Should we be shameless about May ball tickets?
Willing to sell my soul for a May Ball ticket. PM me if interested.
An American transplant in Emmanuel lives by a dangerous code: to acquire May Ball tickets at all costs.
It’s another cold and rainy day in Cambridge. Nestled in his small room above the Emmanuel College Boathouse—yes they make people live there—a 22-year-old postgrad watches Seinfeld reruns and eats Indian takeaway. His liver, bank account and dignity are still recovering from a reckless Cindies excursion the night before. Tomorrow morning the student will cycle five chilly miles to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, spend the day in lab and return in the evening to polish off the rest of the Indian takeaway.
It is by no means a bad, or even a dull existence. He feels very lucky to be a student at Cambridge and enjoy the many benefits this privilege entails. He is definitely not complaining—the Indian food is delicious and comes in a very reasonably priced “real meal deal”.
And yet, while he watches the freezing rain beat down mercilessly on the Emma rowing team, one vision consumes his thoughts. It starts slowly and always in the same way; with sunshine. Then, images of gamboling along the riverbanks, playing grass court tennis matches and day drinking on Jesus Green. The fantasy crescendos, reaching a fever pitch that is embodied by one, and only one, Cambridge tradition: May Ball
As an American who has spent only a few months in the UK, I won’t pretend to be an expert on May Balls or the culture that surrounds them. Certainly, these lavish events have the potential to lay bare underlying issues of class that exist at Cambridge (and also at many other universities). This concern merits attention, but let’s leave it for people who are more articulate, more thoughtful and more smarter than I is.
I want to discuss a baser matter. What exactly should I be willing to do for a sought-after May Ball ticket, and should I feel bad about networking, scheming and groveling to get my hands on one?
As an undergraduate, I went to only one “event” hosted by my “residential college” (i.e. dormitory). They wouldn’t accept my fake ID, so I drank apple juice, ate chocolate chip cookies and danced to the Justin Bieber track a student was playing from her personal speaker system. Without Bieber, I would have had a terrible time.
My point is, that May Ball is a unique tradition at the very core of what it means to be a Cambridge student. In my “worthless opinion”—so says my supervisor—one should not feel bad about attending as many May Balls or June events as his heart desires. In twenty years, what will you remember most about your time at Cambridge? Chances are, a May Ball or two will feature in that highlight reel.
Now we get to the thorny issue of what one should be willing to do to get his hands on a May Ball ticket. Here I presume to speak only for myself. I am decidedly against any form of thievery, trickery or foul play—trying to beat a murder charge during May Week could dampen your vibes. You probably shouldn’t get entangled in a Faustian bargain to sell your soul either—though if I had one I’d most likely give it a shot.
With these caveats in mind, I say anything goes. Don’t be ashamed to utilize connections, scour the May Ball Marketplace, apply for as many worker positions as possible and ask acquaintances if they have extra tickets—the worst-case scenario is that they scoff at your “audacity.” Best case scenario: they have an extra ticket and you get to go to an amazing party, drink far too much, and scream “f#!k the haters.”
May Ball is a time-honored Cambridge tradition. This term and next, I plan to stay on my grind, secure several tickets and have some of the best times of my life. I may not have many tickets (yet), but even so I am excited for summer at Cambridge, and in particular, to share my experiences with the incredible people I have met here so far.
I’d like to close with a quote that I think about whenever the poor weather, loads of coursework, frequent romantic rejections (Cindies is a fickle mistress), or a lack of tickets make me feel a bit blue. In the words of philosopher Tupac Shakur: “Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real.” Well, lately I’ve been dreaming an awful lot about May Balls. Hang tough Cambridge, come June 2016 I’m sure that they will surpass even our wildest.
P.S. Eat your heart out Ben Forrest, I got a John’s ticket. See you there.