On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Coming to terms with 55

Spoilt for choice: When it comes to food, a true Penangite will not compromise.

Spoilt for choice: When it comes to food, a true Penangite will not compromise.

I TURN 55 years old in a month’s time. It’s a milestone, or a half-way mark, in my life and I believe a certain degree of self-indulgence can be forgiven.

Well, I am not officially a senior citizen yet. Under our National Policy on Senior Citizens, that is still five years away.

But 55 has always been a milestone because that was the retirement age for private sector employees until it was changed to 60 in July 2013. So in a way, we all feel we are like senior citizens when we turn 55.

Never mind. I am defining myself as middle-aged rather than “old age”. I am feeling really good about myself as I believe that age is merely a state of mind.

Turning 55 has merely given me an excuse to get my friends, colleagues and associates, of different ages, to come together for a party.

I want to enjoy my life and since retirement is now fixed at 60, I don’t see myself as an old age pensioner but neither do I want to slave on.

I have no intention of whining about the insane politics in this country. I don’t bother to read the political stuff posted on social media by even more insane people.

But I did explore the Net to read about what turning 55 means and it was even worse than the political blogs and comments – they were all about preparing for the old folks home or, gulp, death.

There were many articles about insurance, savings withdrawal, drawing up wills and retirement planning. The common theme is that if you haven’t saved enough, you are in trouble.

At 55, if your bank account is empty, you don’t need to be told that you have a serious problem.

I had a hard time looking for stuff on how to party at 55 and where to splash money on some fancy machines or toys for middle-aged guys.

I am a positive person and I have a great life to lead and enjoy, although I know time will just fly past me and that precisely is the point.

There are still hundreds of places that I want to visit with my wife while we can still walk, climb and run. There are still exotic wines and food that we want to try.

I still want to be able to go for a cruise for weeks without having to worry about irritating phone calls from unreasonable bosses. Hmm… I am guilty myself on this front and I speak only for myself. But I owe the wife this one.

There are still many, many books in my home library that really make me look scholarly, especially when my visitors see them. But I have to confess that I haven’t touched many of them.

I also want to find time to write about “the best, the average and the worst people” that I have encountered in my three decades of journalism.

I still want to write about historic figures which made an impact in our country and my beloved Penang but which our historians do not care about or are blind to it.

Physically, I still have my turf of hair which grows very healthily. In fact, I need a trim every two weeks. I don’t need any special hair tonic, aloe vera or any extra virgin coconut oil to apply on my scalp.

I still cannot understand why they call it extra virgin. I have always thought that virgin was sufficient. Maybe my hair may stand with that extra help, I don’t know.

Yes, of course, parts of my healthy hair are turning grey. I accept that as part of the ageing process. If actor George Clooney, who also turns 55 in May, has streaks of grey strands, I can handle mine as well. Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, too, have joined the post 50 club.

I have no intention of following the leaders of the Chinese communist party who all seem to have jet black hair, whatever their age. It’s too good to be true and quite honestly, I think they look terribly unnatural. If there is any consolation, they do have better haircuts than the North Koreans.

Every American leader who has served in public office, including President Barrack Obama, has got grey hair. But not the Chinese leaders.

Hell, the US presidential candidates – who have yet to get elected – have turned bald. Just look at Bernie Sauders of the Democratic Party while his opponent, Hillary Clinton, looks puffed.

Donald Trump, of course, is turning more orange with each passing day and has all the signs of a deranged or senile man with his loony remarks. We don’t even know if his hair is real.

Ok, I have a confession – I am vain and every bit the modern, experienced man, who is confident of himself, like many baby boomers of my age.

I enjoy dressing up to look good. Not for others but for myself as I believe that one must always dress up well and be well groomed. We must respect our appearance.

My wife buys me my aftershave lotion, eau de toilette and perfume so I smell good. I can’t imagine myself reeking of Tiger Balm ointment. No, not yet, at least.

I love my music and I enjoy attending concerts. I think I am pretty up-to-date with music, of diverse genre, and I am able to talk to my 25-year-old daughter on the music she’s listening to but I must confess that I still regard the 1980s as the best era for music.

After all, I am a product of the disco era. Oh, the days of Tin Mine, Cinta, The Cave, Unit One and the Bubble, when dancing was about real stylish movements.

That’s the only time warp that I am caught in but everything is about attitude. I am ageing but I am enjoying the process.

I’m enjoying my life. I’m enjoying my family and friends. I have the best colleagues in The Star, my home away from home for the last 32 years. I’m just happy and that can only happen if you are surrounded by positive-minded people.

I need to exercise more and eat more healthily, but I am a 55-year-old Penangite, and surely, I can’t be expected to eat like a rabbit. And when it comes to food, a true Penangite will not compromise!