Mardi Gras: Is Exchanging Boobs For Beads Worth It?

So Mardi Gras came and went and now we’re all nursing our hangovers and declaring to anyone that cares enough that we are “giving up alcohol for lent.” Uh huh yeah, good luck with that. Whether you’re a good Christian or not, Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is a holiday that has been around for years, and most people end up celebrating it anyway just because it’s one more reason to be a public shit show. For those of you that don’t know Mardi Gras, it’s essentially a holiday that involves parades, masks, beaded necklaces and enough alcohol to rot your body.


Whether you’ve celebrated it on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, the streets of Paris, or at your suburban dive bar in Modesto, you are probably aware of a questionable “tradition” that has accompanied the holiday since the 80s. Every year, hundreds of inebriated women celebrate Mardi Gras by flashing their breasts in exchange for things like beads and coconuts. And honestly, it’s pure garbage.

Ok, before you guys get pissed let me explain what it is that I can’t stand about it. PBS NewsHour recently published a piece about how women who were repressed in their day to day lives find freedom in flashing their breasts at Mardi Gras. Um hello? Are you a 1950s housewife who vacuums all day WHY are you so repressed that the only way to feel free is to flash your tits at an idiotic frat boy on Bourbon Street?


I went to UC Santa Cruz for undergrad. It’s a liberal, crunchy hippie school by the beach and so naturally, the school’s tradition is to run around naked every time it’s the first rain of the year. I know, it’s so hippie and annoying but whatever, it’s awesome. Everyone has done it. Most people that went to this school have an obligation to do it. And yeah, it’s one of the most freeing things you will probably ever do. It’s also terrifying. Why else would people constantly have nightmares of being naked in public? But I’m pretty sure no one at UCSC naked run is doing it for validation, and the rush you get that comes along with 100 percent of you being out there is absolutely invaluable. It’s a high that substances wish they could come close to giving you—the peace of mind of letting go of any, dare I say, “repression” in your life. So when I hear all of these Ashley’s and Bethany’s gloating about how getting drunk and flashing their areolas at a Mardi Gras street party is “freeing” I’m about ready to gut myself. Fun? Yeah, sure. Freeing? Die.

It seems like some of these girls at Mardi Gras are making their public nudity a bigger deal than it is. By taking out whatever “repression” you have on your Bourbon Street rager, you are feeding into the ideal that by showing some drunk toadstool your titties, you will get validation that you don’t have otherwise. I get it, you’re having fun, you’re living a little. But first of all, don’t act like you’re the first person to show someone your boobs because you’re not. You’re not a trailblazer by any means. Second of all, drunk or not, you’re doing this for plastic beads. There are SO many cooler things I would flash for. I would flash for a litter of pug puppies. I would flash for my own personal brunch chef. I would flash for something a little more worth it than a 25 cent beaded necklace—sorry, but it’s true. Raise the bar a little bit people, come on.

I know, maybe I’m being lame right now. It’s all part of the fun right? And because I haven’t been to New Orleans Mardi Gras yet then I probably “don’t get it.” Maybe I don’t. But nudity to be free and nudity for drunken validation are two different things. And we have a tendency to confuse the two all the time.

Now back to this ridiculous PBS piece. A source “Claire” who conveniently decided not to give out her last name—um hi coward—told the reporter this:

“Needless to say, not much compares to the feeling of being able to let go like that, knowing there won’t be any consequence to showing the world my body,” she said.
Wait hi, is this chick for real? Girl, there’s about 15 guys finishing themselves off to your Mardi Gras trip photos already and it’s barely been two days. You KNOW randos were taking pictures, don’t act coy now that the fun is over. Where there’s nudity, creepers will follow, don’t be naive. I’m not saying don’t strip. I’m not saying don’t have fun and let lose. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying don’t strip for validation and act like a free spirit. Like you’ve learned something about yourself through this experience. Take your crazy moment for what it was and move on. And for your own sake, strip smarter next year, Claire Something.

Rula Al-Nasrawi is a Columbia Graduate whose writing has appeared in ViceThe Atlantic, and other online publications. Her first language is valley girl. Californian bred, NYC residing. @RulaOfTheWorld

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