Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's Just Not Me

Some of y'all may know that Tuesday was Mardi Gras.

Considering the fact that I've lived in New Orleans for most of my life, it should have been a day of celebration for me. However, it wasn't.

See, I don't "do" Mardi Gras.

Whenever I tell folks that, particularly folks from other parts of the country, they seem very shocked. How can I stand to live in one of America's ultimate party cities, and not go to the year's biggest party? Am I afraid of crowds? Allergic to beer?

It's none of those things. Primarily it's a religious thing and the issues I have with the origins and underlying purpose of Mardi Gras. Those beliefs were passed along by my parents who never celebrated the holiday, which actually made it quite easy for me to pass on it as well. It's what I've always done, so it's not a big deal to me.

What I've learned is that it is a big deal for some folks. It's like certain people see it as a personal affront that I don't "do" Mardi Gras. I don't know if they think I'm silently judging them, or if they believe I'm placing myself on a pedestal, but after folks get over their shock, they quickly start trying to convince me that I need to get involved with carnival.

Honestly, that's not that unusual in life. Lately, I've become more sensitive to the way people try to pressure you into behaving in a manner they deem acceptable. More importantly, as I've become more committed to rebelling against that pressure, I've come to understand the consequences of that decision.

How many of you all have been labeled outsiders? As I look back over my life, I find that I'm a study in contradictions, which has forced me to be an outsider. In church, I asked too many difficult questions. Outside of church, I was considered a "goody-goody." In school, the jocks thought I was too nerdy, while the nerds thought I was too much of a jock. With the ladies, I've been called too sensitive and inquisitive, while also managing to be tactless and bland.

For instance, I was fairly well-known in high school. But, I never had a single, really close friend in high school, and I don't keep in touch with any of the cats I hung out with back then. I was cordial with a lot of folks, but there was nobody whose house I visited, or anybody who came by my crib. My school life and home life were almost completely segregated.

I've often wondered if that's because I would never do enough to fit in. I have an incredible stubborn streak that requires me to do things my own way. As you all know, in order to "get along" with most folks you have to "go along" with them as well. People have an incredible need to see others conform and toe the line, even if they would claim to love individuality if asked about it in a survey.

We all carry around our internal visions of what the world should be like, and I think many of us are constantly trying to create that world when we interact with people. Some of us pressure people subtly, others are more direct, but all of us do it. Maybe if we become aware of this predilection, we can fight its influence in ourselves and in others. We can control our impulse to shape others.

We can let them be them.



ch555x said...

Mardi Gras came and went without me noticing, save a few crossed-out foreheads in my frontal view. I keep forgetting they still celebrate that in NOLA given the circumstances. I didn't even hear about it through the MSM. I, myself, don't celebrate it though I'm not from NOLA in the first place.

I'll co-sign on the self-segregatation as either the classmates were too exclusive or too inclusive for my tastes. Same with the jock/nerd or upper/lower income groups comparisons. Cuts back on any potential baggage or skeletal remains! Just do you and its gravy...

Mac Daddy Tribute Blog said...

Maybe it's because I grew up Muslim, but I wouldn't do Mardi Gras. But there's something else that bothers me about it: Tourists coming to other people's backyard to do the damnest things. Things they wouldn't dare do at home- they'll do it during Mardi Gras. It's kind of like all the environmental hazards white corporations like to drop in Native American and African American communities. There's something immoral and despicable about it.

Anonymous said...

I didn't make my first real, lasting friends until college. I was fortunate to have a pretty great batch of people to choose from in the floor I lived on in the residence hall, and they remained my friends throughout college and beyond, even though we're scattered across the nation and hardly see each other anymore.

I've never thought much about why those people have remained friends while others before and since come and go. But your posts makes me see part of it.

The core group I hung out with in college didn't have any expectations of me or the others in our core and extended group. We shared a lot of things in common, like political leanings and such, but we just took each other like we were and let each other be who we were. No pressure to be someone else or do something a certain way.

I realize now that's a lot more rare among "friends" than I ever thought.

Big Man said...

I had the same sort of situation. The cats I became cool with in college, I'm still cool with.

I would love to blame it all on tourists, but most of the really wild folks are actually from this area. I can't even blame the outsiders for the crazy stuff that happens.


I can agree on each of us staying true to ourselves, but what I was trying to point out is that while most of us want the freedom, often we suck at granting it to others.

Anonymous said...

Big Homey,

I have a friend I had to question recently, a 28-year-old Jewish girl who lives in LA but traveled to NOLA to kick it for Mardi Gras.

Considering what the holiday/party is about and precedes, doesn't that just seem odd? A jewish person kicking it at Mardi Gras?

That's America folks.

Anonymous said...

You know me...

Let the good times roll.

I got up my freshman year and we hopped the bus downtown to see Zulu in Feb '03 and I had friend who was on Zulu's float Feb '05, so I got me a good ol' coconut that year. And I ain't been back since then--for Mardi Gras at least, just was in NO two weeks ago just for the best ditch day ever--got to see the Hornets played the Celtics.

But, um, I like what Martin Luther said and I believe its applicable to Mardi Gras., "Sin boldly."

Unrelatedly, Big Man, are you an only child?

Anonymous said...

An outsider my entire childhood, into adulthood and still struggling at times with the fact that there is no "group" identity for me. Oh well, at least it resulted in me being comfortable with looking at a situation from the other person's pov and that's not as common as I would wish.

Big Man said...


Nah, I have a younger brother. He comments on hear under T.A,N. Man.

uglyblackjohn said...

C'est lez bon temps roulez!
I have a cousin who is a prof. at SUNO. Every year, she leaves town during Mardi Gras.

But the flip side of the friend thing is having so many that some people want to be your friend just because you have so many.
This becomes tiresome too.

Raving Black Lunatic