Mardi Gras: Not What You Think

One of many costumed families wandering around downtown on Mardi Gras

Today is Friday. I’ve come back up for air after a major Mardi Gras takeover. Well, with my sister visiting too, there was lots to do and see. She was coming to the Big City from Small Town Alaska, and I know just how that is. I had to show her a good time. We ate loads of good food, including a food gorge/gasm at my fave funky, but fancy restaurant, Jacque Imo’s; chocolate croissants, berry brioche, Caribbean fried catfish with lime butter that changes my perspective on life, and lots more yummies at home. We took her to the aquarium and the zoo (we have a membership), every vintage shop within a five mile radius, and yes, we took in our very first Mardi Gras.

When we moved here I, like you, thought Mardi Gras was all tits and frat boys. Drunken revelry and mania. It had small appeal. All our neighbors and new friends tried to convince us that Mardi Gras was a family event, but we were a hard sell. We’d seen the news footage. Finally we’d heard it from enough people to sort of believe it. We got tentatively excited.

Let me tell you, it’s true! Wow. Much of Mardi Gras was so thoroughly family oriented that I found it kind of boring. The zillions (okay, 20 or 30, but still-!) of parades that lead up to Mardi Gras day consist of floats and marching bands. I mean, how many floats and marching bands can a person care about? I hate to sound jaded, but the floats were nothing compared with the floats we saw in Panama when we spent Carnivale there years ago. The big thing here is the throwing of beads, and small plush toys. Each float is lined with people hucking said items at the crowd. And no, again, family event, remember? No titties were bared, unless you count my poorly concealed nursing moments. They throw the beads to anyone and everyone, particularly cute kids, or anyone who jumps up and down screaming like a crazy person, which many folks do. I had trouble getting into the mood. A bit hard for an anti-consumer such as myself to get excited about a huge pile of cheap crap. Thank you little Chinese kids, working long hours in unsafe conditions. Now we’ll leave the fruits of your labor in dirty drifts across the streets of New Orleans, to choke birds and leach toxins.

That said, it is so thoroughly local to play this parade game, that I did try my best. We went to four parades. One of the big parades passes a block from our house, and that was cool ‘cuz it felt sort of like our parade.

But! Friends! This is in fact a love story!

After two weeks of trying to rally myself to get into the parade spirit, Fat Tuesday finally came. The day there was supposedly a big party of costumed revellers downtown. My sis and I are heavy into costuming, so we were really looking forward to this, had spent days getting our outfits together and making fabulous masks. I had heard about a parade from the Marigny to the French Quarter, called the Saint Anne’s Parade. A walking parade of anyone and everyone in costume. We wanted desperately to make this parade, thinking it might be our only chance to see awesome costumes. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any info online, in the paper, or anywhere else about where and when it was. Some kind of underground parade. Oooo la la, how alluring. We heard a rumor it was at 9 AM (the partying starts early on Mardi Gras day, strange, we thought) so we hauled our asses out of bed at 6 AM to get in costume and out the door by 8 AM, determined not to miss it.

Oh. My. Sweet. Jesus.

I am in love.

You might have heard me say those words before. Yes, I’m the kind of girl who falls frequently. But, this time. This is the one. Really.

For those of you who know me and my love of costuming, let me say this. These people put my efforts to shame, to SHAME!!!!!! My sis and I felt completely underdressed! But I don’t mean to say that I felt ashamed, oh no. Just awed, floored, and inspired.

But the fantastic quality and quantity of costumes, giant puppets, and bike floats was not even the best part. The best part, for me, was that it truly was a family event! There were kids everywhere, and old people too. All generations partying together. Not that it was G rated. Most of it was, but there were some PG-13s (including myself) and even a few Rs. But nothing to worry about.

The thing is, I love to party. Now by that I don’t mean, I love to get shit faced, do illegal substances, and have regrettable encounters with strangers. You may remember, I’m a half-beer girl. What I do love is dressing up and dancing my ass off. And I hadn’t realized how sad it makes me that that part of myself is made to feel disparate from my mama side.

Here is where this long diatribe comes to topic. Mama’s need to have fun. Mama’s shouldn’t feel like they’re being “bad” or even “marginal” mamas when they have a good time. So long as the kids are safe and having fun too, mama’s need to let loose! Of course, a supportive papa or otherwise partner is pretty handy here. But mostly what was making me feel stifled (other than no party to go to!) was a barely spoken societal disapproval.

Finally, I have found a place where I can be me, party mama. That’s me on the right. And yes, those are fake boobs. And no, I don’t see a single thing wrong with that.

5 thoughts on “Mardi Gras: Not What You Think

  1. Fabulous fun! I know what you mean about societal disapproval and the let-loose-flavor of family fun. I have relatives in San Antonio and grew up with really fun, really real, multigenerational parties — with dancing, mild drinking, feasting, put-all-the-kids-to-sleep-in-one-huge-bed-while-the-parents/aunts/uncles/friends/older cousins dance and laugh. Somehow it felt healthy and wholesome and real and connecting.

  2. Glad you had some fun! I think it is always important to have time to let it all out as it were. I can’t think that it is good for children to have parents who are stifled themselves!

    I love the Pagan events where sometimes everyone is having so much fun and let loose, in a safe enviornment and the children enjoy it too.

    So much fun !


  3. You go with your costumed self! I had my baby out–young!–in a sling while I danced, and she may have been the only baby in the room, but she was safe and happy and saw her mamas having fun, and isn’t that how it should be? :-)

    Thanks for your nice comment on my blog today!

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