Driving home tonight, I thought about Mardi Gras in Austin, and how it’s been a while since I’ve celebrated Fat Tuesday. In the South, there are days leading up to it with anticipation — the food, the beads, the planned parties. There was a time when New Orleans made it illegal to go topless (is that still the case?). But Austin, in its wonderful weirdness, legally allows people to roam shirtless.
Mardi Gras, 2000, was a particularly difficult month for me. I wrote very little about the bad things that were happening, but basically I went to Aspen, got back and my world, as I knew it, changed. It caused me to do things I wouldn’t normally do, like impulsively buy concert tickets for a show on the other side of the country, decide it was time to move to Los Angeles, or get drunk at Mardi Gras and party on a roof.
How long have we known each other? Would you ever expect me to be a girl who parties on a roof? What if I told you that we were up there to try to earn beads? I’m not a bead girl! I’m not the kind of woman who wants plastic currency for a glimpse of her breasts.
But I was in a dark place, and that night I discovered whiskey sours. Becca and I were under the influence of these men we loved, whom we wanted to impress for whatever reason, and we were suddenly okay with being two of the thousands of women lifting their shirts.
Dorks that we were, we had a plan. We weren’t going to lift our shirts all willy-nilly. We were going to do it only once, just to say we did, so we wanted to maximize the situation.The plan: advertising. Matt and Trejo went down to the street —I cannot believe I’m telling you this story. I was recently advised that perhaps I share way too much about myself and I have some serious boundary issues. Like, I probably shouldn’t have told you that, either. Why can’t I stop myself? See, you have one night of Mardi Gras and then it’s like, “What difference does it make now? I might as well tell everyone everything all the time.”— they went down to the street and pretended to just happen to be looking up at the building (This is the Iron Cactus, for those of you Austinites who’d like a better visual). “Hey!” one said to the other, all loudly like the beginning of some kind of titty infomercial. A titfomercial. “I think those girls are going to show their boobs!”
Oh, my God. We were such dorks.
So Matt and Trejo get a bunch of guys to look upward in our direction, which then makes them cheer us on and count to three or whatever (at this point, I no longer remember). What I do remember is that I taught Becca to do the Snoopy. The Snoopy is a move I created the second I saw fifty videocameras sweeping toward our direction. As you lift your shirt, you tilt your face away from the crowd, like Snoopy doing a dance.
We went into a simultaneous Snoopy. Beads pelted us as Eric and… Chuy and Ray and wow, this is even more horrifying to remember whydidn’tanyonestopme — caught the beads.
Trejo and Matt returned to the table, quite silently. They weren’t looking directly at me or Becca, but rather pointed their heads toward the table.
“That was weird,” I said. “I never thought I’d do that.”
As Eric was saying something about it being important to try things you never thought you’d do, and how it’s no big deal but it must be kind of liberating or empowering or whatever bullshit he was saying to justify the fact that I just showed my torso to downtown Austin, Trejo interrupts loudly with: “Pam’s tits are great.”
It was oddly quiet after that, and then everyone giggled and coughed back to the conversation. Then Trejo clamped his hand on Eric’s shoulder. “No, seriously, man,” he said, as he stood up and he excused himself to the bathroom.
Emboldened with validation and flattery, I found myself standing in a different place on the roof with Ray, the official guide to Mardi Gras, who was wearing a top hat, maybe? I don’t know. I remember that he was going on and on with some story that I had long stopped listening to because I was drunk and getting dumped and I didn’t know what was going to happen to me but I did know that there was a horrible sadness inside of me that could only be healed by having Ray laugh right then and there, so as he was in mid-sentence about blahblahblah, I said, “Uh-huh, that’s great,” turned forty-five degrees to my left, and lifted my shirt.
So Ray trails off, “–and that’s why I called her.” Then a quick pause when he realized what I was doing, as the crowd below was cheering. “Oh,” Ray says. Then he leans over the roof and shouts, “W-W-W DOT PAMIE DOT COM!”
It remains one of the funniest moments in my life. The timing between Ray’s realization “Oh” and calling out my (then quite new) web address was perfect.
This was just a year after learning what Mardi Gras was by working a corporate gig with a Mardi Gras theme, where I still think someone possibly slipped something in my champagne, where I found myself forcing a man to eat an oyster off my foot. And then there I am on a rooftop, doing the Snoopy for plastic.
This is why I was so concerned about Mardi Gras College Town Girls Gone Wild. Man, no wonder my dad, who for a number of years got all of his information about my life through my website, assumed I had a drinking problem.
I tell you this story because I know there are a few of you hurting this morning. I feel for y’all. I’m just lucky that when I couldn’t stop flashing my boobs, they hadn’t invented camera phones.
I haven’t had the urge to do the Snoopy since. I think one night of watching strangers cheer, throw things at me, and then immediately turn and do the same thing to a girl who was like, a total skank, made me realize that I was like, being a total skank. If I was going to have a weird night where I got drunk and showed too much skin, I’m glad I did it with that group of friends, in that town, on that night. I haven’t celebrated Mardi Gras since, but every year around this time I think about that night, how I had no idea how much my life was about to change, even though I knew deep inside that I was going through a transformation.
Look how I’m trying to make flashing my tits sound like a milestone in my life, one that helped me grow as a woman. Hilarious. I showed my boobs and boys complimented me. There is no way to make that sound empowering. But hell, it was fun to do semi-anonymously for one night. It’s not like I was swinging on a pole…. but one time? At Carnivale?