Middle-aged men: being lost in transition

By Xu Qinduo Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/6 20:23:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

As a middle-aged man, being ridiculed is no surprise. A beer belly and nostril hair may compete with unkempt looks to put you out of fashion. And despite your age, you are yet not old enough to earn automatic respect from the young.

The Chinese men in their 40s and 50s have been the subject of a popular blog post by writer Feng Tang who advises them on how not to look unpresentable and shabby. The post has gone viral, with growing number of follow-up posts and comments to show the unhealthy image of this group of the male species.

Harsh words abound. They are accused of paying little attention to their bloating bellies. Many seldom go to the gym. They often brag about their experience and deliver "sermons" to the young. Some of the banter only makes sense in the Chinese environment, such as the love of holding a vacuum flask with wolf-berry tea. 

Feng noted at the very beginning of the article that in the last two to three years, there have been a number of occasions when middle-aged men have been scrutinized. For example, a rock band singer was the subject of a heated discussion not long ago due to a picture of him holding a vacuum mug with hot water.

The practice of drinking hot water, particularly by the elderly in China, had made the debate warmer. The hip and young crowd is largely for ice cold soft drinks. Hence, the image of a rock star with hot water triggered a torrent of comments on the vicissitudes of middle age. After all, the spirit of rock 'n' roll is hardly about aging.

Despite being an object of ridicule, the middle-aged are actually the most powerful group of people in a society, as they occupy important positions managing the affairs of a state or a company. However, they are also at a point of no return - they can't reverse the aging process. Transitional, but also an embarrassing age.

Middle-aged people tend to be burdened with responsibilities. Unlike young people who have the luxury to enjoy freedom and being single, the middle aged are supposed to take care of both their senior parents and young kids. Besides putting food on the table, their time and attention are also expected.

And it's the same in the office, where the middle-aged usually possess rich experience and knowledge. No wonder, writer Eileen Chang once noted that the middle-aged are often lonely as, when they wake up every morning, they're surrounded by people who depend on them yet nobody they may rely upon.

Maybe it's because they are too busy and have little time to spend on themselves. Or too relaxed even to the point of being lazy, to press ahead with their lives. With a house to live in, a car to drive, kids to look after, what else is still worth fighting for?

Therefore, some middle-aged men fail to be in shape and are loath to use the nose trimmer. According to the accusations, there's some room for improvement for the middle-aged's sense of style and appearance. In fact, criticism by Feng and numerous internet users are not entirely unjustifiable.

For example, with lives getting better off in China, people can certainly afford to dress smartly and make themselves presentable. Usually it's the lack of awareness that prevents the change. Who doesn't want to look his best?

Growing old has more to do with our state of mind than a specific age or appearance. The inability to keep up with the times, such as loss of touch with technology, or dwindling curiosity to explore the world, would be a pity, a more serious issue than the lack of desire to be presentable.

The author is a commentator on current affairs with China Radio International. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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