November 10, 2009

Thinking Lasciviously

The reinvented Ball could better live up to its name.

During my freshman year of high school, I went to a leadership camp. I learned a lot of useful information—and by useful information, I mostly mean awkward icebreakers like “Pass the Lifesaver” and “Lap Sit.” The most informative part by far, however, was the dance at the end, if only because of something my roommate said in passing. While getting ready, she remarked that her mother always told her that she should wear nice underwear, because she never knew who was going to see it.

For years, and I really mean years now, I thought her mother must have been referring to emergency paramedics cutting through her clothing to treat a wound brought about by either a horrific car crash or a horrifically random gunshot. No other options even crossed my mind. You have no idea how much I wish I were joking.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because the Lascivious Ball is coming up, and this is, theoretically, an event at which you might need to take some care about the underwear you wear—and hopefully not for medical reasons. For those of you who missed its grand reopening last year, the Lascivious Ball, which will be held in Ida Noyes this Friday, is a revival of the celebration of debauchery by the same name that went on in the ’70s and ’80s. I actually wasn’t alive in the ’80s, but if I had been, I don’t know if I would have been able to handle it. The stuff that went on at the old Ball makes my leadership camp roommate’s nice underwear look like a steel chastity belt.

The University shut down the old Ball because it was dangerous. I’m talking emergency-room-level shenanigans. There might even have been speedballing. I’m not entirely sure what speedballing is, but I hear it killed John Belushi, so it has to be unfathomably hardcore. Plus, I think the guy who wore a single Styrofoam cup probably freaked out some administrators. This might be a good time to mention that one of rules of the reincarnated Ball is “no genitalia.” I presume they mean “no genitalia in plain sight.”

The old Lascivious Ball lived up to its name, and had a lascivious reputation in the we’re-all-going-to-hell-but-we’re-going-to-look-really-hot-doing-it kind of way. Or maybe by “hot” I mean slutty. I definitely don’t mean classy.

The new Lascivious Ball doesn’t have the same reputation. This makes sense—last year was only its first year back, and maybe debauchery isn’t as easy to achieve in the 2000s as it was in the 1970s. Plus, there’s the student body’s natural skepticism of school-sponsored depravity. It’s like watching soft-core porn in your 10th grade Spanish class. (That actually happened to me, but I think PG-13 means different things to different countries, and my teacher was very distressed over the whole thing.)

And then there’s the fact that quite a few people showed up to the Lascivious Ball last year just to observe the lasciviousness, and not to actually contribute to it. In this case, “quite a few” refers to the majority of the attendees. There were an awful lot of street clothes and party dresses, and the people who had dressed down stuck out like, well, like half-naked people walking around Ida Noyes.

The lack of lasciviousness at last year’s Lascivious Ball begs the question: What does lasciviousness even mean? I’m guessing it has to do with the loss of inhibition—an intoxication of sorts. Of course, at a school-sponsored event, we can’t and shouldn’t expect literal intoxication—speedballing, suspicious pink punch, and orgies outside of CAPS. After all, that isn’t very classy, and if anything, last year’s Lascivious Ball tended toward classiness. However, this classiness also displayed a sort of prudishness that made me seriously doubt the capacity for lasciviousness and classiness to coexist.

What we should be able to expect is an intoxicating atmosphere that lessens the awkwardness that ensues when some of the participants take their lasciviousness very seriously, and the others are distinctively half-hearted about it. It should be fun and irreverent, like a day at the beach. Coincidentally, half-naked people don’t look awkward on the beach. Fully clothed people do. We shouldn’t treat the Ball like the broken remnants of some other age—with a handful of dinosaurs decked out in a few feathers (literally: a few strategically placed feathers) while the rest of us gawking tourists are still wearing our fully buttoned flannel shirts.

Basically, step it up, Lascivious Ball. I’m not entirely sure how to accomplish this, but it’s definitely something both the organizers and the partygoers need to keep in mind. Maybe Hype could sponsor some icebreakers. Come to think of it, “Pass the Lifesaver” and “Lap Sit” are pretty lascivious, especially if people are scantily clad. Or they could put out some suspicious pink punch that isn’t really sketchy, and let people think they’re intoxicated, like that one episode of Freaks & Geeks (or Ten Things I Hate About You). Or they could turn off the lights. In any case, all you people planning on wearing street clothes should wear nice underwear. You never know who might see it.

—Alison Howard is a second-year in the College.