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In Praise Of The "50-Year-Old Teen"

Some adults between 45 and 55 years old act more like they're 25 or 30. At least one sociologist says they may be onto something.

Hipster parents
Hipster parents
Marie-Pierre Genecand

GENEVA â€" You're between 45 and 55 years old, maybe have adult children. But judging from the clothes you wear and the way you speak, your hobbies and travels, you still act like a 30-year-old. They say you're an eternal teenager. You identify with the movie While We’re Young. Don't feel bad, because for the first time in human history, age has actually gotten younger, says French sociologist Serge Guérin.

The so-called quincado is a "50-year-old teen." The French portmanteau designation appeared in 2013 to describe people of a certain age and sociocultural background living with, well, a particular zest. Men have been having mid-life crises forever, so this term mostly applies to women. The quincado is a baby boomer who grew up in the 1960s or 1970s and prefers freedom over authority, parties over chores, a chosen profession over suffered labor, improvised trips over organized holidays.

Women who meet this description sometimes have a lot in common with their adult daughters, with whom they share T-shirts and, sometimes, boyfriends. The male prototypes like video games, working out and parties that last until the early morning. Both are avid social network users. The quincado doesn't let herself or himself be confined, instead rejecting labels and shaping life one day at a time.

A fairytale life

Mylène is 55 but looks 10 years younger. For the past four years, the Parisian who formerly headed an advertisement agency has been keeping a blog, happyquinqua.com, and personifies the characteristics of this label. "A quincado? I think the term is quite unrefined, but I find it describes me," she says. "Since I sold my advertisement agency, I've been avoiding anything that could stress me out and, yes, my life is kind of a fairytale."

Ben Stiller, Dre Hemingway Naomi Watts and Adam Driver in Noah Baumbach's While We're Young (2015)

She takes regular jogs in Parisian parks, makes frequent trips to New York through an apartment exchange website, consults for young companies, meets friends for coffee, attends cultural events, and enjoys reading and writing. Her everyday life is liberated.

"My partner, who's my age, is a creative person. He’s perfectly OK with this way of doing things," she says.

So are her children. "Whether it's my 27-year-old son or my 22-year-old daughter living in New York, they both seem glad to have a dynamic mother free to do what she wants," she says. "Just last night, the three of us jammed together â€" my friend on the piano, my son on the guitar and me on vocals. We had a great time. As for my parents, I don't live in the same city as them, but I visit them every month and they support my choices. They're even quite proud, I think."

Mylène feels young but is also willing to undergo treatments to keep it that way. "First, I've always stayed out of the sun as much as I could, but for the past five years I've been having Botox injections, very moderately, once every two years," she says. "My esthetician also applies face masks and a pulsed light treatment. I'm against plastic surgery, because it betrays who we really are. But I couldn't not do anything with my circle of friends, who all secretly take action against the ravages of aging."

The idea of manipulating one's body to seem younger seems superficial, but it feels crucial to her. "Quincados don't reflect a refusal to age," says sociologist Serge Guérin. "They are the beneficiaries of objective rejuvenation. Just 15 years ago, people in their fifties who were laid off were finished. Now, people in their fifties who get fired start a new life, because they know their existence can still last for 40 or 50 more years."

People who resort to plastic surgery represent an entirely different mindset, he says. "They don't live with it. They move away from who they are, deny themselves, and that's problematic.

"I'm an adult child"

Guérin is the author of Silver Génération, a book that challenges 10 common misconceptions about aging. "Age is getting younger," he insists. "There have never been so many active 50-year-olds. It's the first time in history that this age corresponds to half a life. It's also the first time people reach the age of 50 in such good shape," whether physically or neurologically.

No age limit for selfies â€" Photo: San Sharma

At 48, Sébastien is about to launch into a flamboyant quincado future. "It's true, I'm an adult child," he says. "I love strolling through toy departments and spend whole evenings playing video games. I also like using a pretend voice over the phone to prank people. And I also spend time with people who are at least 10 years younger than me. So I kind of speak like a younger person and make dirty jokes that shock my children, who are adults."

As Guérin says, "society must evolve and realize that at 50 today, we're not as old as we were just 15 years ago."

How do the 20- and 30-year-olds find their place in this new society full of silver foxes? "I'm against the idea of a generation war," Guérin adds. "Today, knowledge goes both ways. It's not unusual for an older adult to ask a young person to explain something, especially on the technological level. We all have our own legitimacy."

As for commanding authority, Mylène says that when she was raising her children, she always favored "love and autonomy." Guérin calls it a "sensitive" issue. "The 50-year-olds, from the post-1968 generation, when it was forbidden to forbid, often have a friend-to-friend relationship with their children," she says. "This can lead to differences regarding hierarchy, that's true."

The solution, he says, is mutual respect. "I'm against authoritarian relationships. But I'm for authority-based relationships," he says. "In other words, a relationship in which the 50-year-old knows his value and passes his experience on to the following generations."

Quincados, after all, may be fun, but they're not brainless.

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Geopolitics

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.


But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Activist in front of democracy monument in Thailand.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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