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Shaping Reality

December 10, 2018

Apparently, you’re not as young as you feel. We know this now because of news reports last week about a guy in Holland who wanted to officially remove 20 years from his age, but a court wouldn’t let him do it.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

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Apparently, you’re not as young as you feel. We know this now because of news reports last week about a guy in Holland who wanted to officially remove 20 years from his age, but a court wouldn’t let him do it.

The court, not unreasonably, noted that official age-changing could affect all sorts of things such as the right to vote and the obligation to go to school. The more perplexing question here, though, is why anyone would sue over this in the first place.

After all, people lie about their age all the time. The guy with the white hair and the cane can claim he’s 20 all he wants — no one is going to believe it. The whole exercise seems pointless.

It’s possible this plaintiff thought he’d live an extra 20 years if he were officially younger. If that’s true, this is an incredible advance in medical science and should be taken seriously. But it’s probably not true.

Still, I’m not sure this concept should be dismissed without some serious discussion. After all, people in America can change their sex, their appearance, their name, and even their Twitter handles. Why should age be any different?

Sure, we’d have children getting senior citizen discounts, but they’d be giving up their right to juice boxes at soccer games. Old people might get hired because they’re younger, but they couldn’t sue for age discrimination later on. For everything you gain, there’s a potential loss. So why not give people the right to make those choices?

Think of the potential for stigma removal. We frown when we hear of a 90-year-old marrying a 20-year-old, but we’d think nothing of it if they were both officially 30.

Or what if you took 10 years to get through college? No one has to know if you change your age.

What we need to do is clearly define the rights and responsibilities of each age group so that we can make intelligent, informed selections. There are pros and cons to membership in every generation.

For example, do you want to give up the right to support by parents in exchange for the right to consume alcohol? Should you give up Social Security for the chance to apply for internships? Do you trade senior discounts for more swipes on Tinder?

I’m picturing a world in which everyone is 25 and has perfectly-proportioned weight and height (at least on paper). We’ll finally have true equality.

There is something to be said for shaping reality to suit yourself, and the concept seems to be catching on. The president had the largest inauguration crowd in history, and last week we saw a press release with this headline: “SRI Records Releases a New Frankie Valli Hit Song.” We now have hits before anyone buys — or hears — a song. Frankie Valli must be so proud.

Supreme Style. The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court may be even cooler than we thought — it appears they have catchphrases.

I know this because, in an astonishing instance of investigative journalism, The Associated Press has sussed them out.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor likes to say “I’m sorry” and Justice Neil Gorsuch likes to pretend he needs help understanding stuff.

But that’s not the most amazing part of this story. This, found toward the end of the piece, is what made my jaw drop: “Sotomayor said she’s sorry 98 times last term and 30 times so far since the new term began in October. Gorsuch employed some form of ‘help me out’ 25 times last term and 10 times since October.”

That’s right — someone counted. Now that’s dedicated journalism.

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