The First Flush of Forty

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The First Taste


I had so many ideas for my 40th birthday jamboree.  Hatchet throwing in our dresses and suits.  A weekend house party.  Others, too.  I was desperate for it to be different in some way and I was beginning to see why my guys who turned forty before me were having trouble figuring out what to do.  It felt so big and the party would set the tone for my next decade.  (My thirtieth for the curious was held in my townhouse that was way too big for me – the batcave-  and I spent weeks making hello kitty esque decorations because I was broke af.  Everyone dressed up and got wasted with me and played rock band and passed out on my floor.  I made fancy food that was eated in three seconds flat and they ordered pizza) A lot of kind friends were telling me that it’s just a number and I would nod.  But in the copy room,  I had the revelation that I didn’t want it to be just a number.  I wanted it to be meaningful and different.  Like if it’s just a number, my thirties have been the same as my twenties and like, I don’t know about you, but that’s terrifying.  The idea of juggling so many hedgehogs for the next ten years and running full tilt isn’t at all what I want.  I want to streamline.  I want to focus.  Daintier, smarter, better dressed!  Daintier, smarter, better dressed!


That might be my actual mantra for my forties.


To me, the party is the ritual fun part of setting my intention for the next decade.  So I started thinking about what I actually wanted to do to celebrate versus what I thought I “should” want.  Like I don’t need to be slamming tequila shots to express happiness.  I’m not twenty-three anymore.  I realized that it didn’t have to be done in a day, that’s too much pressure anyway and historically that has never been a great fit for me to feel feelings on command.


So, I arranged a lovely happy hour full of oysters, penne vodka, calamari and St. Germain cocktails with my best bitches, sweet talking us into a table where I got to hold court with some of my favorite ladies.  I had dinner with my mom, sister and nephew.  We were slated to go to a very chichi high end restaurant, but I realized that wasn’t my life anymore or even what I wanted my life to be, unless I was sitting at the bar.  And LittleMan is a little young for that still.  Instead, we went to a less hive inducing farm to table, one of my favorite places, so we could discuss Harry Potter in the full spectrum of detail Mr. Potter deserves over a rack of local lamb and an old fashioned (. . . .for me, LM had le chicken fingers and abstained from drinking for the night) with a warm cookie sundae with marshmallow gelato that was supposed to be for LM to share but somehow wound up devoured by me and my sister (never fear, he had his own ice cream).  I realized while I love evening parties, I hate that Victorian feeling of being all dressed up with no place to go but my parlor.  So we decided to do a brunch party on Sunday with lobster mac and cheese, parmesan risotto, roast beef sliders, cheese plate, smoked salmon plate and lots of other goodies.  We drank so much champagne and St. Germain and our friends brought us the loveliest gifts.  Towards the end of the night, me and some of my favorite maenads had camped out in my teepee for snuggling and talking about (gender) neutral boys, all things I love pretty universally and will drop everything to engage in. Jow and I took Monday off to spend the day together and we cleaned up and went to brunch.  The tone had been set.


My friend Cat (who runs lovely events) had said to me several months ago when we were having drinks and eating shakshuka that she thought I would be one of those women who received a complete lack of fucks to give for my fortieth from The (Goddamn) Universe (Herself).  It sounded possible but I wasn’t sure.  I didn’t realize that it was going to become my reality the week before my birthday and seems to be setting pretty firmly.  If you’ve followed me anywhere for any length of time, you know I try (try) to be Neutral AF.  I feel like internet arguments are like putting lipstick on a pig.  I’m not going to change your mind, you’re not going to change mine.  But I’ve come to realize that part of why I abstain from discussion is because I’m waiting for the other person to say that I’m just a dumb bitch anyway and no one cares what I think.  You know who says that when you are politely disagreeing?  Garbage people, as per April2.  And they can fuck right off.  I’ve spent over two decades learning, practicing magic, practicing intersectional feminism, practicing ritual work, speaking and writing and I deserve the voice I’ve developed and more over it’s my sacred duty to say something when my moral compass feels that I can influence a situation.  So I’ve been doing exactly just that.  Most things still aren’t worth getting involved with because of said fancy pig, but some are.  And I need to speak up for myself and maybe, just maybe, help others be brave enough to use their voices too by using mine.


