Let's talk images. A snake. A butterfly. A young man with his shirt unbuttoned to his waist, pouting at the camera. Lots of chest stubble. Alone, each image is rather boring. Put them together, and what you have is a hotter-than-Johnny Depp new Rolling Stone cover of American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert. The 27-year-old dude who made guyliner fashionable again gave an interview to the magazine confirming—big surprise—that he's gay. What's really surprising: I can't stop thinking about him. And neither can any of my cougar-aged friends. We love Adam, truly, madly, deeply, in a kind of weirdly Mrs. Robinson sexual way. And the reason doesn't just have to do with our past lives as professional groupies. It also has something to do with biology.
Just a few short months ago, most of my female friends and I were clueless about Adam Lambert. We're busy, professional women, some of us with demanding families and children, all of us with demanding jobs. We never spent our Tuesday nights in front of the TV. Yet this year, for slightly more than two months, phone calls went unanswered and any type of social or familial interactions were put on hold on so we could plop ourselves in front of our sets at 8 p.m. to watch American Idol, the No. 1 rated show on TV, which none of us had ever bothered with before. It started innocently enough: A friend, waylaid by a flu bug, was channel-surfing from the comfort of her couch one Tuesday evening and saw a bejeweled young thing singing a scorching rendition of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." She left us phone messages and tweets, saying, and I quote, "ohmygawdyouhavetoseethisemoglambowielovechildonAmericanIdol." We went, "Huh," but we tuned in the following week. And then we were gone.
My seemingly well-adjusted posse, myself included, morphed into archetypal Adam Lambert fangirls. We became Glamberts, besotted with the leather and rhinestones, the perfectly smudgy guyliner, the emo coal-colored coif and, oh, yeah, the preternatural vocal range. When we got together, we no longer talked about good books, North Korea or the recession. We talked about all things Lambert. We became the thing that we normally despise: a cougar court that fell into a gentle loin lust with a man young enough to be our son. And a gay one, to boot.
In terms of biology, Adam Lambert's attractiveness is kind of bizarre. Some research shows that women like square jaws and deep brows—iconic masculine traits—when they're looking for a fling. But we like more feminine traits when we're looking for The One, the long-term mate. Lambert has a little bit of both going on for him, as anyone who saw his version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" can attest.
When we aren't laughing at our patheticness (because, let's get real, even if Lambert were straight or gave in to some bi-curiosity, he would never be interested in us), we are actually ruminative enough to wonder what it is about this fellow that turned us into such loons. One thing we know for sure is that we are not alone. There are thousands of women of a certain age out there who are just one Adam Lambert Google search away from crashing their computers.
The good news is that people who know about these things think that our little Lambert love-fest is downright mentally healthy. "I think more women would be happier if they channeled their inner 14-year-old girls once in a while," says sex therapist Laura Berman, director of the Berman Center in Chicago. She's always been fascinated with the Clay Aiken phenomenon, that of girls going crazy for a seemingly sweet, innocent-looking boy-man (Aiken is now, like Lambert, out and proud).
While Aiken may be the ultimate "safe zone," Lambert, she believes, somehow managed to be "hardcore, crazy, humble, adorable, charismatic, sweet and mind-blowingly talented," all in one package. "He's a study in contrasts, and the gay thing doesn't matter," she says. "Anyone who can get women to talk, giggle and get their mojo back is fine by me. Enjoy the ride."
Indeed we will. But it still begs the question exactly why our mojo leaned more toward Lambert than toward cute-as-a-button Kris Allen, the eventual winner of the competition, a young man whom Lambert admitted to having a little crush on.
Part of the Lambert allure is that some women find his onstage lack of inhibition a powerful aphrodisiac. According to psychoanalyst Dr. Gail Saltz, we all have a little touch of the voyeur inside of us, but it's often repressed. Then along comes Lambert, and those voyeuristic floodgates open. "Here's a guy who is a maximum exhibitionist, molten hot, can sing anything and is screaming, 'Look at me,' and for some women, that's an incredible turn-on," says Saltz, author of The Ripple Effect: How Better Sex Can Lead to a Better Life.
It may also go back to our childhood, as all things psychoanalytic seem to do. According to Saltz, buried deep inside all of us is the childhood desire to be able to have everything and anything, whenever you want. So part of our fascination with Mr. Lambert is that we may want to be like him. "[Lambert] is the poster child for having it all," says Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine. "Men want him, women want him, and that ambiguity is as hot as hell."
But my friends and I also think it may be something more. We were once slam-dancing to the beat of The Clash and The Sex Pistols. We weren't the girls who liked The Eagles, we liked The Buzzcocks. But today, our lives are dictated by the confines of appropriateness. So maybe we just want to be like Lambert; hey, even his wardrobe is better than mine.
For other women of a certain age out there who are having little Lambert crushes of their own, sex therapist Wendy Maltz, founder of healthysex.com, suggests that we think about what's going on with our relationships in our lives. For her book, Private Thoughts: Exploring the Power of Women's Sexual Fantasies, Maltz interviewed scores of women to determine where sexual fantasies come from and what you can do about them. Maltz says that our connection with Lambert may be the wake-up call we need to be more playful, to have more fun and yes, to try to become a little more brave and confident. "There's something very wonderful about someone who can say, 'Accept me or don't accept me,'" Maltz says. "We tend to lose that as we get older."
So how's this for bravery? I'm actually thinking about going to the Idol tour this year. I might be one of the only fans over the age of … ummmm, 40-something, but I bet I can still shriek louder than any of Adam's tween groupies.