Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I’m moving in with my boyfriend in a few weeks and realized I’m almost 40 and have never lived with a man before.
I mean, I’ve lived with men, plenty of them. But I’ve never really lived with a man ” at least not my man.
Most of my friends have husbands and have been living in their own houses for years if not decades with normal stuff like gardens and garages and kids. I spent the last 20 years living in all kinds of crazy situations, with everyone and anyone, with ski bums and surfers, yogis and Marines, hippies and control freaks and geeks. I lived in So Cal and Nor Cal, on the East Coast and West Coast, from Nantucket to Hawaii, from the mountains to the beach.
It started at 17 when I spent the summer on Nantucket living in a fruit stand with this short little stocky guy named Booter who was like 20 years older than me. We slept on shelves in the back among crates of apples, corn, carrots, peppers and tomatoes that we’d sell on the roadside first thing in the morning when we opened the garage doors and went to work. Booter taught me a lot about vegetables that summer, especially if you consider mushrooms a vegetable.
In college, my boyfriend Mark and I spent a good part of our junior year living in the basement of a house we shared with six of our friends behind a tapestry we hung in the boiler room. At some point we were so over not having any windows that we dragged a mattress outside onto the back porch and slept on that until the ants got to be too much.
In Cali, I lived with a couple of Marines I met in the surf lineup at a local break. They looked like GI Joe dolls and yelled a lot and got drunk and broke things and talked about wanting to shoot and kill stuff and how bummed they were that they’d never went to war.
I once lived with a guy who had a boa constrictor named J.B., which I later learned was short for “Jail Break” because the snake was always escaping from his cage. I spent a lot of time sleeping in the closet because it was the only place I could scour from wall to wall for deadly snakes.
When I moved to Aspen in 2002, I lived with five guys and four very large male dogs. It was like a frat house or a dog kennel with people in it. It was not at all uncommon to see porn playing on the TV in the living room or to be greeted by a chorus of barking and growling and drooling, fur floating in the stale air. The bathroom was so terrifying I would sooner die than take my beloved nightly bath, old Playboy magazines with pages stuck together stuffed underneath the sink, beard stubble constantly clogging the drain, the smell of stale beer, pot smoke and wet dog hair wafting down the quiet street.
Hell, at 37 I lived in a hotel room in Waikiki with my friend Ambere for two months with no kitchen and only one bed. We used the sink as the dishwasher, the toilet as the disposal, and the bathtub as a laundry machine. I slept on a cot mattress tucked into a corner on the floor and lived on energy bars and coconut water.
For the last five years, I’ve lived on my own in a 1-bedroom condo with an 80-pound chow/lab who has done more damage to my house than an earthquake or a hurricane, which is why I’m not the least bit worried about having a tenant. They could light the house on fire and at least I would finally be able to make an insurance claim to cover all the necessary repairs.
I live in the ABC above a Jacuzzi store and a roofing company that seems to employ an army of laborers who congregate in my parking lot every morning lingering around in packs as if they’re waiting for me to walk by so they can whistle and laugh and create a scene. Then I get to do a 15-point turn as I pull out of my parking spot to maneuver around the 18-wheeler trailer trucks and the pile of Jacuzzis awaiting shipment and the dumpsters overflowing with industrial waste.
Not only will I have to move out of the business park and give up sitting in rush-hour traffic every morning, there’s all those gross little single girl habits I’m going to have to abandon. Like, I’ve gotten into this really bad routine where I take my clean clothes out of the dryer and throw them on the bed. I’m either too tired or lazy to fold them and put them away, so I just crawl under the covers and under the clothes pile and enjoy the extra warmth and weight. In the morning I don’t have to go rifling through drawers to find what I’m looking for because I can get dressed before I’ve even gotten out of bed. I like to eat dinner sitting on the floor at the coffee table, mixing and mashing my food so I get a little bit of everything in every bite. It’s the female equivalent of drinking straight from the milk jug, or pouring whip cream and chocolate syrup directly into your mouth.
Sometimes I like taking a shower and then a bath for the hour-long wash, soak-and-steam tribathalon. That might even be followed by a mud-mask/toenail painting/skin moisturizing/hair plucking session in front of the TV, which involves a lot of damp towels and cotton balls and bottles of various cosmetics and tweezers stacked on the table.
None of that matters now. In some ways I’ve lived everywhere with everyone in every way. But if home is where the heart is, then I’ve only just arrived.
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