Life Lessons: Formal Ball

How to behave if you’re an oik going to a Christmas Ball.

Once upon a time a child was born. To pay homage to this biological process we stuff ourselves until we’re immobile and drink until our urine would work as lawn mower fuel. The only way to cope with the misery of December deadlines is to be as hedonistic as possible, and almost every society at the university holds some sort of Christmas function to help you achieve this. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that these won’t be your standard Portswood nights out (at least to begin with), so if you turn up dressed as Santa Claus clutching a sack full of tinnys you’ll raise a few eyebrows. Unfortunately, these (s)wanky shindigs often require a little bit of thought in advance so here’s some essential guidance to avoid being ousted as an uncultured lout.

It's like a bird ate loads of blackberries and dive bombed your chest

Black Tie does not mean ‘A black tie’:This is a classic error and a sure sign that you’ve not been brought up properly. There is a big difference between a bit of thin black fabric hanging flaccidly from a plastic school shirt and the full works- bowtie, cummerbund, dinner jacket, dress shirt etc. James Bond wears Black Tie; estate agents and footballers wear black ties so do your research and get hold of the proper gear. And don’t get me started on those skinny Topman ones, they’re for fourteen year old boys in talentless indie bands. ATROCIOUS.

The right handed fork move: deeply offensive.

Using a knife and fork: Most of these ‘dos’ include a proper meal so it’s worth revising the basics if you’re like me and usually eat everything with a serving spoon. Knives are for cutting stuff, forks are for spiking and scooping said stuff. If you sit down at the table and there’s a whole arsenal of utensils don’t be intimidated, just start at the outside and work in- these are your weapons for doing battle with vomitous quantities of food, so correct selection is crucial. Operating your fork right handed in the manner of a bastardised spoon is unacceptable and you should be ejected from the venue immediately.

Hip Flasks: The organisers of these events typically think that expensive = classy, so unless you’re the nephew of Uncle Pennybags come prepared. To fit the Christmas theme I recommend brandy, but don’t blame me if you’re sick before dessert.

Dresses: I have absolutely no idea about this. Don’t come too slutty? You might get cold. Or just bare all and bring a coat (preferably).

Drinking: Your stomach won’t be used to beginning the evening with a three course meal, it alters everything. Striking a balance between pacing yourself and drinking a quantity large enough to withstand all that inane chatter with coursemates you never see can be difficult. If you care that much, conduct an experiment by eating four bowls of porridge before a regular Sobar night to see how things pan out.

You'll be seeing this again later

Wine: Because everyone is pretending to be sophisticated there will be a lot of this floating around, which provides the perfect opportunity to pretend you have class. Oaky, full bodied, fruity, leafy, earthy- it’s pretty much like describing potatoes. Continue until you have impressed or bored everybody. Oh, and for port do remember to pour to your right and pass to your left, this shit actually matters to some people, alright?

Getting with coursemates: Go on, it’s Christmas so you might as well. Use the mistletoe strategy- you won’t see them until the January exams anyway. Probably.

Causing a scene: A lot of people will be there and the room will be relatively quiet during dinner so if you want to become instantly famous it is the perfect opportunity. Standing on a table with an ice bucket on your head making a slurred speech about how much you love the Social Sec. is one idea which may propel you to stardom. Or you could ‘rescue’ all the Christmas trees from the capitalist clutches of the most expensive hotel in town, as some excitable third years did after the ’09 Geogsoc Ball.

Oh and BTW: You are quite likely to end up in Jesters anyway. Bring gaiters if you have nice trousers. Super hard mode: finish off in Manzils.