Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate
December 29, 2011
Guess what – in 2012 I will celebrate my 10th year in Aspen. So can I call myself a local yet?
I landed here in February 2002, when I was just about to turn 32 and couldn’t live in Southern California anymore. A girl can only go so long without a boyfriend. When you are 5 feet tall and your boobs are real and you’re larger than a Size 2, you’re not going to have much luck in the land of beach babes and surfer dudes. So I ran back to Colorado, where I knew the men could make you feel a princess.
I just had no idea I could take the princess thing this far, but somehow I did.
Living like a princess on a ski bum’s income is just one of the little tricks I’ve learned over the past decade. One of the biggest misconceptions about Aspen is that it’s a place that’s only accessible to what people now refer to as the “1 percenters.” But take it from me – nothing could be farther from the truth. Here are a few pointers of how to make it work in Aspen even if you’re in the lower 99 percent.
My grandfather was a very wealthy man, but from what little I know about him, he was not a very nice man. He was shrewd, and he was selfish, and while he was a successful businessman and lived in a penthouse and had a mirrored pool table and a view of the ocean, I don’t know how happy he was in his life.
No one seemed to understand that better than his third wife, Mickey, who once told me, “No matter how wealthy you are, there is always someone sitting at the same table who is twice as rich as you are and has twice as many things. So you see, you never really get there. No matter how much you have, it’s never enough.”
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It’s easy to be seduced by Aspen’s wealth, to think it’s normal to spend $10 million on a house or $80,000 on a car or $1,000 on a blouse or $400 on a pair of plastic sunglasses. I’ve got news for you: Target has it in the same color and style, and chances are no one is going to know the difference except you. Because you are the one who’s going to be paying interest on the credit-card bill. And trust me – by the time you finish paying for that $1,000 Postcard jacket, it will have already made its way into the garbage bag that’s going to the thrift store. Let someone else buy it and then pick it up at Suzy’s for one-tenth of the price. (Thanks, Suzy, whoever you are! Love you!)
It wasn’t until I met Ryan that I fully understood the concept of being “lifestyle-rich.” It’s about having a low cost of living and a high quality of life. You never have to worry about what interest rates are doing or if the Dow Jones/Nasdaq thing is up or down or how your neighbor’s house sold for $4 million less than he paid for it. One thing I can’t tolerate are these wealthy people who are crying about the money they’ve lost even though they’re still rich – just not as rich as they were before. See, we have nothing to lose because we didn’t have anything in the first place.
Instead, we’re focused on how many inches they’re reporting in Highland Bowl or the next time we get to go visit the twins in Carbondale or house sit at our friend’s in Missouri Heights. The economy can’t touch us because our value is based on where we’ve invested our hearts. I wish my grandfather would have known more about that – for my dad’s sake, anyway.
There’s no doubt about it: Aspen is the land of beautiful people. It’s easy to lose perspective when you’re in a room at whatever fitness class or gym or yoga studio you happen to go to and everyone is thin and ripped and good looking. Like money, there is no end to how thin you want to be or how fit or how flawless. Once you go down that road, there’s no end to your journey. There is no such thing as perfection, and the harder you hunt for it, the longer true beauty will elude you.
Like Jennifer Aniston, I’m not going to deny I’ve had a needle stuck in my face once or twice, but my days of turning my vanity into a full-time job are so over. I’m never going to be skinny for more than 10 minutes, and I’m never going to be tall, and my inseam will probably always be smaller than my waist. Sure, there was a time I was able to squeeze into a Size 2 and see my weight drop just shy of the 100 mark and everything I tried on looked great, and guess what happened – I was miserable, and I was broke on account of spending so much money on clothes.
Beauty, I’m starting to realize, isn’t about looks. It’s about perception – not only how the world perceives you but how you perceive the world. They say you can hear a smile in someone’s voice without actually having to see it. I think beauty is kind of the same way. It’s experienced with more senses than just the eyes. It really is more than skin deep.
If there’s one other thing I’ve learned after a decade in Aspen, time flies when you’re having fun. Savor the moment, and don’t miss out on what counts in 2012. May your new year be truly, really, deeply happy.
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