The most talked about story over the past week has been that of Emile Ratelband, a Dutch man who wishes to legally change his age from 69 to 49.
For expressing this simple wish he has been denounced and pilloried, with support coming from no quarter – surely making his minority the most oppressed one.
Harshest of all have been the attacks from middle-aged guys, who you’d expect would instinctively support one of their own, out of basic kinship. These men, these Chronovariable Unbelieving Men (CUMs), seem to wallow in their bigoted ignorance of basic facts.
The truth is that since time immemorial humans have experienced chronovariablism.
One only has to look at the wealth of phrases that we have for it; “age is just a number”, “you’re only as old as you feel”, “wise beyond [his/her/its] years”, “an old head on young shoulders”, “she’s big for her age”…the list is endless.
This instinctive realisation that age isn’t linked to elapsed time isn’t just confined to lay-people either. If I had £1 for every time my doctor – a qualified medical professional – has told me that I have body of an 80-year-old then I could afford a bottle of wine, 20 cigarettes and a dozen doughnuts.
Even Einstein said that time was not a universal constant and depended on how often one took clocks onto trains or lay on giant rubber sheets.
Indeed, medical science now recognises that age is not a binary condition – one is not simply ‘young’ or ‘old’. Age is a spectrum and, indeed, if acclaimed thinkers, such as Zeno, are correct then there may be an infinite number of ages. Everyone knows best which age they are and to question one’s self-age is nothing short of an act of violence.
Adding to this body of scientific evidence we can observe that some bacteria don’t age in any meaningful sense, while some tortoises can live a very long time and a cat is “old” at 17, whereas a mayfly that made it to that age would be a miracle. Or something.
This isn’t just theoretical either. For years we’ve lived with the young-at-heart, those who are sky-diving, scree-running and skinny-dipping well past retirement “age”, and the guy in his mid-30s who’s trying to juggle a high-pressure job, a new baby and a functional dependence on G&T, and who feels like he’s fucking 90.
How dare someone like jumped-up junior doctor judgemental dismiss these lived-experiences as being invalid? These are real people being driven to life-ending thoughts, because nobody who’s 49 doesn’t think, “Oh god, I want to die” on a daily basis.
More than all of that, though, let’s remember that this de-ageing is what some guy wants. We’re not talking about a duplicitous women, trying to falsely advertise herself on her Tinder page. This is a man, and men get what they want. End. Of. Fucking. Debate.