Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

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October 6, 2010
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Alison Berkley: The Princess' Palate

The other day, I was out partying with some friends whom I would consider peers. They're my age. They're all good looking and cool. They were all snowboarding instructors and bartenders and bike mechanics before they went and got married and had kids and started their own businesses.

So we're all hanging out having a drink, and this one girl Karen, who is visiting from out of town, makes some anti-Obama remark.

At the risk of coming across as a total bitch, I kind of flap my wrist, the one that has the drink in it, and go, "I wouldn't run around saying that in Aspen if I were you." I say it in a tone that could be construed as sarcastic just in case I get myself into trouble.

Karen sort of makes a snotty face like one of those scary ladies from the Housewives shows on Bravo and says, "Why's that?"

And I say, "Because Aspen is a super liberal town and you might find yourself outnumbered. Or in a very awkward position at least." I try to sound like I know what I'm talking about and pretend to stand solidly on unstable ground.

That's when my friend Erin, who is sitting right next to me on the couch, chimes in and says, "What are you talking about? We're Republicans."

"Yeah, we're Republicans too," says Mike, who is sitting in a big upholstered chair on the other side of the coffee table.

All of a sudden, their figures begin to transform, become distorted and large. The room tilts slightly as if the furniture and all the contents of the room might begin to slide. Their eyeballs bulge and their teeth turn to fangs.

"We have our own business, hello," Erin snaps. "The economy? It sucks."

I start thinking of excuses of why I might have to go home. I hear my mom's voice in my head, chiming in with one of her annoying pearls of wisdom. She's saying, "You think you know someone until they open their mouths and start talking," or something like that.

A few weeks later I had a similarly unnerving exchange on Facebook with my 19-year-old second cousin, who is in his sophomore year at Duke University. He posts, "About to watch the United States Secretary of Defense give a speech at Duke. God bless the GOP, and God bless America."

So this is the next generation.

I never cared much for political discourse. I feel like government is, for the most part, ineffective. Money talks. I figure it's the lobbyists who effect change, not the guy I voted for. What does my ideology matter if I don't have the cash to back it up?

I don't know if it's getting older or what, but all of a sudden I'm starting to care.

Like, I care that as upper middle-class women, we are so oppressed that I've had two friends now who have refused any medical intervention during their babies' deliveries because they couldn't afford to pay for it.

"I made the decision that I could withstand 12 to 14 hours of pain to save myself $10,000," my friend Katie said.

Another friend, Thia, said natural childbirth was the most painful thing she'd ever experienced, but that finances were also a big factor in her choices. "At one point they offered me Tylenol, but I was like, 'How much is that going to cost?'"

Thia was denied any kind of paid maternity leave at her job. She was told she was the first person in the history of the company to have a child so they didn't exactly have any kind of policy in place. I guess that's what you get when you're independently owned. Or what you don't get, I should say. How dare she put her job aside to become a mother? I mean, the nerve!

To make matters worse, these insurance companies act as if having a child is no different than getting a boob job. They basically treat it as if it is an elective procedure.

If it's this unmanageable for us, upper middle-class women living in Aspen, Colorado, what does that mean for the rest of the country, for people who have so much less than we do?

On another unrelated topic is this whole Hidden Gems brouhaha, which I totally don't get. I mean, aren't we all lovers of the wilderness? Don't we live here because wilderness is where we want to be, surrounded by land that is still pristine and wild and natural and beautiful?

I can't for the life of me understand why everyone is freaking out. Because they want to be able to recreate wherever they want, however they want, even though we already have plenty of places to do that?

As a selfish, self-centered, narcissistic, socially unconscious person I have to ask: When did we become so selfish? I may have four or five different types of fur hanging in my closet (fox, beaver and maybe a hat with a mink pom-pom), but even I can appreciate how cute the bears are. I like mountain biking too, but I would way rather see that land be forever protected than be subject to future development. We have no idea what kind of technologies and industries might be around 50 years from now. Protecting the wilderness should be a no-brainer.

So maybe it is about getting older and holding on to values that are now considered old-fashioned. Or maybe I'm at an age where I am thinking about something beside myself, about future generations. Or maybe it's about getting to know myself better, realizing that I am a liberal, a feminist, and -wow, who knew? - a conservationist.

I must be getting old. I just never in my wildest dreams imagined that being liberal was something that would get old, too.


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The Aspen Times Updated Oct 7, 2010 07:54AM Published Oct 6, 2010 09:54PM Copyright 2010 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.