THE fuss over local actress Zoe Tay having more wrinkles than rival Fann Wong is both amusing and worrying.
Amusing because in light of rising terrorism, topsy-turvy economics and a possible pandemic, we have found it fit to dwell on something as trivial as wrinkles. On a face. Of a local celebrity.
Worrying because it is yet another damning evidence of Asia’s rising preoccupation with youth.
So what if Zoe, 41, has a few more wrinkles than Fann, 38?
You will be hard put to find inanity of a similar scale anywhere else.
Does Meg Ryan, 47, have more wrinkles than Jodie Foster, 46? Who goes for Botox and who doesn’t? Who cares?
It is sad that a person’s appeal and ability hinges so much on such superficiality.
And I dare say it is more evident and widespread in Asia – where plastic surgery hub Korea resides – than other parts of the world.
Ironical, if you think about it. That the cradle of Confucianism worships youth and disses the process of aging.
I see this whenever I go on overseas assignments. The journalists from Western media tend to be of my vintage (born before 1960) or older. I see the same old Caucasian faces.
They include Britain’s Paul Horrell, 45, Germany’s Georg Kacher, 57, and South Africa’s Jake Venter, 74 (!).
But the Asian presses keep sending newer and younger writers. What happened to the veterans?
Kicked upstairs and became deskbound? Quit? Or worse, moved on?
It is quite clear the Western publishers value maturity and experience more. Perhaps the publishing world is not representative of society at large, but it is still an observation worth mulling over.
Especially when Singapore is now looking to encourage residents to work well into their sixties. Government initiative is one thing, but the mindset of employers is another.
From what we’ve seen so far, the terms and conditions facing mature workers are not all that enticing.
Admittedly, a 50-year-old may not have as much stamina as a 25-year-old. But productivity does not depend solely on stamina and speed. It depends on efficiency and completeness – two aspects which are sometimes diametrically opposed to what you can achieve with speed and stamina.
On that account, I would venture to say that Zoe is a far more accomplished actress today than when she was a fresh-faced Star Search contestant two decades ago. She has more breadth and depth, and is a lot more watchable as a result.
The same can be said for Jodie Foster, who has matured like fine wine from the time she appeared as a child prostitute in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver in 1976.
Having said that, youth sometimes embodies one thing that is undervalued: enthusiasm. I say “sometimes” because the youth of today do not always appear as enthusiastic (about anything) as the youth of my generation.
Nor are they as “hungry”.
On their part, the mature segment of society needs to stay relevant, and more importantly, healthy and fit.
Inspiration can be had in folks like Borneo Motors’ managing director Koh Ching Hong, who is entering his fifties but is a marathon runner who has gone on to take part in Ironman races.
He succeeds 60-something Mark Choong at the Toyota distributor. Incidentally, Mr Choong, who retires at the end of the month, has the sharp and analytical mind of a chess master.
Another “oldie but goodie” is Joseph Ong, managing director of Nissan agent Tan Chong International. Mr Ong, well into his sixties, not only takes part in Ironman, but takes home trophies from the gruelling competition.
Me? I must admit I am nowhere as fanatical as these chaps in the fitness department. But I do exercise regularly, and am able to do as many (if not more) push-ups, chin-ups and laps around the stadium as when I was 18.
And I am still able to land as many stories as I did when I first started in this company 26 years ago.
Most importantly, I am able to spend time with friends and family.
Only thing is, I have a lot more wrinkles, and a little less hair.