Lee Wei Ling looks like her father

From ‘Comfortable with the face I’ve earned’, 4 Dec 2011, article by Lee Wei Ling, Think, Sunday Times

…I have said in this column before that I myself am aesthetically challenged, and I meant it in all honesty. But there was a time when I looked reasonably attractive – average, I would say. The past 10 years, however, have been somewhat unkind to me, and my current appearance reflects the health difficulties I have had.

Recently, I needed to get a new passport photograph. When I compared the new photograph with the one I took in 2001, I realised how much my face had aged.

I have put on 20lb (9kg) as instructed by my doctor. But my face is more angular and gaunt and I have prominent eye bags. In the 2001 photograph, I could easily have passed for a teenage boy. Now I look my age, or older than my age. No matter how short I cut my hair, I can no longer pass for a young androgynous teenager or man.

…When I scrutinise myself objectively in the mirror, I realise that the part of my face that has changed the most are my eyes. They are slanted and slit, closely resembling my father’s eyes in his old age. The lower part of my face looks angular and gaunt despite my weight gain, for most of my extra weight consists of muscle.

Recently, at the World Orchid Conference, two women separately asked me if I was Dr Lee. I asked the first woman who questioned me how she had guessed, since no recent photograph of me had appeared in the press. ‘You look like your father,’ she said.

…One small lesson I have learnt is that there is no purpose served in being attached to my faceor what used to be my face. George Orwell once wrote that after the age of 50, we all have the face we deserve. I, for one, am quite comfortable with the one I have earned.

The ‘old block’ is on the right

If you distill Lee Wei Ling’s commentary on her fading looks, it can be summarised like this: ‘I’m getting uglier because of my age and ailing health, but it’s OK because looks are not important, even if I resemble my father, an old man’. It’s a self-consolation piece, if only for the giveaway lament ‘there used to be a time when I looked reasonably ATTRACTIVE – average, I would say’. I have never seen the good doctor in the flesh, but being ‘attractive’ and ‘average’ are two completely different ratings of a woman’s beauty in my opinion.  You would give an attractive woman a second glance because she’s pleasing to the eye, but for an ‘average’ looker you wouldn’t look more than once, and any observation longer than a single glimpse would be for all the wrong reasons. Just because a woman opts to crop her hair short doesn’t instantly make her Kate Moss or Carey Mulligan, especially if she has BICEPS that make it look like she lugs MRI machines around for a quick workout during lunch. Well, she may no longer look like a ‘young androgynous teenager or man’ like she used to, but there’s no escaping her masculine features in the pic above (April 2011); she just looks like an OLDER version of that young teenage boy i.e a MAN.

This idea of not being ‘attached to her face’ is a condensation of Lee Wei Ling’s past musings, of her revelling in the pride of looking like a teenage boy, of letting go of material possessions and things that fade with time, of how looks are secondary to other desirable personality attributes e.g intelligence. But I’ll refrain from debating the ‘attractiveness’ of LKY’s admittedly tomboyish daughter. Her humility is admirable for a medical powerhouse and member of the Lee family, though judging from the generally self-effacing, philosophical tone of her article, one could imagine this banter on the evanescence of physical beauty coming from  Sumiko Tan  when she approaches Wei Ling’s age, though if Sumiko were to admit that she was once ‘attractive’, I’d take her word for it in an instant no matter how many George Orwell quotes she unleashes to console herself. The exact quote is actually ‘At 50, every MAN has the face HE deserves‘, which is basically saying if you look horrible it’s because you ‘deserved’ it. The problem with this  quote as an inspiration to ugly aging people is that we have folks who don’t ‘deserve’ to look pretty, but still do at 50 anyway; they just need to be born that way or can afford it.

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6 Responses

  1. Donch think the woman was being insulting or giving a back handed compliment to Dr Lee. Pple do tend to say the offspring looks like the parent. If every time I get insulted when a new friend who meets my mum says I look exactly like her, then I would feel insulted ever so often. After all she’s almost 90 and I’m nowhere near that.

    Worse, is when I run into people whom I haven’t seen for decades — and they say I haven’t changed at all.

    Hullo, you mean to say when I was sweet 16 I looked mature, middle aged? — I sometimes think mentally.

    But I know I’m just being picky to to think that.

    That isn’t what’s intended to be conveyed lah. In fact the right opposite! Or at least that’s what I like to think! :D!

    • Yeah I know what you mean. If a woman’s father is youthful, handsome and has, in a sense, ‘girly features’ like gentle eyes and good skin etc, I would have no qualms about passing remarks that she looks like her Dad. If he’s a slouch with a belly and a face rougher than sandpaper and more facial hair than a baby gorilla, I would probably not.

  2. Assuming, of course, that this issue is a concern now and not 10 or 20 years before. I would also think looking like her father is the least of her concerns.

  3. Dr Lee, have you heard of NEFFULnegative ions healthy clothings? Our eye mask and face mask can help you. Pls give me a chance to share with you our remarkable products. Pls write to me so that I can tell you more.

  4. What’s wrong in saying she looks like her dad? That doesn’t mean she is OLD like her dad! You’re taking it the wrong way! People say i look like my dad all the time and he is old, greying, with a fat tummy! They don’t mean I am old, grey and fat, they just mean I resemble my dad in certain features, that’s all!

  5. Look is illusive…beauty is at heart and deeds express in truthful action count most…result is commemorative.

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