I was not much of a party girl in college. Though I could certainly put away bottles of Budweiser and added a little hair to my chest with the occasional shot of Jack Daniels or Southern Comfort and lime, I was not one for attending massive house parties or dancing on bars. However, for three consecutive years, I went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and acted a fool. In honor of today being Mardi Gras, here is what I learned in the days I spent sucking down Hurricanes, hoofing it down Bourbon Street in high heels, eating alligator meat, and, yes, flashing my boobs for beads.
1. PDA isn’t embarrassing, so long as it’s not caught on camera. I think I have a pretty mellow attitude towards public displays of affection thanks to the time I spent at Mardi Gras, tripping over a new lip-locked couple every five feet. Who cares? Spread the love! I certainly did. Of course, it’s much easier to be pro-PDA if it’s not caught on camera and you don’t have to see, from the outside, what you look like when your tongue is being swallowed. Thanks to the photo above — yes, that is me and it currently resides on the wall of Ami’s cubicle — I keep my heavier makeout sessions behind closed doors. A nuzzle or two, however, is fine for mixed company. (Note: any questions about the two-tone color of my hair can be directed to me via email, thanks.)
2. Follow the buddy system! Seriously, let’s talk safety. Don’t go anywhere — except the bathroom — alone. Be a good wing woman! If your friend met some douchebag she likes, even if you’re bored to tears, you stay with her until it’s time to crawl back to your hotel at 5 a.m. and eat leftover muffaletta sandwiches. Stick together!
3. Showing your boobs for beads really isn’t worth it. This may seem obvious to an outsider. But let me explain something to you about Bead Fever. There’s something about the energy down there that makes an otherwise sane person desperately want plastic beads, the uglier, the more ostentatious, the better. It’s a bit like going to a party that has a gift bag and even though you know the gift bag is filled with crap — Chapstick, SweetTarts, a pen, etc. — you still really want that gift bag. I’ve often joked that even if I was to open a gift bag and discover a fossilized turd inside, I would be elated. “Loooook! A piece of hardened poo! So awesome!” It was with that same inexplicable enthusiastic desire for crap that I found myself, just once, showing my breasts to a guy standing on a balcony overlooking the French Quarter. Two days later, when it was time to pack up and head home, I left every single strand of beads in my hotel room trash can, including the ones I got in exchage for showing my nipples.
4. Alligator tastes like chicken. Just thought you should know.
5. Having a goal is great, but don’t be too ambitious. The second year my friends and I went to Mardi Gras, we made ourselves a chart that we called “The Wheel O’ Gras.” Each astrological sign had a section on the wheel and the goal was to make out with one dude of every sign. Each. The wheel would help us keep track, as we knew memory could not be relied upon. In the real world, men generally don’t care about astrology, but down in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, they were into it, possibly because I was crowing, “I just need a Pisces and I’ll be done with the water signs! Which one of you is a Pisces?” Unfortunately, while it’s certainly possible I kissed 12 people that week, I did not end up swapping spit with the entire zodiac. I did kiss three Aries dudes though.
6. Bring alternative footwear. If I went to Mardi Gras now — I wouldn’t, by the way — I would probably wear sensible-ish shoes 24/7. However, in my younger, stupider days, I wore stilettos to walk the trash-strewn streets of New Orleans. The only benefit, aside from making me think I looked kind of sexy, was that they elevated me above the aforementioned trash. The downside was that by the end of each trip, my feet were cut up and blistered, with blackened soles, and I hobbled around school the entire following week. In life, if you’re going to be one of those people who puts style before comfort, bring a backup pair of flats just incase you reach a point where you’re so drunk and in pain, going barefoot seems like a viable option. Because it’s not. Trust.
7. What happens at Mardi Gras (or in Vegas or in Cancun or at that hostel in Amsterdam) stays there. A couple of friends over the course of those three visits kinda sorta tried to turn a Mardi Gras hookup into an actual relationship, with last names and dates and meaningful conversation, back home. Did not work. Does not work. Will not ever work. Don’t bother!
8. Don’t miss out on the vibrant culture New Orleans and its outlying areas has to offer. Unfortunately, those things are all better experienced another time of year.