Aspen Princess: 16 years later and your perspective can change |

Aspen Princess: 16 years later and your perspective can change

Alison Berkley Margo
Aspen Princess

I was at Clark’s Market on Tuesday, trying to juggle a rapidly melting ice cream cone and navigate the parking lot with my bike, bike trailer and 2-year-old in tow.

We were cutting through the post office when an older woman stopped me.

“Hi, I read your column every week,” she said. “It always makes me laugh or cry or feel something. Anyway, thanks.”

Perhaps sensing my slight surprise, she said, “I’m Margaret.”

Even after 16 years, it still stuns me when people approach me in the street and tell me they actually read this thing. It also surprises me that they recognize me, given that my column sig is so outdated. I suppose I am more conspicuous than ever with the pug and the baby and my life story out there for everyone to see. It’s also incredibly validating and reassuring to know people still read, and they still care.

June 18 marks the day my first column was published in 2002. I posted it on Facebook to commemorate my anniversary last week, and reading it again made me feel many different emotions. Mostly I felt slightly embarrassed, the way you might feel about a younger sibling when you are out in public and they are not being themselves. Maybe they’re showing off for someone they are trying to impress or acting immature or awkward in a way that makes you cringe because you’ve known this person all their lives, and you know they’re not being themselves even if no one else does, which somehow makes it even worse.

To put it simply, I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote that first column.

For some reason, I adopted a persona that was sort of an alter ego, an entitled, self-proclaimed princess who had just arrived in Aspen and was unabashed about her agenda (boys), her financial status (trust funder) and her values (materialistic and shallow). I can only assume I thought this somehow captured the essence of a single person living in Aspen, but the part that embarrasses me, even now, is that I had just moved here. What did I know? Who did I think I was?

I open this way: “What kind of self-possessed bitch calls herself a princess? Well, kitty-cats, I am what I am, so why not admit it? … I’m just licking my glossy, red lips at the thought of all the flavors our little tinsel town has to offer. The hard part will by trying to figure out where to stick my tongue first.”

Cringe! Wince! Look away!

I go on to describe how I grew up in Connecticut, lived in many glamorous cities, attended boarding school, took six years to graduate college, drove a foreign car and wore a padded bra. “As far as fake (breasts) go, I can think of so many other things I’d rather spend $5,000 on, so I haven’t been able to manage it. I know it’s false advertising, boys, but that’s what you get for having a one-track mind.”

I imply that I moved to Aspen from Los Angeles, when I had lived in Encinitas, a sleepy coastal town in north San Diego. The foreign car “I could never afford (hand-me-down from Daddy)” was a Volkswagen Turbo Beetle I was leasing, which, despite the cream leather interior and twin turbo engine, is modest by Aspen standards. I also claimed to be a size 6, also not true considering those were my pre-yoga days. Furthermore, while I did grow up in Connecticut, it was a nothing town outside of a Hartford, a nothing city — a far cry from Greenwich.

There’s plenty of provocation and sexual innuendo and that no-holds-barred-party-girl attitude that I flaunted in those days. “I’m as straight up as a shot of JD when it comes to my opinions,” I wrote, even though I have always hated whiskey because even in small doses, it makes me sick as a dog. “My palate is clean as a whistle and ready to savor the juices Aspen has to offer.”

Gag, cough, choke.

I do like this last line, though: “One last piece of advice: only eat the ginger between bites of sushi, not on top of it. And always keep your options open, girls. This is a small town. But let’s not over analyze. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you get exactly what you want.”

Sitting here today, I do have everything I want. I did hang my “leopard print tiara here for a while” as I said I would, making Aspen the first true home I have ever known. I am writing this clad in a leopard print robe and matching slippers and am still driving a car I can’t afford, my new Mini Cooper Countryman hybrid, an upgrade from that VW Beetle but still not a Range Rover. After years of heartache and heartbreak, I married the maintenance man from Minnesota who, shortly after we met, donned his blue rubber gloves and wielded a pen light and fixed everything that was wrong with my life. He was not a millionaire, or an ivy league graduate (though he did go to Brown, a college of radio broadcasting in Minneapolis). But he has made all of my dreams come true in ways I never would have imagined. He spoiled me rotten, not with money or things but with his uninhibited, unabashed, unlimited love. Even on a modest income, he has provided me with everything I could ever want, most importantly, loving me for exactly who I am.

Over the years, that persona I began with gradually morphed with my true voice. What started as provocative became more honest and self-deprecating. That vision I had of myself eventually became my true self. I guess ultimately, I finally grew up.

Thank you, dear reader, for sharing the journey with me. It’s been a wild ride.

The Princess is up early so she can attend Ideas Fest today. Email your love to


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