by Catalina Righter
The high expectations and excitement that come along with Birthday Ball can also mean high stress—there’s a lot that can go wrong. The best way to minimize mix-ups and give you a chance of actually having fun is to plan in advance. Then, when something unexpected crops up, you’ll be more relaxed and prepared to deal with it.
The most basic thing to establish is where everyone will be staying at the end of the night. To paraphrase “Closing Time,” you don’t have to go home, but you can’t sleep under the crab dip station in the JFC because the tablecloth is probably a rental. Sleeping at a friend’s dorm or planning a trip to 7-11 post-ball can be a good way to extend the evening and also take pressure off of the dance itself to be the only fun part of the evening.
If you or your roommates are going to have any guests, especially out-of-town ones, make sure to communicate about this as soon as possible. Everyone should know approximately when they’re arriving and when they’re leaving. Who’s sleeping where? Where are they getting their meals?
You should also discuss how you’ll communicate in the event that one of you wants to invite over any spontaneous guests after the ball. Whether it’s a loud group of friends or a special someone, there are few things more frustrating than getting home in the hopes of sleeping off a long night to find unexpected guests in your room. Strong communication will ensure that your roommate relationships will last even after the glitter of Birthday Ball has faded. And the need for communication goes double if some roommates are going to Birthday Ball and others are not.
Pre-planning your grooming routine for the night can also reduce stress. Maybe you don’t want to do anything elaborate—that’s totally cool. But make this decision beforehand and stick to it. If you say you’re going low-key but decide an hour before the ball that you need to do your hair in a new way or shave a major part of your body, you’re going to stress yourself and everyone around you.
Consider teaming up with friends to get everyone out the door and looking good. Maybe get one friend to do your eyeliner in exchange for you doing their hair. Or, if you suck atbeauty routines, consider making snacks for everybody’s pregame. Just don’t overbook yourself and run out of time to do your own look before you have to leave.
At the very least, plan your use of shared spaces. If you live in a dorm with communal showers, give yourself a window of time knowing that almost everyone on the floor is going to want to shower in the hours before the big event.
Make sure you have everything you need before you start getting ready. You don’t want to be powdering your face in your silky drawers halfway through a bottle of Corona when you realize you forgot to buy eyelash glue. And if your look doesn’t go exactly how you planned, don’t stress—the lighting at the ball is dark, and your pictures can’t go as badly as the ones from Birthday Ball 2014 when the photo booth provided everyone Harry Potter-style broomsticks to “ride.” The frame of the camera cropped the bottom of the photos, leaving everyone with random wooden poles jutting out of their nether regions.
Finally, though it seems unspontaneous, think about your food, beverages, and other substances before the ball. Skipping dinner is a notoriously bad idea, no matter how tight your formal wear is. Spending the night hungry will reduce your energy for dancing, make you more irritable, and cause alcohol to affect you at a different speed and intensity than normal. All of these are a perfect formula for crying at Birthday Ball.
Make sure any regular medication you might take is planned for beforehand. In a high excitement environment, don’t stress out your body more by skipping important medications. If you smoke, plan this beforehand also. No one will be re-admitted after leaving the ball, so smoke breaks will not be possible mid-way through.
With alcohol, sticking to what you’re comfortable with is best. If you don’t usually drink, Birthday Ball is a horrible night to start. The unusual level of excitement and nerves will make it almost impossible for you to monitor your level of intoxication accurately. The same goes for seasoned drinkers. If you’re used to beer, keeping track of how much wine you can and should drink is more hassle than its worth.
When its time to leave, check the weather. If there’s a blizzard out there, there’s no shame in adding extra layers for the walk over to the JFC. Stripping the sweatpants out from under your dress while in line for admission is basically a Birthday Ball tradition at this point. And don’t forget your ID and room key. When in doubt, duct tape them to your body.
Have fun, dance a lot, and even if you do end up crying, remember that there’s still next year—even as an alum, you’ll always be a member of the Washington College family, and you’ll be welcome back every February to wish Papa George a happy birthday.