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Lying About Age: The Legal Efforts of Emile Ratelband

Oscar Wilde famously warned that one should never trust a woman who revealed her true age; anyone so inclined to do so was bound to tell you anything. He also, in his characteristic stab at modern manners, suggested that no woman should be quite on the money about her age for another reason: “It looks so calculating.”

Emile Ratelband, from what reports suggest, is not a woman, but a distinctly insecure man on a mission of pure calculation: to secure a different age in the public domain. While biologically impossible, despite claiming that his ageing has stopped, the Dutchman is testing the legal waters to see if he might slash off some 20 years off his birthdate, making him a more youthful 49. The world might be slowly going to hell in a hand basket, but the monumental nature of the trivial shall have its day in court.

Ratelband’s view is that of any person feeling an identity pull crying out for legal recognition. He is inspired by other role models – not merely the insufferable Tony Robbins of US, life coach optimism, but transgendered people, who supply him a shameless ground of comparison. Despite being a motivational speaker himself, his optimism does not extend to the impediments of age. “We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gender. Why can’t I decide my own age?”

Open slather has been declared in the identity market, and to that end, he has gone so far as to subject himself to a psychiatric evaluation as to whether he was a “victim of the Peter Pan syndrome”. Another evaluation might be in order after Ratelband’s address to the court, in which he claimed that President Donald Trump was “the first person who is honest” in showing his feelings on Twitter. “He’s a new kind of person.”

His fruit salad reasons are, like others obsessed with “the real me”, selfish, having “to do with my feeling, with respect about who I think… I am, my identity.” Reducing his age by two decades would open doors shut to the aged and ageing. “If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a different car. I can take up more work.” (These are things Ratelband could probably do anyway, given his frame of mind, but lets his leave his mind to its own, curiously absorbed devices.)

There is the issue of dating, that minefield of human interaction where initial impressions, toxic, deodorised or otherwise, tend to be everything. “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.”

Why Ratelband does not take a leaf out of the book of mendacity that has characterised human dating since bipedalism became vogue is hard to fathom. Again, lie about your age; many people do so with calculation and determination. Appearance, of which he cares much about, will carry you over. But the adventurous, if seemingly vexatious Dutchman does have a point: every liar should sport a phenomenal memory, which is a damn bother if you don’t have one. “If you lie,” he told the Washington Post, “you have to remember everything you say.”

The judges of the Arnhem District Court found little to merit this effort at jigging time, and the law. “Mr Ratelband,” claimed the court bench with cool reserve, despite initially showing, according to the petitioner, a giggly, girly disposition, “is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly.” Altering any legal documents pertaining to age, however, would lead to “undesirable legal and societal implications”.

Some of these implications centre on the issue of assigning duties and rights by the mere fact of having an age – the issue of voting, for instance, or the obligation to attend school. (Neither apply to the applicant in this case, but courts are always distracted by the issue of floodgates and their irrepressible breach.) “If Mr Ratelband’s request was allowed, those age requirements would become meaningless.”

The judges were also concerned about the sheer number of documents that would, quite literally, cease to have any relevance. To amend the date of birth “would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships.” An administrator’s nightmare.

The field of discrimination could have supplied Ratelband his ammunition. The judges, however, needed more convincing. While the court bench was not immune to the possibility that discrimination might, in some cases, be open, Ratelband had failed to show that he had suffered it, suggesting that “other alternatives” were available “rather than amending a person’s date of birth.”

Ratelband, for his part, is undeterred. His irritating positivity is both balm and encouragement. “The rejection of [the] court is great… because they give all kinds of angles where we can connect when we go on appeal.”

Ratelband sounds vain, insufferable, insecure and keen to be heard. He is entitled to, but this is a selfish time that denies the immutable nature of death (delayed as it is) and presumes that those who age will do so noisily into the social media night. As Ratelband is unlikely to avail himself of time dilation, a delightful consequence of Einstein’s theory of relativity, he will have to seek his change via legal processes. That might entail moving to a different jurisdiction, and mindset, altogether.


6 comments

  1. Josephus

    A person I know lied about his age, youfifiying himself by over a decade on line. His much younger partner , having met him, soon became disillusioned since he lacked, er, the youffful vigour required. End of relationship.
    This Hollander is nuts. He should fly off to the nearest rest home, methinks.

  2. Ill fares the land

    The real sadness about this is not that this fellow’s odd request was denied by the Court, or that he put the request to the Court in the first place. It is that he, like the rest of us, inhabits a world of facades. Not all are as susceptible to the guiles of wanting or needing to be something or someone else, but he is far from alone. In Western society we are surrounded by individuals using “things” and “stuff”; primarily cars and houses, to create a new persona for themselves. For most of Ratelband’s age, the quest is perpetual youth or “youthfulness” (the boomers have become de-facto teenagers), but for men, their cars are chosen because the marketing tells them, and they believe, that this or that car will attract the attentions of younger women – anyone seen the Audi ad where the world is going by in slow-motion, culminating in a young and very attractive woman staring at the car/driver? I defy you to find a modern car ad which is not in some way conveying the “look at me” effect – a very recent Toyota ad actually goes all the way. With an SUV that looks like pretty much every other nondescript SUV, the ad actually uses the words “get attention” or something to that effect. For women, the make-up and fashion industries have for a very long time sought to persuade women everywhere that this cream or that potion will magically transform your aged, wrinkled skin into a taut youthful appearance. Of course, like the tragi-comical Ratelbband, the effect is superficial – their pancreas knows their true age. And no-one just “exercises” any more – they’re all in training for a marathon or a triathlon. Making an example of sad Ratelband makes no sense in a world where everybody is trying to be someone they are not – the “personal brand” is king and money is the key.

  3. Michael Taylor

    This is the second most craziest thing I’ve ever heard.

    The first is his claim that Trump was “the first person who is honest” in showing his feelings on Twitter.

    All in all, the bloke’s a tad strange.

  4. Josephus

    Ill Fares puts it admirably. One thinks of disastrous boob jobs, the aged blonde having her teeth whitened, and so it goes. The once respected CSIRO receives funds from the Minerals Council; in return its social scientists put about a pseudo scientific ‘Reflexivity’ doctrine and instruction package, so far sold to only one mining company. This purports to explain in convoluted terms that if locals do not like an industrial complex approved near their small town, they can be ‘educated’. The problem is information deficit. Marketing is the answer.

    Quite sinister, and anti democratic. Do we need to censor the Chinese for terming Islam an illness to be cured? It seems that dissent is no longer to be considered healthy and normal. So marketing serves rich corporations and governments alike. The line is blurred. Federal ICAC now! But will it have teeth?

    Meanwhile we have the perfect PM in Morrison, the Advertiser King.

  5. paul walter

    Trump IS honest!

    He says so himself.

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