Sometimes Austerity Isn’t the Answer Because the Answer is Worse


I had planned to make the first forty days of forty an austerity.  I was going to give up added sugar and alcoholic and build up all this righteous tapas fire and light myself on fire.  Except, as I was progressing, I was noticing that nothing was happening spiritually.  All of my usual cues were silent.  I was doing the thing, I wasn’t cheating but it was a dead zone.  I started really thinking about this and trying to get feedback from my goddesses and spirits and people and then I had a revelation.  A very, very unpleasant revelation.

I wasn’t getting anything or anywhere because this wasn’t a spiritual issue.  I wasn’t going to get brownie points with my goddesses because guess what?  This is something I should be working on sustainably doing for the rest of my goddamn life.   Can you think of a bigger drag?  Because I can’t.  They were, therrrrrre she is!  I was like, ugh gross, seriously?  But I started seeing that drinking is a lot of extra calories and doesn’t sit right maybe half the time.  Jow and I were drinking a couple glasses of wine a few times a week.  Let’s say two glasses three times a week.  That’s 750 calories, friends.  Like.  That right there gave me pause, forget the fact that it doesn’t interact super awesome with my meds now (which should probably give me more pause but we are who we are).  So I am limiting it to once a week as a reminder that 50% of the time it is not that great for me anyway.  I find that if I consume food with more than 8 grams of sugar in a serving (so, most things worth eating), it makes my brain get crazy, it makes me hungry and act like a junkie.  So probably the half loaves of chocolate babka I was consuming regularly throughout the holidays was not ideal as each serving has 8 grams and half a loaf is like four servings.  Let’s not start on carbs.  Apparently I’m eating too many again because I give myself a longer leash there.  Two half servings of oatmeal, a mini super healthy pita, a kodiak muffin and a small carb at dinner is still too much, OtherDeb.  So next week (because I batch cook) that’s getting fixed.  It’s so fucking boring which is why I always lose steam.  The gym is boring, eating not like a garbage animal is boring, not drinking whenever I want is boring, I hate it all.

But I was also realizing that my tolerance for other people’s repetitive. . .missteps was at an all time low.  Not in a mean way, but in a, Well you don’t want to do A Thing to change this, so I’m done listening about it, so next issue!  And I was having trouble figuring out why.  I expected a full-on scolding from Jow about this when I mentioned it because I’m supposed to be a well of never ending patience or something, but he did not scold!  Instead he thought and then he said, well.  It’s because we’re starting to run out of time to make big changes and stick with them and have those changes actually do something in our lives.  The more I think about it, the more I think he’s right.  Like, now is okay to stop eating like you are passively trying to stop your heart.  You could probably actually help your heart if you stick with it for the rest of your life.  If you eat like a raccoon and have damaged your heart by too much stress and not enough exercise and you continue to eat like a raccoon and continue damaging your heart, you probably aren’t going to make huge strides in not dropping dead if you try to fix this in your sixties.  Also, I really don’t want to be a creaky old lady.  I want to be Helen Mirren because that’s what we all want.  And the only way to give myself a sporting chance at that is to do all the junk I don’t want to do.

So I am.  I’m working on a plan to reduce my stress in the next two years or so, I’m doing more gym work, I’m trying to not eat like a raccoon, I’m doing more yoga and I hate it all really hardcore.  My goddesses recognize that if I am not fed a shower of treats from T(GD)U(H) literally right now, I will immediately see this as a futile waste of time and go back to lying on my side drinking wine and eating babka while watching garbage television like I feel is my actual destiny.  So I am being showered with treats which is somehow simultaneously completely depressing as I try to accept my “actual” “fate” and exhilarating that I’m on the right path.


Fix Your Situation: Inner Terrarium Edition

So, not to be left out of the highly enjoyable process of scolding me, My Favorite Houseguest (MFH) happened to not be drowning in ridiculous amounts of work for a hot minute which of course was my best time to regale him with a complete nervous breakdown about my home/work balance (spoiler: we don’t believe in that here).

