Every time I find myself obsessively clicking refresh on my university shopping basket, questing for a ticket, I tend to wonder the same question: why do we care about these fancy balls anyway? Overhyped and overcrowded, they are often ridiculously pricey and a bit of a let-down. A night of dancing leaves everyone’s feet shredded by heels, and the long dresses, however glamorous, just aren’t suited for the majority of venues I find myself shipped to (Kinkell Byre, while beautiful, always ends badly for my outfit). This is without even mentioning the struggles of getting to the ball in the first place. As someone who queued for Christmas Ball, I know the pain of the ticket-purchasing process. So we must ask ourselves: why do we bother?
As a St Andrews student, I feel somewhat of an obligation to go to at least one ball a term, if only to appease my mother. Her excitement when I got in to this university was only partially because of its ranking, as shown when she promptly bought me five ball gowns. “So you can take nice photos for your grand-parents!” she exclaimed when I looked dubious and mildly offended. But it’s true: as a university, we are known for our balls and if you’re like me, you might just have your parents trying to live vicariously through you.
Now I’m going to be honest here – most of the time I don’t care about who is organising the ball which makes the following even worse. The fact that I frequently don’t even know where the proceeds are going, be it charity or a society. Instead I care about who is going, what the theme is and if my dress will make me look fat.
What separates a black tie ball from a casual night at the Vic is just that the weekly nights out are far too casual. The glamour and glitz of the balls themselves mean that the process is something to look forward to. Frequently it’s not even the ball that I enjoy the most but the process of putting on my gown and feeling like Cinderella at pre’s. If I showed up looking so glamorous on Tequila Tuesday, I’d get more than a few odd looks.
The monotony of Club 601, Ma Bells and the Vic also contributes to the excitement at every ball, the change of scenery truly separating the evening from just a night out on the town. The problem with all these in-town locations is that they tend to be pretty similar no matter where you go. Drunk, I’m not sure I could tell you the difference between Ma Bells and the Vic. There are the same drinks, similar prices, the same people who wear pretty much the same trends and if you’re doing this two or three times a week, a night out suddenly doesn’t feel superior to a night in. It all gets a little bit boring, something that a true glitzy night out at Lower College Lawn or Kinkell breaks up a bit. In such a small town with so few locations, it is unsurprising that things need a bit of spicing up.
Moreover, there’s something to be said for the exclusivity of balls. The limited number of tickets and the manner in which we get them means that there is almost always a mad scramble for wristbands. Sure, there was anger this year after the ridiculous queue for Christmas Ball, but wasn’t that frustration coming from people who didn’t make the cut? This is also evidenced by the ridiculous resale price of some tickets – people wouldn’t be able to charge so much if there wasn’t a market for it. As someone who queued from 1 am for Christmas Ball, I can say that there is a certain amount of smugness that accompanies the ticket.
Is it worth the pain and suffering? Probably not. Will that stop me from trying for the next ball? Of course it won’t.