Aging is just standard procedure

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

Guess what? Tomorrow is my birthday.

This used to be a cause for celebration, but now it feels like a national emergency — at the same level, if not even more dire than the problem at the border. Here’s the thing: I have one more year left in my 40s.

One year! One. Then the unthinkable happens. I can’t even bring myself to say it.

I remember the day I turned 20. I was in college at the University of Denver and I went out for a run around Washington Park and the whole time all I kept thinking was “Twenty. I’m 20. I’m 20 years old.”

I rolled the number around in my mouth like a sour candy, trying to taste it from every angle, trying to fit it into my mouth until it could dissolve enough for me to take a bite even though I didn’t even really like the taste. It just sounded so strange, so grown up, so adult. No more teens. It was go time.

Somehow, I have managed to postpone the grown-up-adult part of the equation, though bit by bit I find myself in the very world I worked so hard to avoid. Aspen is a wonderful place to avoid adulthood. Just look around at all the blue hairs who still carry on the life of a ski bum; donning Hawaiian shirts all year round, hitting on women half their age at places like Jimmy’s and the Caribou Club, getting flat-out wasted in public and not being afraid to wear several strands of Mardi Gras beads around their heads.

Aspen’s famous cougars have mastered the art of freezing time by freezing their faces with injectables and laser treatments and fillers. Over time their features become so immobilized as to take on the waxy appearance of a corpse prepared for viewing, which is pretty ironic if you think about it. I myself have traveled this road with reckless abandon, willing to stick needles full of whatever wherever I see something I don’t like — a crease, a line, a (gasp!) wrinkle. And as I approach that hallmark of no longer being young, an age that makes my stomach pinch with unease, my face is also starting to take on a bit of a mask-like appearance, especially when my expressiveness always finds someplace to go, so now I have these strange dents and lines in places they shouldn’t be, like just above my eyebrow or near my hair line. I’ll admit it does look weird, but I still love it, still prefer it to the alternative — better known as aging.

Aging is a strange and tragic phenomenon. It’s gradual and slow yet somehow it feels like it happens overnight. Worst of all, it’s inevitable. When is it time to give up the fight?

When do you stop coloring your hair and paralyzing your facial muscles and hitting the gym and the trail and the slopes twice as hard, because you know all too well that if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it?

Everyone always talks about how much harder it gets as you get older, to stay in shape, to maintain your weight, to recover from injuries. It’s always been hard for me to do those things, but I refused to believe it could ever be this hard.

I’ve gotten to the point where I get injured in the very act of trying to avoid injuries either at the gym or in yoga or doing something inane, like lifting my kid out of the car or reaching into the fridge for a beer. These aren’t injuries of the take-four-Advil-and-push-through-it variety, but the kind of pain that means you’re benched for at least a week and looking at several hundred dollars in chiropractic and massage therapy bills. You feel pretty stupid when someone asks you how you threw you’re back out and you’re all, “I was rearranging my sock drawer and I just tweaked it.”

Still, it’s not all bad. There’s a coming into your own that happens with age, a level of self-acceptance that eludes you when you’re younger. Wait, could this be … coming of age?

I was just telling my friend Amanda yesterday how it wasn’t until I became a mother that I ever felt like I finally became the person I always wanted to be. After decades of spending countless hours and endless dollars trying to look a certain way, I finally felt beautiful.

It didn’t come in the form of the fake boobs I’d considered getting in my 20s when I lived in Southern California where they’re practically required. It didn’t come from the husband I’d failed to find in the tumultuous years that were my 30s. It didn’t come from my dreams of becoming a successful author and novelist, a dream I still cling to but one that doesn’t have to define my happiness.

It turns out happiness came from letting go of all that. Instead of running and chasing and aspiring, I stood still.

That’s when a man found me instead of the other way around. Picked me, chose me, loved me; without hesitation, without doubt, but with pride, with commitment, and certainty.

That’s when I found a home with a river I can see out my window, like a million diamonds glittering in the sun. My passport might be sitting in a drawer gathering dust, my suitcase stashed away in a closet zipped shut with nothing inside, but there aren’t many places I like better than where I am right now.

Instead of looking for love, as the old saying goes, in all the wrong places, I am loved in a way I could have never imagined. A love so complete and so innate it comes in a single word, the word my son calls out when he wakes up in the middle of the night before he is even awake enough to think.


The Princess is thinking about having her eyelids done. Send your plastic surgeon recommendations to


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