NOT FOR NOTHIN’: Spring formals: nights to treasure

Amy Richards

We clear our schedules and prepare ourselves for the semester’s much anticipated formal. Not sure about class on Friday, but one thing is certain: Thursday will be a night to remember. Or maybe, a night we’ll be happy to forget. 

Formals are a staple of Villanova life. It seems as though every on-campus group has one, while some organizations are even reputed for the semiannual event. It is not uncommon to hear students chattering about the largest formals days before and after — whether they were invited, what they would be wearing, would it be bigger and better than last semester’s. 

Even the Peace and Justice student groups joined in this hullabaloo with their very own “informal” in November: a grass roots, low-key version of the formal with which we are so well acquainted. 

In fact, formals have become so central to Villanova life that very few of us will graduate without having attended one. A friend of mine earned bragging rights upon attending 18 in one semester. 

It is one thing we share in common: our experience of the Villanova formal.

Students are always ready for a formal; ladies stock up on cocktail dresses well in advance, while boys, many of whom resort to texts to ask their dates, toss around ideas about who they will bring. Come the evening of the event, we suit up in our finest to meet our dates and engage in the traditional “pregame” at a dorm room or apartment. We crowd in, take pictures and brainstorm clever names for the future Facebook album, all the while making sure to hydrate. Soon, we hurry to fill soda bottles with crude beverages and take off in the direction of one very scenic Pike Lot. We arrive at our point of departure, resembling rather put-together young adults.

Yes, we got all dressed up to ride big, yellow school buses into Philadelphia. But we look past our flashy transportation, for our group advertised a great night! We drain the contents of our soda bottles, making faces of disgust after the final sip, all before the buses have even made it to I-476. Complaint ensues. 

“I have to pee,” whines the girl in the adjacent seat. Yes, we all have to pee. 

“Can’t we get out and pee on the corner? Where is this place anyway? Does anybody have an empty Coke bottle?” Suddenly, the varnish of propriety breaks down among the group members.

Knowing little about where we are going, we finally arrive at the undisclosed hot spot in the city. Villanova students salt the streets of Philadelphia, rushing to the nearest indoor restroom. Onlookers wonder where all these young people have come from, dressed in their heels and suits, filing off of an old school bus. We are not to be missed by all the people still leaving work, considering it is only 7:30 p.m. on a weeknight. 

By the time we make it to the dance floor, we see our date has found a dancing partner, and our hair is a mess from the bus ride. But after an hour or two, students have grown closer, less worried about awkward dancing or dress malfunctions. Men have lost their ties and ladies, their shoes. Soon, bodies grow fatigued and energy wanes.

But just in time, the sweet melody of Journey rings out. We rush into the middle of the dance floor; we embrace. We shout the words, jump up and down, and finally someone in charge yells that buses are leaving. 

Then, for a moment, the night flashes before our eyes. We get the feeling that, yes, I’ve been here before. I feel like I’ve lived this night over and over. Every moment of…  nah, must be some serious déjà vu.

Boys offer their jackets to the ladies, and we file out, shoes in hand, with our arm latched through our date’s. Young Villanova men look almost chivalrous carrying their dates’ bags. Outside our chariot awaits. We climb on to the bus looking disheveled, but convinced of our classiness.

On the ride home, we glare at our neighbor for keeping the window open and our feet pulse in pain, but finally we fall asleep to wake up back in Pike Lot. Students spill out in all directions with hopes of sleep or an after-party — anything to keep thoughts of class far, far away. 

How ever far from a fairy tale it might be, the formal is perhaps one of the most romanticized aspects of our lives at Villanova. It characterizes the way social life is conducted here, and it is a tradition that cannot be re-enacted in any other setting, certainly never again after graduation. 

Thus, we must treasure each of these nights, careful never to forget how they left us with so many of these same memories.

——————–Amy Richards is a senior honors, Spanish and global interdisciplinary studies major from Kings Park, N.Y.  She can be reached at [email protected]