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Going on 36, or 18 times two?

Alison Berkley

I’m going to turn 36 in a couple of weeks and I’m trying not to freak out.My friend Sarah has this theory that everyone is the same age in spirit their whole life. Like, some people are wise, old souls and others are just immature jerks who never really grow up. “I think I’m 15,” I said, fairly certain my childishness was sort of her point. We went to high school together, so she has known me since I was precisely that age.”How old do you think I am?” she said.Not sure what response she was expecting, I was honest. “Like 48,” I said, watching her blue eyes grow wide with a combination of insult and surprise. “Because you’re, like, so mature and have always had your act together. Not to mention your parents treated you like an adult since you were 12. You were practically a child slave,” I said, realizing I had probably just dug myself in deeper.Sarah grew up in a bona fide Vermont country inn. (Whatever you do, do not confuse an “inn” with a “bed and breakfast” because that is her biggest pet peeve in the world. Just so you know, an “inn” serves dinner and is more of a full-service gig, kind of like the difference between a nail salon and a spa.) Let’s just say, “helping out around the house” or “family chores” at the Three Mountain Inn in Jamaica, Vt., had a whole different level of meaning than it did at the Berkley household in West Simsbury, Conn. Around our house it was my mom going, “Clean up your room because the cleaning lady is coming tomorrow.” And then me arguing that the whole idea of cleaning the house because the cleaning lady is coming is asinine. “Well, just shut your door, then,” my mom would say. So the cleaning lady never saw my room, and my room never got clean. End of story.Unlike Sarah’s acute preparedness for adulthood, my parents indulged us like babies our entire spoiled lives. Call me crazy, but I don’t think it facilitated maturity. In fact, I think my personality development came to a grinding halt shortly after my physical development did. (I stopped growing in fifth grade, if that says anything).My early teenage years were this horrific period in my life my dad referred to as my “ad-DO-lescence.” He had to call it something, put some kind of label on it, with the hope that I might actually snap out of it one day and not grow up to be this slutty little drunk/thief/alcoholic/liar.I was bad. I snuck out in the middle of the night. I made out with boys in the woods behind our house and stole booze from my parents’ liquor cabinet. One time, I told the nanny I was sleeping over at a friend’s house when I was actually two states away in Vermont, curled up by the fire at a cozy inn (not a B&B) with a guy from the varsity ski team named Steve.At 14, I decided it was time to teach myself how to drive. Only I didn’t get very far because I backed my mom’s Mercedes into the side of the garage door. Then when I turned 16 and finally got my license, I had three car accidents in the first three months of driving. Instead of sending me to driver’s ed like most parents, my dad taught me how to drive. His various driving techniques included: “how to do a rolling stop in second gear,” “how to throw it into third gear and gun it around the next corner,” and “how to operate a radar detector.” My Dad had every radar detector made in the ’80s because he felt the speed limits prevented him from driving his various sports cars “the way they were meant to be driven,” as he put it.So while he taught me how to handle a car, he neglected to explain the rules of the road. Come to think of it, that was sort of a metaphor that stayed with me for the rest of my life.Which brings me back to my main point. Somewhere between backing the car into the garage door and being mistaken for a hooker in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., (Long story short: I wore a miniskirt and heels to try to get into this bar when I was 15 and some guy pulled up in his Porsche and goes, “How much?”) my little brain stopped growing and my personality sort of got stuck – like going way too fast in third gear.I know it has something to do with not wanting to grow up and all that da-da-da. But I also think it’s because I was having too much fun and didn’t want it to end. Let’s face it: The adult world, as they call it, never really appealed to me. (Isn’t that why we all live in Aspen?) And like most little rich brats, despite all the trouble I got into, there never really was a price to pay. I was actually talking to my shrink about the whole irresponsible/immature thing just the other day when she looks at me and goes, “What are the consequences of your behavior, Alison?” (She always pronounces my name all drawn out and formal like, AL-lissss-SON, so it sounds like a name I don’t even recognize).And I look at her without blinking and I go, “There aren’t any.” And even though I don’t want to jinx myself, it’s true. Sheltered is another word for it, though “stunted” always comes to mind, as well.I guess I’m just like that stupid movie “36 going on 15” or whatever it’s called. Or as my friend Listle put it, “18 times two.” I gotta admit I kind of like the sound of that.The Princess loves presents and will gladly respond to any requests for her shipping address at alison@berkleymedia.com


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