Will you still love me, when I de­cide I’m 49?

Toronto Star - - ENTERTAINMENT - Vi­nay Menon

Emile Ratel­band, I ap­plaud your au­da­cious bid to lower your age.

Did you hear about this bizarre case in the Nether­lands this week? It’s all I can think about. I’m ob­sessed. Ratel­band, a 69-year-old mo­ti­va­tional speaker, wants to shave two decades off his chronol­ogy. If peo­ple can now change their names or gen­ders, he blithely ar­gues, why can’t he be 49 again? It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing case. Ratel­band doesn’t feel 69. He claims his doc­tor says he has the body of a quadra­ge­nar­ian. So due to some combo of life­style and ge­net­ics, Ratel­band is 69 go­ing on 50. He is young at heart and old on pa­per and some­thing has to give.

He wants the courts to turn back the clocks. If Bruce Jen­ner can be­come Cait­lyn, if Peter Gene Her­nan­dez can rein­vent as Bruno Mars, Ratel­band wants to restart his life from 20 years ago. Now, ob­vi­ously, equat­ing the ag­ing process to celebrity stage names and gen­der re­as­sign­ment seems rather daft and need­lessly con­tro­ver­sial.

But he just wants a time ma­chine and a do-over. He is test­ing clichés — age is only a state of mind, you are only as old as you think — in a court­room set­ting.

This rev­o­lu­tion­ary is chal­leng­ing the im­mutable na­ture of time.

Is he a delu­sional kook? Maybe. Is this a pub­lic­ity stunt? Pos­si­bly. Is any at­tempt to le­gally change your age as hi­lar­i­ously doomed as that time a guy in Min­nesota sued David Blaine and David Cop­per­field for vi­o­lat­ing the laws of physics? Prob­a­bly.

But should we all sym­pa­thize with Ratel­band? Ab­so­lutely.

Ageism is the last ac­cept­able form of dis­crim­i­na­tion and it’s ap­palling.

So this is me break­ing out the

Rub-A535 and giv­ing Ratel­band a stand­ing ovation.

Not that I’m sug­gest­ing he has any chance of win­ning. I’m not even sure his loved ones want him to suc­ceed. I mean, if he’s suc­cess­ful — and this case would def­i­nitely set a world prece­dent — friends who at­tended his 50th birth­day party 19 years ago would be forced to buy new gifts for a se­cond 50th birth­day party next year. If the court rules in Ratel­band’s favour, he will be the only 40-some­thing who was alive dur­ing the Korean War. In the fu­ture, when he’s hang­ing out with other 80-year-olds, they’ll all think, “Man, this guy looks 100.”

So logic and com­mon sense say this is ut­terly ridicu­lous.

Then again, it’s never wise to su­per­im­pose a North Amer­i­can sen­si­bil­ity on the Dutch. Th­ese im­pos­si­bly gor­geous peo­ple cy­cle around like kamikazes with­out hel­mets and pump fries with mayo into their svelte bod­ies. They live in an en­chanted land where tulips and wind­mills co­ex­ist in per­fect har­mony. The Dutch were four decades ahead of the curve on de­crim­i­nal­ized mar­i­juana and were pi­o­neers of red-light dis­tricts. They are a per­sua­sive peo­ple.

This one time in Am­s­ter­dam, a woman in a gold bikini jumped out of what looked like a phone booth to of­fer me “sex, you, mis­ter, never for­get” for a sub­stan­tial sum of money, a re­mark­ably bold gam­bit con­sid­er­ing I was then strolling hand-in-hand with my girl­friend. But what I re­mem­ber, all th­ese years later, was her sin­cer­ity.

The te­le­scope, Brandy, eye charts, speed skat­ing, the com­pact disc, Blue­tooth — th­ese are just a few Dutch in­ven­tions. All I’m say­ing is if any coun­try is ca­pa­ble of ren­der­ing hu­man age null and void, it’s the Nether­lands. I could ac­tu­ally pic­ture the coun­try mak­ing it le­gal to change your height, race or place of birth.

But even if this case is ul­ti­mately laughed out of court, Ratel­band has al­ready scored a win for hu­man­ity by mak­ing a cru­cial point about ageism. As he told the judge: “When I’m 69, I am lim­ited. If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a dif­fer­ent car. I can take up more work. When I’m on Tin­der and it says I’m 69, I don’t get an an­swer. When I’m 49, with the face I have, I will be in a lux­u­ri­ous po­si­tion.”

This is a heart­break­ing ob­ser­va­tion. Why? The sin­cer­ity.

I would very much like to live in a world in which we value our el­ders and cher­ish ex­pe­ri­ence. But that is not the world we in­habit. No, our world gives fool­ish props to youth and, all too of­ten, marginal­izes those who’ve seen it all. If the world were not so bi­ased in terms of age, this guy would feel no need to jump back two decades.

Is what he’s ask­ing crazy? Sure. If we didn’t have so­cial rules pegged to chrono­log­i­cal age, 9-year-olds could vote and mil­len­ni­als could qual­ify for se­nior dis­counts at drug­stores. My par­ents could order off the kids’ menu the next time we dined out. If age was ar­bi­trary, I could de­mand to be 15 again, just to avoid le­gally op­er­at­ing a mo­tor ve­hi­cle and driv­ing my kids to bal­let class. I could go to court and ask to fast-for­ward to 65, just to re­tire next week with full ben­e­fits.

I could blindly ig­nore the fun­da­men­tal con­cept of sec­onds, min­utes, hours, days, weeks, months and years that, un­til now, was not up for de­bate.

But none of this makes this case any less sad. This poor guy just wants to be younger be­cause the world has aban­doned the old.

PETER DEJONG THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Self-styled pos­i­tiv­ity guru Emile Ratel­band has asked a Dutch court to of­fi­cially change his bi­o­log­i­cal date of birth to make him 49.

Hol­land is an en­chanted land where tulips and wind­mills co­ex­ist in per­fect har­mony, Vi­nay Menon writes.

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