5 Tips for a Memorable Mardi Gras

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One item on many Bucket Lists is to experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  Thanks to the hospitality of my lifelong friend, this year I had the chance to do exactly that.  What I’ve compiled here are my top tips for a first-time Mardi Gras attender to help you have a fun, memorable, and sane experience.

This is a lengthy post, so if you’d like to jump ahead use these links:

  1. Research
  2. Prioritize
  3. Be Strategic
  4. Be Considerate
  5. Take It Easy

Before we jump in, here’s some crucial lingo:

  • Krewe: A purposeful misspelling of “crewe” coined in the mid-1800s as an archaic affectation (fake old-sounding word).  Krewes lead parades throughout the Mardi Gras season.  Some parades consist of multiple small Sub-Krewes (Krewe Delusion, The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus) but most run their own independant parades.
  • Reveler: A person who has paid to gain membership to a Krewe and is therefore required to participate in the parade.  Revelers are all required to wear masks — some resemble those worn by French clergy and some are classic masquerade masks).
  • Royalty: Krewe members who have made particularly large contributions and therefore ride on individual floats at the beginning of the parade.  Some parades have only a King/Queen and some have Dukes, Duchesses, Paiges, Maids, and more.
  • Throw: Items thrown by revelers to parade goers.  Typical throws include classic Mardi Gras beads, Krewe-themed beads, medallions, doubloons, plastic cups, and special hand-decorated throws.
  • Ball: Krewes throw exclusive parties after their parades where attendees are able to see the floats go by in a special location and are sometimes treated to a concert by the parade’s celebrity marshall.  Tickets to these parties are hard to come by and can climb upwards of $500.

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Body Dysmorphia & Social Media

Two nights ago I was in a bit of A Mood™️ and I decided to give a little air time to my frustrations on social media.  The responses to my post got me thinking about how we react to people’s bodies, and feelings about their bodies, on social media.  Fair warning: this is not your typical, predictable post about body image and Instagram models.

Understanding My Face

my profile, showing my retracted chin
Come thru, chin defect!

I was born with what’s clinically diagnosed as a “retracted chin”; instead of my chin extending out to match the shape of my forehead and nose, it retreats back under my lips.  It’s a genetic defect and it’s also a feature I share with my Narcissist-with-a-capital-N father.

For most of my young life I could not figure out what was wrong with my face.  I would stare at photos of myself with other friends with non-defected facial structure and I was absolutely stumped as to why my face looked so wrong.  My own dysmorphia and distorted perception of myself made it hard to view my face as “mine”, let alone to understand its individual features.  Discovering that my retracted chin is an actual, diagnosable, defect made me happy.

I wasn’t crazy.  My face was fixable.

In the years since pinning down my facial defect, I have researched doctors.  I am lucky to have a home base in Massachusetts — a state with some of the best medical facilities in the country, possibly the entire continent.  I came close to saving up the roughly $5k that corrective surgery will cost but unfortunately had to spend my savings when the startup company I was working for in NYC could no longer support my salary.

That setback has been devastatingly frustrating in many ways.

Controlling Perception

For the most part, I have kept my plans to get corrective surgery to myself.  We live in a culture that looks down upon people that choose to alter their bodies in many ways.  People who choose cosmetic surgery are seen as vain, people who pierce and tattoo their bodies are seen as freaks, and people who are born transgender and choose to take hormones and/or pursue surgery face discrimination.

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New Year, New Orleans, New Goals

For many of us, January is a time when we reflect on the accomplishments and un-met goals of the previous year and prioritize new goals for the coming year.

In January of 2016, I set two goals for myself: to get in better shape and to travel more.  It’s possible to say I met both of those goals though perhaps not to the extent I hoped.  I lost roughly 45 pounds (5 pounds less than my original goal), I made it to the second-to-last week of Couch to 5k twice (but have yet to actually finish it), and I visited some favorite cities and old friends.  I moved from New York City back to my hometown in Western Mass, I traveled up to Quebec City for the first time in over a decade, and then I moved down to New Orleans.

This January I have found myself planning not only goals for things I want in 2017, but goals that will set up the things I want for 2018 as well.  I think it’s a sign that my 25-year-old brain finally has a fully developed frontal lobe.

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Getting Fit: Food + Weight

Above: Two of the meals that make up my average 1200 calorie day I describe below.  Ingredients and calorie counts are listed at the bottom of this article.  

I have hesitated to post anything on this topic for awhile now as it is, for many, a highly emotional and touchy subject.  But I don’t believe it needs to be emotionally fraught — it comes down to numbers, and numbers have no feelings.

In my mind, there are two things a person should strive to do for their health:

⤐ Understand and keep track of exactly what they eat.

⤐ Walk or run for more than a mile multiple times a week.

