May Week? Balls to that

Freya Sanders 3 February 2014

May Week is supposedly the zenith of any year at Cambridge – especially Easter term. For only one week, its out with essays and in with black tie and drinking ‘til the sun rises. But is this week of hugely costlyhedonistic delight truly worth it? Let’s face it, most people only make it to one May Ball. The majority of Cambridge students will have a May Evening rather than a May Week. One night of decadence may not satisfy extreme yearning for superformal fun, but it’s certainly enough to decimate the average student bank account. Most tickets cost around £130 – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg: it’s the shoes, the outfit and the hairdo that add up to financial ruin. One John’s student declared,“restraint goes out the window; people will spendanything to try and have a good time.”

But what if you don’t have a good time? So many people are so desperate to enjoy themselves, with consciousness of their tickets’ cost looming over them. One fresher with a ticket to Christ’s May Ball believes,“it’s going to be the best night of my life.” No pressure. In our daydreams of May Week, lengthy queues, canapés stuck to the floor and anxiety about staying as late as possible don’t seem to figure. There’s also the obvious problem of access. Students spend more on a May Ball than we would spend on a couple of weeks’ worth of food; how on earth can those in economic hardship hope to engage with Cambridge’s most lavish, renowned tradition? Of course, there’s always the option of working or performing at balls, but that doesn’t solve the problem of them becoming a party for the wealthy, and the envy of the rest. As a friend in college told me, “I could technically affordto go to a May Ball, but 200 quid on one night? It’s ridiculous.”

To those outside the bubble, May Balls do indeed seem a little ridiculous – students at other universities may have such an opportunity once, after graduation, for half the price. For us, May Week is accepted as completely normal practice. In fact, there’s huge social pressure to attend at least one ball. The question, “so what are you doing for May Week?” is currently on the rise as the tickets gradually go on sale. We’re in danger of losing perspective. Let’s not forget that our week of twinkling lights and flowing drinks has a darker air of exclusivity and debauchery