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Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

I have one month left to live.

No, I’m not dying. My life is just over figuratively. I have one more month of being in my 30s. One month from today, on March 1, I am going to turn what I like to call “Effing 40.”

This comes as a bit of a shock considering I don’t feel 40 and I’ll go so far as to say I don’t look 40. But the crazy thing is this is the first time in my life when the difference between fantasy and reality are undeniable. Up until now, I believed if I acted like a child I would simply remain a child.

Now all of a sudden I’m going, “Uh oh, what if I want to, like, have a child?”

There are a few indicators of age that are undeniable: Like, I think it’s fun to hang out downvalley. I can’t drink more than two beers without getting dizzy and my idea of a good time is watching a DVD on my computer in bed.

The days when I would tell people my age and they would freak out are long over. It used to always be, “No way! You look like you’re 22!”

Now if I’m lucky enough to get a “No way!” it’s usually followed by, “You don’t look a day over 35.”

It wasn’t that long ago that I was getting carded at Alpine Market for cigarettes and what little guilt and shame I had about that melted away when the lady at the counter would look at my driver’s license and scream, “Impossible!” in Spanish (which means impossible for those of you who don’t know).

It wasn’t that long ago my friend’s 6-year-old asked me, “Ali, are you are a grown-up or a kid?”

And I said, “What do you think?”

And she shrugged and said, “I don’t know. I can’t tell!”

Now that I’m in a serious relationship, I’ve regressed even further. Most nights I act like I’m 8 years old. I’ve become one of those ridiculously annoying people who is so in love I can’t refrain from indulging in baby talk with my baby. It’s not quite “goo goo gaga,” but it’s close enough.

Sometimes, when I don’t get my way I throw these childlike tantrums where I stiffen my arms and bang my fists against my sides.

“What 39-year-old does that?” is one of Ryan’s FAQs.

I’ll admit I seem to be aging OK and am pretty stoked on my gene pool. My mom looks amazing at 67. She snowboards and telemark skis and mountain bikes and road bikes and did her first 100-mile ride two years ago. She still wears her hair shoulder length and blonde and hasn’t had any work done and is the thinnest she’s ever been. So I figure if that’s how I’m gonna turn out, I have a lot to look forward to. The only thing is now when people think we are sisters, I have to pause for concern while she gloats on the compliment.

Still, I see my age. I see it around my eyes. I certainly see it around my waistline even though I can only blame so much of it on age and this slow metabolism that has crept to a grinding halt. When I met Ryan I realized I really missed eating something besides coconut water and vodka sodas. He’s Italian, for god’s sake. His grandmother taught him how to make potato gnocci when he was like 4 years old. I’m not saying I’m gonna blimp out, I’m just saying I gave all my size 26 jeans away to the hot yoga chicks and bought some bigger pants which is so much easier than what I was doing before.

The other day I picked up a Garnet Hill catalog and started looking at these cotton tops and wraps and cardigan sweaters and thinking these clothes look like they might actually be comfortable. The closest thing to a cardigan in my closet is a hoodie and I have like 500 of them. So I threw the Garnet catalog away. If there’s one thing I will hold onto into my old age it’s that style and comfort do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Then the other night Ryan and I were driving home from visiting friends in Missouri Heights and I start talking about my strategy for minimizing the laundry pile. “Maybe if we got one of those plastic baskets instead of the big hamper I would do laundry more,” I said. “And it would be easier for me to carry down to the laundry room if I didn’t always do so many loads at once.”

He doesn’t say anything so I’m quiet too and start thinking, am I really talking about the god-damned laundry? What’s happening to me?”

The worst part about the aging thing has nothing to do with how I look or feel, but the undeniable passage of time. Like, what the hell happened to my 30s? I feel like I must have misplaced it, like I do my wallet or my car keys. How could I have lost 10 years, just like that? What the hell was I doing?

I’ve finally met the man of my dreams and I want nothing more than to have a family, but I’m afraid maybe I waited too long. Maybe all that regressed behavior and stubborn insistence on holding onto my youth was foolish. Maybe all those years of partying and being selfish and self indulgent and narcissistic and hedonistic came at a cost. I can’t exactly sit here and stomp my feet and bang my fists and go, “It’s so not fair!” because these were choices I made along the way, whether I realized it or not.

I guess when it comes to facing reality, I really am just a big baby.


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