Sunday, 20 February 2011

Getting old

                                          Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011)

‘You’re getting fat!’ my lady friend told me as she lay beside me. I shrugged the comment off; after all, getting fat was not an unusual thing for a middle-aged man. I considered myself post middle-aged. Some old chaps were just disgustingly awful; I did not like my body shape as well but what miracle could I expect? Every time I bathed, I would not be brave enough to glance at the wall mirror. I had accepted the fact that one would grow old since my late thirties.

                                        Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993)
There was a satirical book written by a well-known writer/cartoonist named Fong Tse Khye that impressed me with his candid wits regarding getting old. He was in his thirties when he wrote the book aptly titled ‘Getting Old’. Becoming old was a process the Almighty used to beleaguer the human race, as according to Mr. Fong in his book. Without one’s awareness, a person would transform into a sneaky, slippery, old eel from an ambitious, passionate young soul; and from a naïve challenger into a stubborn old mule. The transformation was so gradual and slow that one would not realize it until somebody commented, just like my lady friend did. So what? I would say. But then you do not live alone in this society, you got to meet people everyday unless you were a hermit in the deep jungle. By the time one was aware that he was getting old, he had been really old and could do nothing except cursing and lamenting that life had not been fair to him, what a let down and an intolerable pain.

                        A grumpy old man (Mel Gibson's Beaver-a movie)

I had always thought that if girls were turned into old women over night, there would be endless divorces as men had always fantasized pretty ladies should stay attractive all their lives, fresh, cool and charming. I sighed at the thought when I recollected their eternal charm since I was a kid: Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and the like. What happened to their eternal youth? ‘Ah! How could they become old?’, ‘they did not look the least like this when I watched their movies!’ It was particularly difficult for me to swallow when they went up the stage to collect their life achievement awards. But then again the TV and the theatre screens were not mirrors; I could not see the reflection of my own self, I was not aware I too became old, haggard and despicable. So it had to be that cruel that pretty faces could not last forever; thus I began to glance at those older women with some linggering charm from a different perspective. I would visualize how beautiful they were to be in their younger days. For that matter, I felt better. Eventually men would have to be wise enough to accept the fact that they were growing older but would their feminine partners think the like?

               Sophia Loren (Born 1934)
My lady friend began to mutter: I miss the younger you, your slender, tall body that resembled that of a writer. ‘What make you think writers have slender and tall body?’ At those youthful days, I was rather flamboyant, nothing serious and steady, and was easily agitated. I did not know how to enjoy life to the fullest and had no means to do that either, neither did I possess those elements to be a future successful man. There was no doubt; I had toiled to be better in every aspect than those growing years. I had better brain, improved economic and social standing now. But as for my outlook, it was almost revoltingly disgusting. Still I prefer the present me; perhaps the earlier me was just an empty shell. Looking at my lady friend from where I laid, I realized that her belly had become potty too, though it was not too obvious. I stroked her belly, tried hard not to comment about it, knowing if I did, we would not be close any more. I had been kind, knowing how to appreciate things around me. Instead I found her slightly potty belly rather sexy.

This article was half written and half translated by Alan Kok in 2008. Original text was written by Zhai Lan, a well-known food critic and short Story writer.

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