Is This It? May Balls and Disappointment

The dangers of May Week expectations

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Exams season came and past like a vicious flu epidemic, with the brutal late nights and unforgiving coffee consumption leaving the undergrad cohort looking like an illness stricken mob of nerds. Every moment was spent dreaming of the sensual excess that awaited us in May Week (namely the champagne), and for first years such as myself (with no prior experience of the Toff equivalent of a week long acid house rave), the week began to represent the empyrean. Perhaps never to come, always slightly out of reach, part of me began to wonder if I’d ever come out of that last exam, be doused in cava and immediately get on the piss, before entering that heavenly world with a black tie dress code: the May Ball.

It is now, in the thralls of a debilitating hangover synthesised by all the drinks the Ball I was at on Monday had to offer, that I ask myself, is this it?

Given the massive cost of attending these events (which rapidly obliterated all the savings I managed to make in such an antisocial term), you’d expect to wake up knowing you’d experienced the greatest night of your life, rather than have to convince yourself that sacrificing your next holiday was worth a night sound tracked by some bands you’d never heard of (which is a strange thing for me).

When you can’t agree on Cava or Prosecco

Perhaps the concept of a May Ball just isn’t right for most undergraduates. The fact that the events are so necessarily extravagant and hence expensive puts those of us who make up the awkward financial middle ground in an awkward position. We can of course afford it, but that generally necessitates some kind of sacrifice (perhaps a brief wait on buying that new coat, woe is me), which itself can itself cast a bit of a shadow over the night. The fact that I’m genuinely debating whether I enjoyed the £150 May Ball more than the £5 college bop, which both include free alcohol, of admittedly disparate quality, says a lot about the effect of the financial burden on the experience of a night.

How much you pay even begins to effect your behaviour during the night. No longer can you be satisfied with sampling some of the food, having a few cocktails and then going to bed when you actually feel tired. It becomes a hopeless attempt to some how get a return on the ticket price; chopping martinis, gorging on the food you presume to be the most expensive and by 2 am slapping yourself in hope of making the survivors photo. The fact is you can’t eat all the food, drink all drink and dance to every act you recognise from the bottom of the 2008 Leeds Festival line up. Really, though, is there much cringier than watching a UK Garage duo refer to the tuxedo’d masses as ‘ravers’, before playing Will Grigg Is On Fire (twice)?

By 2:00, it’s a matter of endurance

Maybe it’s not the cost, but instead the dangerous level of anticipation that you ferment over the rest of term. How could the efforts of a May Ball committee ever hope to match the dreams you create throughout some of the most dry and enjoyment deprived times of your life?

They can’t, and you may be left with a sense of bitter disappointment that lasts longer than the residue of the gin mixers in your blood stream.