Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The May Ball

The period between the end of exams and the announcing of exam results is called May Week. Of course, it's not in May, and it's two weeks long, but who's counting? During this time there are a lot of concerts and people just hanging out and letting off steam. I mean, it's a huge university where most of the students have just finished exams that count for all of their grade for the year... it's pretty understandable that people want to party. So most colleges have a May Ball.

The May Ball is a formal party which lasts all night. Since Trinity is the largest college its May Ball is "the best." (I'm not sure exactly how this is measured, but everyone seemed to agree that it was the best. Even the people from other colleges. I haven't really talked to anyone from St. John's (Trinity's rival college) but I'm sure that they would disagree. =) ) So people buy tickets (in pairs, you can't get single tickets) for about 220 pounds, get dressed up in formal wear, and go to this party. The ball starts at 9, but people start lining up at 7, because "queueing is part of the experience"... because, of course, standing in line is so much fun. But, when in Rome... and I suppose that standing in line is a particularly British kind of fun. So we showed up at 7, and stood in line. The college does try to entertain you at least somewhat: they have jugglers and a brass band and some a cappella singers to entertain you. But most of it is just standing in line for two hours. (Actually, here's something funny. You stand in line on the paths in Great Court. Each path is some flat paving stones surrounded by cobbles. Next to the line they had the following signs: "Gentlemen, please stand on the cobbles and allow the ladies to stand on the paving." Because the girls are wearing high heels, which would really suck on the cobble stones. (No, I wasn't wearing high heels, I was wearing sandals. I wasn't going to go to a party that's supposed to last 9 hours (and two more of standing in line) in high heels.)

Anyway, after standing in line you get let in to the main part of the party. There were about 5 different places to get food, two more with just drinks, one with fruit. There was a place with rock music and one with folk music and one with jazz. They also had a small room where they were playing nice classical music (also all live) where you could sit down and relax. There was a comedy club (where Tom and I watched four of the five performers... and I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe some of the time. We're going to have to start going to comedy clubs in Boston, cause I haven't had that much fun in a long time). They also had some really fun things: bumper cars (which they call Dodgeems... because you're supposed to dodge the other people, not bump in to them) and very large swings and a basketball-type arcade game. And they had fresly made doughnuts (which were really good) and a tent with chocolate fountains and strawberries and marshmallows and bananas on skewers. (I went there several times.)

They also had a private fireworks show. Every May Ball has to have fireworks, but Trinity's are "the best." (Once again, I'm not sure what this means. Tom and I saw Robinson college's fireworks (which were just a standard small fireworks), and Trinity's were definitely better than these. We're also going to go watch St. John's fireworks today, and we'll see whether Trinity's are really "the best.") It was a really really nice show; I don't think I've ever seen a better one. It was nicely synchronized with music, and generally several things going on: nicer sparkly ones on the lower part of the sky and more explosive ones on the higher part. It was symmetric and nicely timed with music and completely impossible to reproduce for a larger audience. I was really really really really impressed.

The party is supposed to go on until 6am (at which point they apparently take a "survivor's photo"). We only lasted until 4, when the comedy club shut down and we couldn't find anything else to do. The main problem was that there wasn't a nice place to sit and just talk, since it was cold (apparently they usually have large patio heaters, but they didn't this year) and there were no nice quiet places to sit except for the classical music room, where you couldn't talk. So we decided we were pretty much done and went home. Overall, I had a really nice time, and I'm glad that I went. (Although hearing a punk rock/klezmer band was very loud and kind of scary.)

I only found out that Tom and I had tickets to the May Ball a few days ago. I'd screwed up buying the tickets, and the guy Tom emailed to try and get us tickets didn't reply, so we didn't think we were going. Then, at a Trinity party for math people (and yes, I went to a party, and I had fun) I was talking to Ben Green when this guy (Hugh Osborne) walked up and started talking to him. Ben introduced us, and mentioned that "Inna is very good friends with Tom Barnet-Lamb." At this point the guy asked when Tom was coming, and mentioned that he'd had an email from Tom begging for May Ball tickets, and that Tom "has this girlfriend, I don't remember from where, and..." and at that point Ben interrupted him saying that yes, he did, and in fact she's right here. And Osborne was pretty embarrassed and got us tickets. =)

WARNING: Dress details follow. Anyone who isn't interested should stop reading here.

Of course, this meant that I had almost no time to find a dress. (And Tom had to borrow a tux from his brother, which looked pretty funny.) Which sucked, since I didn't even really know where to go. So Lilian and I went in search of a dress for me. It turned out that 99% of the dresses here were strapless (and sold with a separate little shrug so that you actually had sleeves) and weren't big enough for me, so even if I were willing to wear a strapless dress (which I'm generally not) I couldn't wear any of these. After lots of looking I found a dress (which still wasn't really big enough for me, and I had LOTS of cleavage in this dress) but that at least would close and look OK), but it isn't actually my usual style. (I'll have a picture here later, but I don't actually have any pictures of my dress yet.) I also had to find a shawl to wear with it, which meant that I had a chance to shop in the market! That was kind of cool, since I hadn't done it before at all.

I'm glad that I went to this and saw it... although I'll likely never go to another party like this. I don't really understand why it had to be formal... since the formal wear seemed more in the way than useful for most of the party. (And all of the comedians were wearing jeans and T-shirts, which was amusing.) I think that if Harvard had a party like this it wouldn't be formal, but just a "fun day." (It has several of those, but none on this scale.) I'd be willing to go to that, if only for the comedy. =)


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