Aspen Princess: You can’t put a price on being ‘lifestyle rich’ | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Princess: You can’t put a price on being ‘lifestyle rich’

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

The other day, I got to tour this showcase home in Aspen for a magazine assignment and got to see exactly what 10 million bucks will get you.

When I came home, my house just looked so small and dingy after walking through all those endless open rooms with vaulted ceilings and huge windows. I whimpered a little as I walked across our subfloors, the outdoor paint we used to get by until we can afford hardwood starting to get dinged and scratched after three years of heavy use. I sighed heavily as I wiped down my linoleum countertops that are supposed to look like granite even though they are this awful shade of green that you would never find in nature, at least not without polarized sunglasses. How nice it would be to have white quartz countertops and a waterfall island and Viking appliances with like 10 burners and six ovens so the caterers could cook everything all at once.

Granted, the house I’d just toured cost 20 times more than what our home cost. For that kind of money, you can have a master bath that’s bigger than our bedroom and a steam shower large enough to accommodate the Gentleman of Aspen rugby team (not that I think about them that way, just, you know, I’m not dead yet).

Here’s the thing; I love our house. It feels luxurious after living in our tiny one-bedroom apartment. And that’s the thing about money. As my grandfather’s fourth wife once told me, “No matter how much money you have, there is always someone sitting at the same table who has twice as much as you do.”

Living in Aspen, we’re surrounded by the kind of wealth that’s almost impossible to wrap your head around. We see it as we drive past the airport, the private jets lined up one after the other like limousines waiting curbside at the red carpet. We see the luxury SUVs crowding Aspen’s streets, many of which cost more than our household earns in a year. Not to mention all those stores, and all those beautiful clothes, and the shoes. Oh, the shoes. Will I ever get over my love affair with shoes?

It’s not always easy to navigate the feelings that come up around wealth. Envy, resentment and even judgment rise from the belly like bile — those ugly, uncomfortable emotions that do nothing for us. Our inner dialogue turns to reasons why these people are undeserving of all they have. They inherited the money or married into it or cashed in on a stock portfolio that yielded returns on chance and good timing. Or maybe we don’t know where the money came from, and that’s frustrating. Why do they have so much?

I grew up in a bland middle-class suburb outside of a small New England city that wasn’t much of a city at all, just a place where two major interstates merged, halfway between New York City and Boston. At public school I was considered the rich kid because my Dad was a doctor. Then in seventh-grade, my parents sent me to a private school with a pretentious, hyphenated British sounding name 30 minutes from our house in a much more upscale area. The first birthday party I went to put things into perspective real quick; I was no longer the rich kid. As I wandered the halls of this estate, discovering things like butler’s kitchens and sitting rooms and more bedrooms and bathrooms than I could count, our house seemed impossibly small by comparison, my mom’s modern Italian furniture a little too obtuse, like red lipstick that is smeared.

I also was exposed to next-level rich people stuff like country clubs and vacation homes and private planes. From middle school I entered boarding school in another state with even more money. That’s where I learned that money does not equal happiness. Many of the kids I met there didn’t even know where their parents were most the time because they traveled so much. Many of them had parents who had divorced and remarried at least once, complicating their lives with fractured living arrangements and step parents and siblings. I saw many sad things, too, from a friend who lived on Central Park in a home that had been emptied of furniture after an ugly divorce, to another friend who partied freely at the family’s beach house in Southampton while their father was passed out drunk on the couch in the middle of the day. I even went yachting with a boyfriend from the Philadelphia Main Line whose mother would drink three-pint glasses of Jim Beam with a splash of water every night at dinner and then start in on me about my weight and the fact that I’m Jewish.

I realized later, on a float trip to the Green River during college, that money sometimes did more to complicate things than it did to make life better. I preferred floating down a lazy river in a canoe drinking beer and eating pasta made on a camp stove than I did nibbling on wafers with cream cheese and caviar on a beach in Saint Barth’s. And while I have certainly struggled with how I feel about all the money in Aspen, I managed to find happiness without owning a $10 million home. It’s what Ryan likes to refer to as “lifestyle rich” but I’m also rich in love, with a family I adore so much it makes my cheeks hurt, and with friends who are fiercely loyal and inspiring.

So maybe there’s a dead fly trapped in the cracked door of my microwave and maybe it would be nice to have a bedroom with an actual door instead of a curtain. Maybe I don’t have European oak floors, the wide plank kind I want or a free-standing tub with a view. But I have everything I need; a home filled with love.

The Princess finally had her roots done. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.


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