In the quixotic battle against old age, some people use skin care and spin class.
That’s not enough for Emile Ratelband, a 69-year-old who feels like he’s in his 40s. The Dutch pensioner is asking 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 Monday and promised they would render a verdict in the next several weeks.
Ratelband sees his request as no different from a petition to change his name or the gender he was assigned at birth — and isn’t bothered that this comparison might offend transgender people, whose medical needs have been recognized by the American Medical Association. It comes down to free will, he maintains.
“Because nowadays, in Europe and in the United States, we are free people,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. “We can make our own decisions if we want to change our name, or if we want to change our gender. So I want to change my age. My feeling about my body and about my mind is that I’m about 40 or 45.”
Being in his 40s would make his life much better, he explained.
For one, it would boost his dating prospects. “If you’re 69 on Tinder, you’re outdated,” reasoned Ratelband, who has seven children and is now without a partner. His friends urge him just to modify his age on dating apps. “But I don’t want to lie,” he said. “If you lie, you have to remember everything you say.”
It would also help him land more projects at work. The trainer and life coach — and baker and political provocateur in past lives — said potential clients ask him if he can “speak the language of young people” when he tells them his age. He assures them that he’s well versed in the ways of the youth. But they’re skeptical, telling him that their other options are “young people in the gleam of their lives.” He assures them that he is more experienced, wiser and more knowledgeable, but he is beginning to think those attributes may not be enough.
He wants to be young again, and he has the physical fitness to match, Ratelband said.
He has low blood pressure, he said. His joints are working well. His eyesight is clear. His mental health is in top shape, he reported. “Well, everything, I guess,” he said. “I get it all checked every two years.”
This is what he told officials at town hall, where he first went to ask for the change.
“Are you crazy?” they inquired, rejecting his request. It wasn’t his first brush with the officials at town hall. Many years ago, they refused to let him name his twins Rolls and Royce, after the carmaker. He continues to call them by these titles, but made their legal names France and Minou.
This time, he was undeterred, telling his lawyer that he wanted to take the matter to court.
Adopting the playbook used by transgender people suing to alter their birth certificates, which often requires submitting to psychiatric evaluation, Ratelband agreed to see professionals to ensure he wasn’t a “victim of the Peter Pan syndrome," as he put it. He convinced experts that he wasn’t deluding himself, he said, and that he understood the consequences of his actions.
At first, he said, the judges “laughed like little girls.”
But after he delivered an inspirational speech about how modern society had freed itself from the false gods of money and government and religion — “nowadays, we are free people,” he reportedly told them — they became more receptive, in his telling.
Ratelband’s desire to remake himself is distinctly American, he said, and comes from his training under Tony Robbins, the motivational guru and master of the life hack. He lived and traveled with Robbins for about six months in the late 1980s, he said, and came to believe that “you have to make your dreams come true from visualization.”
“This is American thinking,” he said. “Why can’t I change my age if I want to? You have to stretch yourself. If you think you can jump one meter, now I want to jump 20. If you earn 100 grand a month, now I want to earn 120 grand."
He drew a comparison to the forces elevating President Trump, arguing that people don’t want to be told how to live or what to believe, and therefore appreciate that the president has cut himself loose from standards of decorum that governed past presidents.
“He is just himself,” he said. “Trump is the first one who is honest. He shows his emotion on Twitter, saying to everyone, ‘Shut up.’ He’s a new kind of person.”