Last December, I turned 65. I have a Medicare card. I can take money out of an IRA without penalty. I get senior discounts. I’m officially “old.” I’m torn between aging gracefully and fighting it with great vigor, but no matter how I look at it, I’m 65.
But wait! If a Norwegian bioethicist has his way, I could legally change my age to 50! After all, I don’t feel 65. I still work part time, I go to the Y, and I have plans—lots of plans. So why not? Joona Räsänen, at the University of Oslo, has published a paper titled “Moral Case for Legal Age Change.” The underlying logic says that since there may be a difference between one’s chronological age and their biological and/or emotional age, we should be allowed to choose our age. Anything else is ageism.
Then there’s Sonalee Rashatwar, who describes herself as @thefatsextherapist on Instagram. She labels any studies concluding obesity is unhealthy “fatphobic.” That’s right—she believes that weighing too much isn’t bad for you—not your heart, or your joints, or your blood pressure, or any of the other numerous issues obesity has been linked to. Instead, she preaches that the actual cause of these health issues is the negativity our culture directs to the obese—the body shaming.
As I read these two news stories, I realized that they have something in common—something that seems to be increasingly true in our society. Both these people prioritize feelings and opinions over facts and truth.
It’s fine to have feelings and opinions. I think chocolate is one of God’s best gifts. I don’t like junipers. I’m sure my granddaughters are the most brilliant, loving, and perfect of all children ever born. But there are some topics for which feelings and opinions are irrelevant.
For example, what about gravity? Gravity exists, no matter what I feel about it. I can’t change that fact. If I jump off a skyscraper shouting “I feel weightless,” I’m still going to go splat when I hit the ground.
Age is one of those things. I was born in 1954. It’s a fact, not an opinion. My feelings have nothing to do with it. I can’t change it, no matter how much I may wish to. Legally changing the number on my birth certificate won’t change reality. I’m simply fooling myself.
As far as Rashatwar, she can make all the excuses she wants, but the bottom line is that hundreds of studies show a strong correlation between obesity, poor health, and mortality. Even in cultures where being “oversized” is lauded, it’s still bad for you. Culture has nothing to do with it.
Everyone has intrinsic value, no matter their size. God loves all of us. And yes, I’d appreciate understanding and sympathy as I battle my bulges—for many of us, there are underlying medical reasons that losing weight is extremely difficult—but compassion doesn’t change the fact that losing pounds lowers my blood pressure, relieves pressure on my knee ligaments, and gives me more energy. God loves everyone, but that doesn’t mean we’re perfect as is.
Our increasingly politically correct culture reminds me of a story I’ve mentioned before, but it bears repeating now. It was years ago, and I was babysitting a friend’s toddler. He desperately wanted to play with his mother’s sewing machine. Of course, he was clueless about sharp needles, electric motors, and delicate equipment. As he climbed into the chair in front of her machine, he looked at me and, in an authoritarian tone of voice he’d likely heard many times, told me, “Don’t tell me no!”
Is that what we’re saying? Are our feelings more important than truth? Increasingly, our culture wants to redefine reality to be in accord with our thin emotional skins, or our unwillingness to take responsibility for ourselves and our neighbors. But some realities aren’t changeable, just because we feel they should be.