The May Ball Conundrum

Scarred by past experience, FRANCESCA HILL moans about May Week and offers a few tips.

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Few months put more strain on a budding relationship than February. And I’m not talking about Valentine’s Day: citizens, stay calm, but May Ball ticketing season is upon us.

The strategy that goes into planning the average May Week is astounding. Unless you’re somebody who has one close group of friends, and one group only, parcelling up time between your nearest and dearest becomes a chore of Herculean size. Your best friend wants to go to King’s? Well, that’s tough, because your girlfriend will be really, really (passive-aggressively) pissed if you don’t accompany her to Tit Hall instead. Keen to spend Suicide Sunday with your drinking society mates? Your more “alternative” friends are not going to enthuse about that one. Unless you’re really rather well-off, you don’t have the funds to accommodate everyone, and trade-offs will have to be made.

And that’s ignoring the huge element of fortune-telling required. If you pick your girlfriend over your best mate, and then break up with her come April, you’re going to be left feeling a little irked. The safer choice is almost always to stick with the best friend. On the other hand, you then have to explain to your girlfriend that you don’t want to buy a May Ball ticket with her because you don’t rate your relationship’s chances of success, and kind of prefer spending time with Mike anyway. Good luck with that.

If you’ve only just started a relationship, suggesting doing something in May Week together is the Oxbridge student equivalent of proposing. Or perhaps the equivalent of screaming “I love you and want your babies! Let’s move in together!” I mean, this is an investment of over a hundred quid in four months time. That’s showing intent. It could go well… or it could be a mayday mayday moment which spells the end of blossoming romance.

There are however a few ways to reduce the risk of absolute tits-up disaster. [To say I’ve put thought into this would be an understatement. I’ve learnt from the Dumped My Boyfriend disaster of 2010, the Cheated On disaster of 2011, and the Back From Year Abroad With No Friends disaster of 2012. May Week and I have a troubled past.]

Number 1. When considering buying tickets with someone special, ask yourself a few important questions such as: “If this goes horribly wrong in some way, how awkward would it be for one or other of us to buy the second ticket from the other, or even sell them completely?” If you trust the other person to act like a grown-up (which you really should do if you’re dating them) then proceed. Otherwise, straight to jail and do not pass go.

Number 2. Persuade as many of your disparate friendship groups as possible to go to the same events, by whatever methods necessary. It seems obvious, it is obvious, but you really can’t underestimate how key this is. “Fail” to get them tickets for something else in time. Use emotional blackmail. Whatever. Even if you hate half of them four months later, you can probably lose that half in a crowd of a thousand people. Spread risk.

At least they’ve got each other

Which ties in with:

Number 3. Don’t terrify a new prospective life mate by asking them to accompany you to anything at an early stage. [Unless you’re at John’s. In which case, they are probably just after the ticket anyway, and you should play the hand God gave you.] Mention instead how seriously your neurotic female friend is taking ticket purchases for such and such a ball [we ALL have a friend who does this] and inquire casually what your future-spouse is up to: “Clare eh? Yeah, it’s not bad, but you guys should definitely think about coming to Jesus with us – balls are just soo much better with big groups, you know?”.