Photo: Lightbox Creative

Balls Are Overrated

Jackson Pieters crunches the numbers.

It’s no secret that I’m something of a moral zealot – an overly righteous puritan straight from the Victorian age. And, despite not being a Bible Thumper, I certainly feel that there’s a degeneracy described in the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah existing in the modern day, evident from the clubs of Dundee to the Red Light District of Amsterdam.

That being said, when I, as a naïve first year, heard about St Andrews’ unique ball culture, it evoked images of traditional, classy dances: ballroom waltzing accompanied by light orchestral music, or perhaps swing dancing set to upbeat jazz. Could anyone anywhere have been similarly incorrect about, well, anything? The painful reminder that we are in the 21st century and not the 19th meant that my first and hopefully only ball experience was an utter let down. From that moment onwards, I decided that ball culture, and the whole notion behind it was, like everything else in this town, a joke. A big, stupid joke.

But on the other hand, you get to look nice, don’t you?

The St Andrews Narcissism Complex, in all of its wallet-emptying, wine-sipping, polo-watching, haute-couture-clad, undoubtedly egotistical glory, is well documented. This rampant self-absorption and seemingly-constant feeding-frenzy of unadulterated vanity reaches its denouement in ball season, which lasts roughly from the start of April up until exams, when several ball-goers shed their black tie apparel and open their module textbooks for the first time. It’s a period when the Narcissist Complex is in full swing, when seemingly every night another society is presenting another ball in another posh Scores hotel functions room, or on another tented muddy field.

And for what? To give my fellow St Andreans an excuse dress up in expensive outfits and purchase overpriced drinks as a means to impress their fellow ball-goers by throwing around money which most likely isn’t theirs to begin with

The monetary side of ball season is worth an article all to itself. I’ve most definitely made some questionable purchases in my lifetime (I’m looking at you, seasons 1-5 of Tim Allen’s 1990s family sitcom Home Improvement), but the amount of money people in this town are willing blow on what is essentially a pompous variation of a night out at the Union continues to astonish me. While there are some honourable, and affordable exceptions like this year’s North Haugh Ball I’ve seen ball ticket prices range anywhere from £25 (if you’re lucky) to £75 (if you’re insane). And this isn’t even counting the unnecessary add-ons (another glass of prosecco), the cost of dry-cleaning your jacket or dress (probably from when you or your friend spilled wine on it at the last ball), the cost of the taxi to the venue (you can’t risk the walk), and the cost of chips at Dervish afterwards (you will be wasted, after all).

Ultimately, this can rack up to well over £100, at a patently conservative estimate. Considering how I’ve probably already annoyed everyone reading this, I figured that, instead of driving home my argument as to why ball season is the epitome of pompous jackassery, I’d spend the rest of this article making an incomplete list of things you could also get with £100, that are more worthwhile than opting to stand around to loud music for five hours before stumbling home in a drunken stupor:

            Groceries for a month or more

            Next year’s textbooks

            An EasyJet flight from Glasgow to Prague (and back, plus £42 spending money)

            A proper dinner for two at the Seafood Ristorante

            A pair of drumsticks signed by Smash Mouth drummer Kevin Coleman

            Roughly 350 Cadbury Chomp Bars

            A bike

            At least all 8 seasons of Tim Allen’s 1990s family sitcom Home Improvement

            The first £100 off your student debt

That’s got to be more valuable thatn anything the KK can put on, surely?



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