The invitation was very clear. It was just for me. I’d know everyone who would be there and I didn’t need to dress up. In fact, I didn’t even need to talk to anyone all night if I didn’t want to. I could simply show up, remove my bra and just tuck myself up in a luxurious king bed. From 2pm.
It was an invitation I sent myself. I’d decided, very last minute, to celebrate my 45th birthday with a gift so heavenly that it wouldn’t have occurred to single-me how precious and rare such a gift would become. I was gifting myself ME. More specifically I was gifting myself 24 hours of complete and utter selfish abandon in a five-star hotel with a view of the city I adore but don’t make the effort to see anymore.
It was a mum-escape.
When you have a family, solitude is currency. This is something I had zero comprehension of when I was single. In my single years I’d often lament at my solitude as I dreamt of the family I hadn’t yet met. The grass was always greener in couple land.
So before I go on I need to clarify for readers who, for whatever reason, don’t share their lives with partners or offspring. I love my husband. I love my child. I have no desire to leave them. Not permanently anyway…but for 24 hours? Sign me up baby! 24 hours where no one needed anything from me. 24 hours where I didn’t have to talk to anyone if I didn’t want to. 24 hours where I could walk at my own pace, sit in silence and read or channel surf to my heart’s content. 24 hours when I didn’t have to think about my mental check-list or wonder if the cat had had her medication or if that washing basket had been emptied or if there were enough veggies in the fridge to make a balanced meal. I was just pressing pause on my routine.
On the morning of my birthday I packed light because I didn’t plan to wear anything but the hotel bathrobe anyway. Seeing as I was a tad keen to get this party started I arrived at the hotel about three hours before check in. ‘No matter’, said lovely Alice at reception. ‘Your room is ready. Oh, and here’s complimentary access to our member’s only club. There’s lunch with wine. Afternoon tea with champagne. Pre-dinner canapés with cocktails. Please enjoy.’ Oh, OK. If you insist! (Sorry, what was that you asked? Dry July? Sorry, I can’t hear you above the racket in my head that is screaming ‘you lucky, lucky bitch’).
My room was on the 49th floor with a view of everything I’d left behind…and the city. It was spectacular. As I watched the traffic meander around the Yarra River I thought about how birthday’s used to be about the guest list. Sharing your one day of the year with all the people closest to you. This year that person was me. I know I’m in a fortunate position to be able to check out of my daily routine and just spend time considering only me. What a luxury!
The timing for this sojourn couldn’t be better. My daughter will be in school next year and so the first five years of motherhood will soon be over and I find myself readying to tackle the next phase of my life. Which I’m certain will be more weighted to wage earning than washing basket clearing (although truth be told, that damn washing basket is unlikely to drop off my ‘to do’ list).
Having dropped my things in my room, bounced on the bed and smelt all the French toiletries I left to wander the latest art exhibition. I had with me nothing that didn’t fit into my teeny tiny bag. That’s a sense of freedom right there…to be unencumbered by a bulky bag laden with drink bottles and snacks and spare undies just in case! I would have broken into a skip if it weren’t for the pelvic floor I’d also left behind five years ago (would hate to regret not having those spare undies).
Having topped up my culture credit I returned to my sanctuary on the 49th floor kicked off my shoes and promptly fell asleep. I awoke to a polite tap at the door. I was tempted to ignore it but what if someone needed me for something? How long had I slept for? Had something happened? I cracked open the door to an ever-so-polite staff member who proffered a bottle of bubbles and a tube of fancy looking chocolates. “A gift from the hotel madam.” Shaking myself fully awake I remembered the casual chitchat I’d had with Alice a few hours earlier. In my eagerness to check in I’d no doubt gushed about my birthday present to myself. Good on me. Smart move. Well played.
So there I sat, staring at the view, popping a champagne cork to enjoy the first drop of alcohol I’d had in a week as I toasted my 45 years on this earth. Simply marvellous!
I spent the next hour getting stuck into the book I’d bought myself (yes, I’m quite the rock star when left to my own devices) and then it was time to make use of the “club”. I’m not usually a club type person but the lure of an open bar and canapés was just too strong. I returned myself to public respectability (put the bra back on) and made my way down a dozen floors to look at a different view, between reading chapters of my chosen companion. A few platefuls of canapés, an Aperol spritz and a G&T later and I decided that was dinner done then! I poured myself a glass of red and finished the chapter I was on before retreating to my room. It was fluffy robe time!
The next few hours went something like this. Read. Netflix. Read. Sleep. Read. Until I fell asleep for good and woke to the sound of no one needing me for anything. Bliss. I’d slept solidly. I knew the party for one was coming to an end but I had one more card to play. The breakfast buffet!
I spent that final few hours of my party savouring coffee, writing and reading and basically taking my sweet time doing anything.
Then, just as I was stuffing the hotel toiletries into my handbag my phone beeped with a text message. One of my daughter’s friends was desperate for a play date. Were we free today? As I thought through the timing to make that happen another text came through. Husband. “Where was the laundry powder?”
And just like that my party for one was over.
And that’s OK, because honestly, 24 hours alone on the 49th floor was enough. I’d accomplished my mission and I was relaxed and happy. I strapped myself back into my bra, checked out with a satisfied smile and caught an Uber back to the ground floor of my life.