Let’s start with number one.  Many people incorrectly equate documenting your eating habits with compulsive eating disorders.  While food tracking may be part of how an eating disorder presents in some individuals, keeping a food diary does not an anorexic make.  In fact, keeping a food diary is a fantastic way to be sure that you are giving your body all of the protein, fat, and micronutrients it needs to keep going.  Journaling your food intake is just like keeping a monthly spreadsheet to budget your finances or tracking how many miles you can go between filling up your gas tank.  It’s an informative and healthy habit to have.

More than that, a food diary is the only way to hold yourself accountable for bad eating habits.  Like many people, I’ve wondered why it was I could never lose weight — I thought I ate a reasonable amount and that perhaps my body was just stuck like that.  Most of my immediate family was overweight, I thought perhaps it was genetic.  Then I started tracking every single thing I ate in a day, and I learned that I was eating exactly enough to maintain my weight, if not more sometimes.

Poor nutrition and obesity are an epidemic and there is simply no other way to describe it.  Obesity is a disease that is killing us, and yet at a time when information is at all of our fingertips, it’s difficult to find correct information on healthy eating and weight management.  Myths both new and old are hard to shake loose, particularly when social media provides a perfect ground for peddling to the uninformed.

So let’s go over some terms and knock out some myths.  Because one comfort in this is that while it’s not magic or easy, the formula for weight loss is very simple and it works for everyone.

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New York Fashion Week: Favorites & Trends

While New York Fashion Week was just over two weeks ago, it feels like I’m already far behind the times posting this review now.  But such is the world of fashion, especially during fashion month.  It’s an understatement to say things move quickly.

My lateness aside, I wanted to post this to review some pieces and collections that stood out to me, both to highlight clothes I might wear and those few designers that took interesting risks.  I have to agree with the top fashion editors that not enough collections felt risky or new this season.  I can respect that the world of fashion is undergoing significant changes at the moment — in the social media driven world, everyone wants to have the most Instagramable collection and consumers want what they’re seeing photos of now, which is why many designers are choosing to offer see-now buy-now collections.

A collection that is too risky, that introduces a too-new silhouette, that pushes consumers ideas about what beauty can look like too much is likely to sell less than something that meets existing expectations and comfort zones.  And financial risk aside, we’ve seen so much fast change in fashion in the last half-century — from A-lines to miniskirts, from dramatic flares to tight cigarette pants — it can feel like we’ve seen it all already, and that everything new is simply a rehash.  Strictly speaking, that is and isn’t true.  All art is a reference to previous art; it has to be.  In that view, nothing is new and yet, everything is.

This is a very substantial post as New York Fashion Week is an enormous topic.  You can use the following links to jump ahead: Trends (90s70sCelebrityCollectionsCutoutsCulottesFringeGradientsKnitsLurexMarijuanaPatchesRuffles); Favorites (for aesthetic & for wearability).

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Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, & Kiev

During fashion month, many of the cities with smaller fashion weeks get overlooked. While excitement about the rapidly approaching New York Fashion week rises, the collections from Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Kiev have already finished showing.

Below are some of my favorites from each of these four fashion weeks.  I would have to say Stockholm and Kiev tie for overall favorite weeks.  But the collection from Baum and Pferdgarten (Copenhagen) takes first place for my favorite collection.

Berlin Fashion Week

Fall fashion week in Berlin featured lots of black, which is both the chicest of colors and also an archetype of German fashion.  This season in particular designers drew inspiration from the punk styles of the 90s, the new Star Wars film, and fetishwear.

Augustin Teboul

Augustin Teboul Fall 2016 Berlin

The combination of a blazer, bandeau top, and skinny jeans is a fit we have seen on runways and celebrities for seasons.  Even the pairing of socks with pumps, while rare, is not novel.  Despite the popularity of this proportion, Teboul has given us a new way to wear it.

Teboul’s collections are influenced by fetishwear, and this fall features a unique way to style fishnets that I personally cannot get enough of.  Worn under a skirt or skinny pant and yet over socks and with a high enough waist to show under a crop top, the fishnets give a textural element to a look we’ve now seen a thousand times.

While I love the look of the black fishnets over red socks, I would like to see this done with beige-nude fishnets over black socks, still with black pants and shoes.

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Paris Couture Week Favorites & Trends

As anyone with an internet connection knows, Couture Week in Paris was a little over a week ago.  For many years I have followed fashion week after fashion week, experiencing it vicariously through Vogue editors and bloggers reports, occasionally posting exciting looks on twitter and more recently spamming my favorite looks from nearly every collection on tumblr.  I’ve decided to start compiling my favorite looks and writing up trends I am excited to be seeing on this blog, and my first attempt is here.

Some Favorite Looks

spring 2016 couture faves
Top-to-bottom, let-to-right: Alexandre Vauthier École Polytechnique uniform coat; Elie Saab Neru collar top and punjab pant; Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda black and gold cross dress; Maison Valentino sheer gown with gold detail.

