May Day

At the risk of flogging the so-dead-it’s-rotting horse that is Bitching About Princeton, today was the first night of Houseparties, a three-day affair of dinners and bands and general festivity occurring at Princeton’s eating clubs at the end of the year. Tonight is formals night, and when I left my room to make a trip to CVS shortly before dinnertime, I saw dozens of folks getting ready for formals: guys in tuxedos carrying bouquets, going to pick up their dates; gaggles of girls in beautiful and expensive-looking dresses standing under Blair Arch (out of the rain) taking group pictures. It’s not a particularly unusual idea, having a series of parties at the end of spring semester. What is Princetonian about these parties is that they are eating clubs-centric, and you have to be a member of a club to attend its Houseparties, and if you’re the guest of a member you have to pay a fairly hefty price to attend. It’s all a bit silly, and I nursed my moral righteousness over dinner in the dining hall in shorts and a t-shirt.

But what particularly underscored the extravagance of Houseparties is that today is May 1, May Day. Of course, the US changed its workers’ holiday to the first Monday in September back in the ’50s, to avoid any communist associations, and of course, that holiday doesn’t really celebrate the workers anyway; it’s more about barbecues at the tail end of summer. But today is May Day in Europe and Central and South America and really most places aside from the United States (and Canada, which has Labour Day at the same time as the States does). Earlier, seizing a moment of solitude in my room, I played Billy Bragg’s version of “The Internationale” and sang along to myself. But I wish there were a better way here to celebrate the world’s most anti-capitalist holiday than by allowing Houseparties to indulge wealth and capitalism in all its glory. I know that’s too much to expect from basically any institution in this country that isn’t the American Socialist Party, and I also know there are far more important things to worry about. But as I hear formally-dressed girls’ heels click on the pavement outside, I’m a little sad still for what we could be celebrating.

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