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