Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate |

Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

There’s a reason they make movies about bringing your boyfriend home to meet the parents.

Don’t get me wrong. Relatively speaking, it was a breeze. Like Shanti said when she was here for the X Games, “He’s a dream compared to the cavemen you’ve brought home in the past. At least this one doesn’t drool on himself and is sober for more than five minutes a day.”

“Good point,” I said.

It’s not that my parents didn’t like any of my previous boyfriends. They’ve always been super supportive, even when it wasn’t that easy. At one point I started thinking my dad was so desperate to see me get married he was willing to see me marry anyone.

“So he has a criminal record/has been married six times/just got out of rehab, but he seems nice, honey,” he’d say.

Like my boyfriend, Rich, who I met when I was only 20 years old. We were living in Summit County at the time, where I was taking a year off from college and working as a ski instructor at Copper and was in no place for a serious relationship, but Rich was very sweet. He had these huge blue eyes and a wide face and chin-length thick black hair that looked way too dark for his fair skin. He was short and boyish and would cry all the time. It was almost like I was the guy and he was the chick. I’d see his eyes well up with tears and I’d just roll my eyes and be like, “What’s wrong now? Jesus Christ!” Never in my life have I been on that side of the fence, and it hasn’t happened since.

Rich just happened to be from the same town in Vermont where we had a ski house. My parents were totally cool when, during a visit back East Rich’s mom waited on us at this bar and grill she worked at with her boyfriend, Tuna. Tuna was a 36-year-old Harley dude with chops and long hair and a huge gut. My parents were very polite and nice and didn’t even flinch when Tuna came over to the table and shook our hands with his hairy exposed belly resting on the edge of our table.

Then there was Matt from college. Matt was beyond shy. When someone talked to him, he had this habit of looking at his feet and scrunching his shoulders forward so he looked sort of like an ostrich. He was just over six feet tall with wispy, thin brown hair and long eyelashes and weighed like 150 pounds. He was all arms and legs and was so psychotic about cycling that he thought he needed to lose more weight because someone told him it would make him go faster. He’d come home from these 100-mile training rides in Boulder with his eyes rolling around in his head because he’d only brought one Power Bar and bonked. Needless to say, he was the only one getting bonked on those big training days but that’s not really the point.

The first time he came to meet my parents, they still had a timeshare in Beaver Creek so we drove up for the Christmas holiday weekend. For some reason, he put his duffle bag behind the couch, so every time he needed something he’d go rifling through it and the couch created this illusion where it looked like he was digging into the ground, or maybe the sand, to bury his head in it. Coupled with his already timid, bashful demeanor, this did not bode well with a pack of chatterbox Jews who often have to yell over each other at the dinner table to get a word in edgewise.

“I just felt so sorry for him,” is all my mom kept saying.

So you could say things went amazingly smooth this time around. My new guy didn’t hide behind the couch or drink 10 beers on the drive up because he was so terrified of having to carry on a conversation sober. And while his dad drives a Harley, he’s a lot older than 36 and even though I haven’t met him yet I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t let his furry bare belly touch my parent’s food.

That doesn’t mean we didn’t have a few of those awkward unforgettable moments. Like when my dad took the poor guy into the garage to show him his fancy bike collection and goes, “Did Ali tell you her ex-boyfriend used to race mountain bikes? Yeah, he was quite the athlete!”

Or when we were talking about my buddy Steve who lives in Steamboat with his wife and two kids. My dad has to tell the story about how Steve and I ran off to Vermont for the night when he was 19 and I was 15 and my parents called the cops because he took me over state lines when I was a minor.

The best was when we were out snowshoeing and my mom was behind me and she goes, “You’re not really going to get married in Costa Rica, are you? That would be such a huge pain in the ass!”

I don’t recall anyone saying anything about where or when or even if we are planning to get married, but I love how she brings this up when she is walking behind me so she doesn’t have to see my reaction.

“Let’s just cross that bridge when we come to it, Mom,” I say.

I tell myself the only bridge to cross in that moment is the one made of snow that creates an easy passage over Burgess Creek, the stream still bubbling and alive below our feet as we make our way down the trail. I’m content just knowing we made it over that first hurdle, and are happily standing together on the other side.

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