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Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

WARNING: The contents of this column may contain political innuendo and allegiances to an agenda that may be hazardous to my health. If I appear to be choking or having trouble breathing, please contact the local poison control center immediately.

Does Aspen even have a poison control center?

I know what you’re thinking. When you think of “Princess” you think of pink and girly, of stuff like padded bras and boas and pink drinks, not yucky politics. That kind of thing will drive you to the Botox doc faster than smiling will.

The whole pink thing is exactly what inspired me to work with the Susan G. Komen Foundation in the first place. It was such a good fit that I helped my dear friend Alex create an entire event around it in 2005. The Princess in Pink party was basically a huge bash I threw for myself (with Alex’s help and connections) to raise money and awareness for the Aspen/Komen Ride for the Cure, which was only in its infancy back then.

I got to play with clothes and jewels and makeup for my fashion show. I got to be carried on the shoulders of the Gentleman of Aspen rugby team while dressed in a silk robe and Prada patent-leather heels. My photo even made the front page of the paper the next day – all for charity.

As I sat having several people fuss over my hair and makeup before the show, my mom said, “I feel like I’m at your wedding.”

Oh, and we raised $25,000, so there.

But seriously: The idea for the party was inspired by my new friend Anne Gurchick, who was going through treatment for breast cancer at the time. She was so stoic and beautiful through it all that I thought, for the first time in my life, that this was a cause worth donating my energy and passion to. And it was.

It was.

At one point, one of the Komen people told me I would need to travel to Dallas for training. I immediately thought that any sentence with the words “Dallas” and “training” in it is something I should run from, fast.

It struck me as odd: Why would a nonprofit organization spend that much money on little old me? I pictured these ladies in Dallas who run this massively huge “nonprofit” organization. I imagined sorority sisters 30 years later, dressed in tailored skirt suits, not a hair out of place. I pictured poufy updos anchored with oversized, gold-studded earrings and Botox-frozen faces that look like they’re made out of wax.

The woman I pictured was Nancy G. Brinker, the founder and CEO of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. I swear I’d never seen her face until the video came out last week to do damage control after this whole Planned Parenthood debacle.

Let’s not be judgmental. It’s not the face – it’s what the face represents.

Brinker, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann – either they all share the same stylist or I see exactly the kind of woman I’ve avoided my whole life, the kind of woman I don’t want to be.

We all just assumed that Komen is not a political organization but a charitable one. What really sucks is it’s just one example of what’s going on in this country on a larger scale.

I have always been politically apathetic. It doesn’t matter what my ideology is. Left or right, even the most dyslexic person in the world can tell you we are living in a corporate economy, not a democracy. Money drives policymaking, not ideology, not logic, not need. My vote has nothing to do with what’s going on in Washington. And God knows my money is already spoken for, considering that little shopping spree I had in L.A.

For an engagement gift, one of my parents’ friends offered to donate money to a charity of our choice. My first thought was, “Have them make it out to the Margo Mortgage Foundation.” Despite the occasional superfluous purchase (or maybe because of it), we are barely scraping by. We are not in the social stratum or place of financial stability to be donating money at this point in our lives.

Yes, I know it’s just a lame excuse. So I began to see this gift as a challenge. I told them I wanted to think about what causes I really cared about and that this would be a good opportunity to do so.

Even before Komen’s pink ribbon became a tangled-up knot, I had my reservations about nonprofit organizations. How do you know where your money goes, exactly? God knows I’ve been to enough fancy fundraising galas in this town to know which caterers and party planners get their share.

The Komen debacle didn’t help to dispel my cynicism.

But the backlash it created, primarily via social media, inspired me. Maybe there are like-minded people out there. There are people who don’t subscribe to the Christian right, which threatens to control our lives in ways we never imagined possible in modern society. There are people who won’t tolerate outrageous agendas like a nonprofit organization that is supposed to be fighting breast cancer cutting funding to one of the largest, most effective service providers just because it also provides abortion services.

I mean, seriously.

Maybe there are more of us out there than we thought. Maybe the media or the polling services aren’t as objective as they’re supposed to be. Maybe Facebook isn’t so bad after all. If it can help us find one another easily and quickly and (surprise) make us more effective in voicing our opinions and actually having an influence, let’s use it.

With this annoying election fast approaching, maybe it’s time to rethink pink. Instead of putting our money where our mouths are, maybe it’s time to use actual words. Then there might be hope. Then maybe we, the people, can update our status.


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