rather, it’s the fact that she has given women of a certain age a new nickname.
You see, back in the day, a lively gal over the age of 40 ran the risk of being called a “Mrs. Robinson” – a nickname that came courtesy of that classic 1967 film, “The Graduate,” where Anne Bancroft (at the real age of 36) played an aggressively attractive older woman intent on seducing a young Dustin Hoffman.
That nickname stuck for a long time until the rock band Fountains of Wayne came along in 2003 with the song “Stacy’s Mom,” which was a salute to, once again, the charms of an attractive older woman in good physical shape.
And then it just got ugly. Somewhere in the last several years, the lovely term “M.I.L.F.” was coined to describe attractively fit older women (Google it if you don’t know what that acronym stands for). I only know one woman in my 40+ age bracket who likes to be called a M.I.L.F. and she’s got a drinking problem.
Soon after that, women of a certain age got saddled with the term “cougar” when it was popularized by the competition reality TV show “Age of Love.” Cougars are, again, attractively fit but sexually avaricious older women.
Yeah, my friends and I definitely lose toenails to running and burp up pool water because we want to be called cougars, M.I.L.F.s, Stacy’s Moms and Mrs. Robinsons.
But then it happened. The first time came toward the end of the U.S. Olympic swim trials last summer. I was headed into the fieldhouse one day and a friendly college kid asked me, “Hey, Dara, you coming to swim?” His greeting caught me unaware, but I quickly smiled, held my head up a little higher and said, “Why, yes. Yes, I am, thank you.”
A few days after that, it happened again. Somebody at a kids’ swim meet, knowing that I swim, asked me, “Hey, Dara, how are the workouts going?” Since then, I have heard of other women – always of a certain age – being called “Daras” and always in the nicest possible way. It is definitely a nickname change we can all live with.
Oh, but Dara? Any time you feel like slacking off and letting those abdominal muscles go to seed, we won’t love you any less.