You don’t actually enjoy May Week as much as you think you do

May Week is the headline act of the Cambridge dream, and many of us fork out the price of a hip operation to join in.

fun May Week

But after hurtling from multiple essay crises to exam term straight into this week of extravagant parties, have we stopped for a moment to check if it’s making us happy?

Even though the work is long over, friends are still turning to each other slightly concerned, asking, “how are you feeling?” No one seems to know for certain if we’re actually having fun, but we all put on a dress and pay up anyway because the insanity of May Week is “part of the Cambridge experience”.

more balls

My ambiguous face of enjoyment.

Decadence can become so extreme that it runs full circle and becomes unenjoyable. We eat and drink until it is no longer what our bodies want us to do, but keep going because these celebrations are meant to be over the top.

There is a point when these events just become a performance of excess. A knees-up after a hectic year is the order of the day for sure, but why must it still be a borderline masochistic test of stamina?

Balls are hedonistic challenges which require pro-plus – at the very least – the concept of a “survivors’ photo” is a little indicative. It serves no-one to make celebration into another test.

Maybe we’d all have a better time if May Week was a little more boring.

a survivor's photo from 1906

A survivor’s photo from 1906.

The justification is that we need a huge blowout because we work so hard. This is a tempting idea, but fun doesn’t work like that. You are not provided with a weekly portion of fun which can be banked over the cruel winter months and spent all in one go like the January sales.

“Having fun” is dependent on the coming together of so many factors: atmosphere, who you are with, how much they like you at the time, the temperature, the weather, how well you slept the night before, mood, food, alcohol and a particular alignment of the stars.

It almost seems another symptom of Cambridge arrogance to chuck a load of money at a night to try and induce fun. You can’t make it “fun” just like you can’t make it rain.

Looking back, the times you really remember enjoying are only rarely the ones you are supposed to enjoy. New Years’ Eve is usually terrible, so are birthdays and sixth form proms. Since when have happy memories needed a committee and a sponsorship deal with the Telegraph?

Truly memorable nights just happen.

They can’t be bought, structured or contained by any marquee.

A marquee which may or may not be yet to contain fun

May Week: like a marquee, promising, but hollow and propped up by questionable supports.

When you boil down a May Ball to what is actually it, it seems incredibly stupid to put them on a pedestal.

At Robinson Ball last week I realised something. Whilst everyone starts the night in gowns and bow ties, after the champagne’s been flowing for a couple of hours the shoes come off and guests are just as stupid as drunk people anywhere.

We think that getting champagne drunk in a gothic building is better than getting cider drunk in a park.

But chemically it’s the exact same thing – the only difference is how important you feel whilst doing it. Admittedly, going to a fancy garden party might make you feel part of a long and noble tradition, but we do spend a hell of a lot of time here doing things to make ourselves feel special. This is a daft excuse to spend so much money on one night.

It is widely acknowledged that the price of our sacred week is not in any way representative of how much we enjoy it. The cost of the average May Week might easily touch five hundred pounds if you go to two balls and a few garden parties, factoring in a couple of flashy outfits.

smile we've paid for this

Smile, you’re paying for it.

Sure, you’ll probably have a good time, but not necessarily a better time than if you’d just invited all of your closest friends over to laugh at Vines.

Or done something imaginative like actually made a Vine. We all willingly participate knowing that the cost is prohibitive to less rich students, appalling for access and straight out tasteless.

To spend so much money on a party and not really enjoy it is disgusting.

Admittedly, if you are feeling the vibes and none of your friends get lost or overtired or too drunk at a series of back to back festivities, then yes – May Week is a lot of fun.

But the concept of money becomes utterly lost. Robinson is referred to as the cheap and cheerful option. At £80 a ticket.

Robinson - what a bargain

At Robinson, red lighting in a red brick complex, coupled with C grade musicians, can be yours for only £80.

Possibly these are the spoilt ramblings of a princess with too much champagne.

But wouldn’t May Week be less of a bittersweet idea if we took it down a notch and collectively agreed to spend part of it watching Netflix in our rooms?