It was about four years ago when I walked with a swagger along the aisles of Fairprice store opposite Jalan Tua Kong in Singapore. The middle-aged woman had stopped me as I entered the shop with my youngest son. “Is your son Wang Leehom?” she asked with pure delight. My son was already ten steps ahead, keen on quickly grabbing his favourite fruits, cereals and milk for the following day’s breakfast. “Wang who?” I asked in return. I hadn’t kept abreast of Asian pop music and movies, and was therefore easily forgivable for my ignorance. “Wang Leehom! Don’t you know who he is? He is the most adorable singer song-writer today!” the woman exclaimed. Only much later did I find out Wang topped the list of most followed Asian mega stars in social media that year. “Oh? And the fellow ten steps ahead looks like him?” I sought her confirmation. She gave me three rapid nods with her round head which was decorated with a tuft of recently dyed shiny black hair. Her gleeful eyes sparkled and her infectious smile changed my gait into a swagger. “Oh yes, well, that young man there, he is my youngest son.” My son looks like Wang Leehom. “Yes, yes! He’s a shuai ger – a damn good-looking young man.” “ See, there he is!” She rushed to a massive banner with Wang’s face hanging from the ceiling, and gestured for me to look up. He was promoting some consumer product that totally escaped my attention. I was too engrossed at admiring the handsome looking prop. Wang possesses a made-in-heaven silky voice, and a wicked smile that would make any fair maiden swoon and surrender. At 180cm, he’s a swanky tall bloke who turns heads with his deep-set almond eyes and high cheekbones. His thick eyebrows complement a high bridged nose that is set perfectly above a pair of full very kissable lips. Look at the confidence he exudes, don’t you think he’s so dapper in his Shanghai Tang jacket with that impeccable tailoring, the stylish embroidery and Chinese knot closures. Who? Oh, I was describing my son, of course! I was never a shuai ger myself but no matter, this shuai ger can still bring out the swagger in me.
Many months ago, another occasion arose that made me walk with an exaggerated swagger once more. “Hey, you remind me of Keanu Reeves!” a friend exclaimed upon receiving a photo of me with my Japanese hairdresser. I tried unsuccessfully to tone down my enthusiastic reply. “Oh, really?! You mean, I have his John Wick demeanour? His striking facial features? Surely you can’t see my swagger? Or is it the facial hair?” The friend brought me down to earth with a thump. “No, the long hair!” I think he planned this gotcha moment. Urghhling.
I’m now past sixty years old. It will be a slippery slide down the slope from here on. Forget the swagger, I am more concerned not to stagger and trip. There will be no way back to our prime once our gait becomes unstable and the cadence markedly slows. This is the time when many look to retirement or become unemployable, from believing we are indispensable to being superfluous. When once we felt we were indestructible and indefatigable, we are now photographed with walking sticks and acupuncture needles up our bottoms. When once we shop for branded spectacle frames, we now pray we won’t make a spectacle of ourselves with walking frames. When once we worry about which Shanghai Tang’s to buy, we now hope we won’t be shanghaied into buying dud investments. This is the age when life’s uncertainties become more certain with each passing year. When the distant hazy future becomes a lot less distant and a lot more predictable. Life for the majority offers only a few guarantees. The only definite guarantees are taxes and death. Taxes can be planned and even avoided upon retirement. The other guarantee will be forced upon us sooner rather than later, as the years roll by. As for me, I know I’ll happily settle down in my twilight years with the knowledge I was once the bread winner who became the bread maker at home.