MFH: You need to do something non productive but also gives you a sense of accomplishment.

Me: Like . . .spinning yarn for my shop?

MFH: No.

Me: Like. . .researching for my next book?

MFH: No.

Me: Like. . . continuing to take my house apart?

MFH: No.

Me: *long pause* Like . . .making a Pinterest board to plan how to continue to take my house apart (and maybe pin about building a mini studio so I can do vlogs)?

MFH: *audible sigh through text* Okay, fine.  Close enough.  Your goal is to do things to relax and unwind and have productivity be a side benefit.  Not the main benefit.  Side.  Benefit.

Me: *already taking her house apart after work in her head for when she gets home* Mmm-hmm.  Yep!  Good talk.

All is not lost though.  I am (reluctantly) taking his advice.  I have a local Korean spa that I’m hella enjoying.  I find grocery shopping incredibly tedious so I’m finding that if I go solo and let myself take as long as I want and only go to each market for two weeks in a row, it’s very enjoyable which is technically an incorrect application of his advice but it’s this or starve Jow out.  I’m doing long shower rituals at home.  I’m enjoying arranging food.  Jow and I spent Sunday as close to spontaneous as we get – checking out the Alchemist’s Kitchen‘s Outpost in Stockton (such a gorgeous shop and lovely shopkeepers, you have to go if you’re local!), drinking espresso con panna with french cinnamon popovers, getting chocolates crusted in violet petals, shopping for dinner at farmer’s markets, eating gumbo and muffalattas at one of our favorite places and just enjoying life.  It was so good and so organic.  And so needed.


Fix Your Situation: House Edition

So I’ve spent several weeks taking my house apart for KonMari only to come to learn that it wasn’t really finished.  Spare Oom, as my Amberlina likes to say, still needs to be lit on fire.  And abandoned.  But I am v. stubborn and I need a little space to do vlogs, Insta and whatever else hellish events I’m supposed to make happen per JohnM and my publicists.  I can never get it right.  I keep thinking I do but it never comes out right.  So I’ve saddled Jacqueline with this.  She’s a glamour girl and a Nesting expert.  She, much like MFH, is trying to stop me from being a complete crazy person during tax season as well.  She too is getting mixed results vibes.  But she too has talked me down to Pinning over doing and I’m like 75% sure I’ll listen and go to the gym and then go home and pin instead of doing what I usually do which is to say, take my house apart with great enthusiasm.  In my vague defense, I kept getting house revelations in the copy room today which makes me want to enact them.  I will try to be good.  It’s all I can do.  Take my house apart or buy things and taking my house apart is cheaper.

But I did buy new yoga stuff.

I’ll try pinning.

Deborah Castellano
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble.
Her frequently updated catalogue of published work is available on Author Central.

She writes about Glamour Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her podcast appearances are available here.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more!

In a previous life, Deborah founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV.

She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.  


4 Responses

  1. Maybe you „can never get it right“ because it’s already right, to start with.

  2. I’m going to be 40 before the end of this year, and so much of this hit home. Ugh. I’m off to clear some space in my living room, then maybe I’ll go to yoga later tonight.

  3. […] somewhat on top of my ten-minutes-a-day of exercise stuff, albeit by the skin of my teeth.   Ms Sugar wrote something the other day, and I find I’m relating to it a little. I’ll be forty before the year is out, and I […]

  4. I’m a couple of weeks late to this party (happy birthday), but I’m relating a lot to the feeling of running out of time. I mean, with me, it’s sex stuff more than anything else. But the feeling’s still there, and it’s not like I can’t relate to “Eat more vegetables and drink wine with fewer of your dinners”.

    I’m sorry the gym (etc) is boring.
    As someone who is already creaky as heck, at 39? I’m just trying to keep things from getting worse. (Seriously, I know some of my back and hip problems are from a specific Problem with my discs… but the rest? How much of that is just the fact that I’m middle-aged and in mediocre shape?)

    I want the non-icy sidewalks and above-freezing temperatures and fresh greens to come back, dammit.

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