An idea I don't understand

With all of the election coverage in the headlines in the past couple of days, you might have missed the story of Emile Ratelband, a Dutch pensioner. He has petitioned a court in his hometown of Arnhem, southeast of Amsterdam, to change his birth certificate so that it says he took his first breath on March 11, 1969, rather than on March 11, 1949. The judges heard his case on Monday and have promised they will render a verdict in the next several weeks.

I guess the case sort of raises the question of what establishes age. According to his current birth certificate, he is 69 years old. He wants to be 49 years old. And he says that he doesn’t want to lie about his age, so he wants the courts to give him a new birth date. I’m not sure that the certificate changes the reality, but I do know that courts can order changes to birth certificates. I was unaware that this was the case, but when we adopted our daughter, the court ordered her original birth certificate to be sealed and a new one issued that showed us as her parents. It has always seemed a bit strange and we have never concealed the fact that she is adopted from our daughter. I was told by the judge that the action was taken because her birth mother was a minor at the time the original certificate was issued. I don’t know if similar laws exist in other states, but it certainly creates a barrier to genealogy research. As far as I know it has created no problem for our family. We know some of the story of our daughter’s birth and we’ve shared with her what we know.

But a twenty year adjustment in age seems like a pretty good stretch. One thing that I couldn’t find in the article is how it would affect Mr. Ratelband’s pension. Would the new birth certificate mean that he isn’t old enough to collect his pension? It certainly won’t change his life expectancy. Since he feels like he is 49, perhaps his health is such that he will live to be a bit older than average. But I guess that means that he’ll be really old when he reaches his eighties and the chances of him living to be 90 would be slim, if the court grants his request.

It turns out that this isn’t the first time Mr. Ratelband has appeared in front of the magistrates in his home town. Many years ago they refused to let him name his twins, Rolls and Royce, after the carmaker. He continues to call them by those names, but their legal names are France and Minou.

He sys that the change in age will help him in many areas of his life. He works as a trainer and life coach and says potential clients ask him if he can “speak the language of young people” when he tells them his age. He assures hem that he’s well-versed in the ways of the youth, but the clients remain skeptical and tell him that they would prefer a younger person. I guess his clients aren’t looking for experience, wisdom and knowledge in their life coaches. Not ever having hired a life coach my self, I’m not sure what would be the ideal age for such a person. It seems that he believes that a life coach who is in the 50’s is more desirable than one in the 70u’s.

He also said to the court that having a younger age would help his dating prospects. “If you’re 69 on Tinder, you’re outdated,” he said. He is the father of seven children and although he is currently without a partner, it seems to me that when he gets into conversations with a potential new partner, the ages of his children and his newly reassigned age might create more than a bit of confusion. Furthermore, I have been led to believe that not being truthful on Tinder is common. I’ve never looked at the site, but I remain very skeptical at its value in helping people find the love of their lives. But then I met my wife a church camp before I ever thought about having a computer.

Mr. Ratelband says that his desire to remake himself is influenced by the American, Tony Robbins. Robbins, who is a motivational guru who has written and spoken to inspire people to set and achieve goals and to make changes in their lives. Ratelband lived and traveled with Robbins for about six months in the late 1980;s and says he came to believe that, “You have to make your dreams come true from visualization.” Apparently it is his dream to have connected with Robbins when he was in his teens rather than when he was in his thirties.

I just don’t get it.

I have joked that I have never been the right age for anything. I went directly from being too young to being too old, but it really is a joke. I have enjoyed my life and each decade has been unique and interesting. I am interested in keeping my health and more focused on making healthy decisions than I have been at other stages of my life and I certainly don’t want to rush the process of aging, but I’m happy to be in my mid-sixties and enjoy my life and work. I seem to be an appropriate age to be the father of my children and the grandfather of my grandchildren. And I’m blessed to have a spouse who is in my age category. I have no interest in looking for one who is 20 years younger. I know that there are some men who have that interest, but I’m not one of them.

I guess it will be interesting to find out what the judges decide, but I know what I would think if I were the judge: “Let’s just leave the birth certificate as it is and encourage you to find more creative ways of talking about age and its impact on your life.” I’m thinking that if they start altering birth dates on birth certificates it could create some real confusion for researchers and historians in the future.

I’m sticking with the date on my birth certificate, which matches the date on my driver’s license and the date on my passport.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!