In the mornings that I am not rushed to get out the door, I like to sit at my computer with a cup of coffee and peruse my favorite websites, especially New York Social Diary. It touts itself as my link to society and indeed it is. I look at the pictures of charity balls and book signings and equestrian events and it’s not hard to imagine that if I’d just stayed in Manhattan a few years more, I would have easily turned into this girl. My favorite part of the website, however, is the section called Big Old Houses, by John Foreman. In Big Old Houses, Mr. Foreman will visit mansions, castles, and apartments. Most of the estates he profiles are in the New York area, but he also visits other places throughout the country. I love it on every level. First of all, he does a great job of researching the history of the property and the people who built it and lived there. He also posts lots of pictures showing what the properties look like now. Some are fabulously maintained, others less so. Some are still owned by the family, others are owned by the state or private institutions. I also like it because as you read more of his posts, he reveals more about himself and he’s a prettty interesting character himself. I won’t give away all his secrets here, but he does love a kitchen and a bathroom. And he’s got a soft spot for cats, too. The first time I heard the term aspirational lifestyle was in reference to the Real Housewives franchise on Bravo. Ultimately, we watch the show because these women live lives that we aspire to, at least on some level. We also watch it because they are usually egotistical, alcoholic trainwrecks and we get to feel superior about ourselves for not having their problems. And if you’ve read just a little bit of Big Old Houses, you know that egotistical, alcoholic trainwrecks have long been part of the fabric of American culture. But I digress. The post that warmed my heart the most was the one where Mr. Foreman profiled his own house which I believe is in upstate New York. He offers a bit of the property’s history and shows a copious amount of pictures and, as he does in all his posts, paints a portrait of the person who lives there. It is not the most opulent property, some of the furniture should be replaced and it looks like the wallpaper is deteriorating in spots. He confides that he has rented it for 31 years. He is an aging homosexual living with antiques and pets and friends and lots of pictures of loved ones. I can’t help but see a bit of myself in him. And while I get the sense that his life has not amounted to all that he aspired to, he has riches: a family that loves him, a few valuable collectible pieces, a great bathroom, a fireplace to keep him warm on a blistery winter night. One could do worse.