Why these four looks?  To start, I am a sucker for École Polytechnique coats, and Vauthier created three spectacular versions in varying sleeve lengths with subtle tailoring differences.  The long sleeved show-opener was my personal favorite, both of the coats and his entire collection.

It was truly challenging to pick only one look from Elie Saab’s collection — the entire thing was nothing short of perfect.  Starting with the concept of a young woman traveling on holiday to India, connecting modern silhouettes and themes with timeless Indian ones.  Perhaps the best thing about Saab’s collection is that the Neru collars and sari sashes do not cross into costume territories.  One of my favorite details are the beige boots and the pants tucked into them, which come as unexpected in such a loose and feminine collection, yet do not feel out of place.

Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda collection received a standing ovation when it debuted in Milan.  One of my longtime favorite themes in D&G’s collections is their use of catholic imagery.  Crosses feature heavily in many of their lines, couture and ready-to-wear alike.  The comparative simplicity of the above look is what I like so much.  The bright contrast of black and gold, the unusual but familiar silhouette, and the dark red lipstick.  It is a vampy look that personally calls to mind what the most fashionable parallel universe version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Drusilla might wear.

As Dolce & Gabbana’s piece reminds me of a vampire princess, Maison Valentino’s is more directly referencing an elvish princess.  Barefoot with a floor length gown and decorated with bold jewelry, from literally head to toe.

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City Neighborhood Maps: a new side project

Last year, when some of my friends moved to New York City, a universal concern was learning city geography. In particular, the question of “what neighborhood is this?” came up frequently.  I started creating a map of NYC with neighborhood boundaries drawn on to help them learn (and also to learn them myself).

The initial intention was to fill in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the south Bronx, and near Queens. Eventually I got so into the process that I filled the entire city in.  I figure there are probably other people out there like myself and my friends who would be interested to see the map, and possibly some people who could offer corrections or additions (please send these types of messages here).

Since finishing the neighborhood outlines NYC map, I have started work on a few others with still more on my ‘hopeful’ list.  I also hope to eventually add small blurbs and even photos to each neighborhood.  I’ve started a separate site to keep track of my intermitent progress on all these maps, Cities by Neighborhood.

To see my NYC map, click here.

Marriage Equality, Pride, & Refusing to Be Invisible

NYC Pride as seen looking east on 5th Ave, between 12th and 13th St.

A few weekends ago, a couple friends and I went to the NYC Pride Parade.  It had been ten years since I had been to an LGBT event.  I’m not afraid of being out, nor am I suffering from internalized homophobia, but I do get exhausted by the internal politics of gay culture, and for awhile it was less uplifting and more frustrating to participate.

This year we had more than our usual annual pride.  We saw an undeniably historic SCOTUS decision.  I remember well when gay marriage was legalized in my home state of Massachusetts — I was 12 years old, had recently come out (or rather, been outed), and I ended up writing a paper for my English class on the issue.  At the time of writing said paper, I saw the issue, and the community, as fairly black and white.  Gay people and straight allies were categorically good — it was the kind of immature and dichotomous thinking that is characteristic of young teenagers (and that we see so often in Tumblr-brand slacktivism).  Later that same school year I attended my first pride parade in Northampton.  And it was one of the most depressing days of my young life.  The participants were all very homogenous: butch-adjacent lesbian couples in hiking mandals with young children.  The parade was for gay marriage and gay adoption rights.  It was — and there’s really no other word for it — conservative.

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Technology & Couture Meet at Paris Fashion Week

A week ago, Fashion Week was in full swing in Paris.  Fashion Week, whether in Paris, Milan, London, or New York, has always been known for a display of cutting edge notions of what beauty can look like.  Those who follow both Fashion Week and Apple’s releases might remember last year’s London Fashion Week, where the iPhone 5S’s slow motion video capability was debuted with an Instagram video of a Burberry runway show (video here).

Still from Burberry's iPhone 5S slow motion video of their Spring/Summer 2014 runway show at London Fashion Week.
Still from @burberry‘s iPhone 5S slow motion video of their Spring/Summer 2014 runway show at London Fashion Week.

Apple has been working to be seen as “fashionable tech” arguably since the clamshell iBook from fifteen years ago, which featured bright colors and rounded corners — a significant departure from the existing design of laptops.  As mobile phones became common place, so did phone cases and charms.  A fashionable person’s cell phone was not complete without a shiny cover or sparkly charm.  In the 90s, merely having a cell phone was a status symbol, but by the time Motorola introduced the RAZR, it was clear that the kind of cell phone you had was as important as simply owning one.  And this trend has skyrocketed since the invention of the Smart Phone.

As technology seeps deeper and deeper into our every day lives, it makes perfect sense that it becomes a part of our fashion aesthetic.  We carry our Smart Phones with us everywhere, and for many of us, they are constantly in our hand.  It functions in many ways like a clutch purse, but it is not limited to a feminine look and is far more likely to appear in a professional setting.

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