Aspen Princess: Even mamas can wear tiaras
So the other day a well-intended reader sent me a friendly email suggesting I leave the baby with Ryan and attend some seminar at the Aspen Institute.
She even called him “the babe,” proving once again she is one of my biggest fans.
I should be flattered that this sweet woman was thinking of me, was nice enough to reach out and take the time out of her day to sit down and write me an email. I probably should have taken her up on her invitation and for once, had an excuse to blow-dry my hair and put on some mascara, maybe even a pair of shoes that aren’t flip-flops.
Instead I reacted like a defensive teenager. “Are you sure you’re writing to the right person?” I snapped, as much as one can snap over the keyboard. “It’s not exactly up my alley.”
She responded with a curt, “I thought it would be something different for you.”
If that’s not the writing on the wall, I don’t know what is. I’m supposed to be the Aspen Princess, after all. Why would I not want to gallivant around to all the wonderful events happening there all summer long?
It got me thinking about what defines us. Is Aspen Princess just a moniker, or is it something more? Is it a name that I’ve built over the last 15 years, or is it a label that’s no longer appropriate, something I’ve moved on from and grown out of?
I’ve had many labels throughout my adult life, titles that defined me, sometimes in the eyes of others more than in my own. To a college boyfriend whose mother was first-generation German, “Jewish” was impossible for his family to get past, even though I tried to explain that if I could use three words to describe myself, Jewish would not be one of them.
I became a college graduate and an editor. I became a California girl, a blonde, a snowboarder, a surfer and a slut. For the better part of two decades I was single, a label that seemed to suggest more about what I was not. “Not a sister, not a girlfriend, not a wife,” became my mantra during those years. I had pulled the career card, working in the male-dominated snowboard industry as an editor at one of its largest magazines. I had just enough power to render me powerless, untouchable by all the interesting and attractive men I constantly found myself surrounded by, often in the kind of intimate settings forced upon us by adventure and travel.
I would not become a wife until I was 41. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t wait to change my name when I got married, unlike so many of my female friends. Talk about labels — there is a lot of power in changing your name.
Then came other labels: ski bum, party girl, freelance writer, columnist, and of course, Aspen Princess.
Now I find myself struggling with the identity of my newest label: mom. I’ve always rolled my eyes at people who make a big show out of being a mom. I mean, literally everyone has one. What’s the big deal?
The last thing I ever wanted was to let the label “mom” define me, especially in a professional context where I fear that despite whatever progress has been made for women in the workplace since the bra-burning days, and as amazing the women who work full time with young children are, I can’t help but feel a little stigmatized. Call me old fashioned, but I do everything to avoid using my kid as an excuse with work, even if he is. I try to refrain from mentioning him at all, or uttering phrases that might make me seem less reliable, like “childcare” and “tired.” After he was born, I immediately lost three clients. One told me she was uncomfortable because she “didn’t understand my schedule,” even though the work I did for her was deadline-oriented.
Still, I can’t deny my identity has changed and is changing more every day as labels like “athlete” and “sexy” fall to the wayside because I find myself sidelined by injuries and other limitations postpartum I’d never experienced before, like the ability to do whatever I want when I want.
And while I struggle with not meeting those standards I once held for myself as an outdoors woman, a professional and a woman in general, I simultaneously find myself more fulfilled and happier than I have ever been, which seems to suggest that none of those other things really matter.
That’s not to say I’m still tormented by the weight gain and the aches and pains and the aging that is starting to show in my body and my face. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel guilty about not working as much as I should, about not hitting the Aspen party circuit or living up to my self-imposed title as its Princess, not that any of my cute clothes would fit if I did.
But I have to allow myself this time with my son, even it means my road bike gathers dust and my pants are too tight and I spend countless hours at home, combatting the fear of missing out on what afflicts me from my Facebook feed. It might mean that the title “Aspen Princess” fits about as well as my skinny jeans. And while I have no doubt that I will one day shrink myself back down to a size 4 (OK fine, a 6) and re-emerge into Aspen society once again, I can’t deny there’s only one label defining me now.
As if the universe had a message especially for me, it came straight from the babe’s mouth for the first time a few weeks ago. “Mamma,” he said emphatically, pointing at various items in the house that belonged to me. “Mamma, Mamma, Mamma.”
The Princess is excited to have her eyelashes tinted today. Email your love to email@example.com.
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