1. If you don’t have a sense of humor, you might not want to continue reading this.
2. I don’t know how much experience you’d need to be called an “expert” in this area, but I don’t claim to be one. I’m more of a “coach”.
3. This is all my opinion and if you have a different opinion, write your own damn manifesto.
4. Public nudity is a crime in New Orleans, even during Carnival. Don’t call me to bail you out if you get arrested.
5. You will not find nudity in this post. Move on if that’s what you’re here for.
Flashing? What is this “flashing” you speak of?
Generally referring to women lifting their shirts to expose the breasts. At men. Sometimes for trinkets, to be on camera, or just because they want to. Flashing can also be done by men unzipping the pants. Women too can flash the lower half but this is really not advisable for anyone. We are not going to talk about the lower techniques here. As stated above, flashing is illegal and a lower-half flash is an excellent way to get arrested and sit in jail until Ash Wednesday. Keeping in mind that this is illegal and you still want to flash someone while you are enjoying Mardi Gras, this manifesto will help you with ways you can play the bead-trading game in as positive a way possible. By the way, why won’t you get arrested every time you flash? Several reasons. Police officers are stretched very thin trying to keep all the Mardi Gras chaos at an acceptable level. Their major concern with crowd control is keeping everyone safe and healthy. They are looking for pickpockets, people fighting or trying to start a fight, public urination, and other obvious buzz-killers. Most are willing to let flashing go on to a certain point as long as people aren’t fighting each other to get a look or backing up big crowds where pickpockets get the most work. Best to do your thing and move on – not cause a traffic jam over your boobs. The best advice I can give you on avoiding an arrest if you must do this is to not flash around police officers, and certainly don’t do it if an officer has told you not to. Seriously – if you do it anyway at that point you deserve to spend some time in jail. Respect the NOPD and all the other law enforcement brought in for the Carnival season. They work hard for little thanks. This manifesto assumes that you are wandering the Bourbon Street area in public, jealously staring at people wearing fantastic beads that you MUST have but aren’t about to pay for. It also assumes that you are a lady with discriminating taste – not some drunken sorority girl about to puke on the Girls Gone Wild cameraman after making out with your sister and yelling “Hi Dad!”
Ladies Demand Quality
There are many levels of beads out there ranging from below-average parade beads to Presidential beads (which means you will be asked to “show the President” and is no longer nearly as funny now that GW’s out of office…). If this is your first Mardi Gras you will want every strand of beads tossed your way and it will blow your mind as you see how many different types there are. Hopefully, you won’t even see the below-average parade beads because most float riders in parades don’t bother to throw them anymore. If you have to undo a plastic clasp to put them on, you don’t need those beads. I don’t mean any disrespect to riders – they pay for those beads they are throwing us and can choose to buy whatever they’d like. It’s their money and I love them for spending it on us. Catch all the beads you can at parades and take them home for the kids, but we are talking about beads you are willing to “trade” for (far away from the kids) in this document. Notice what types of beads are easily available by attending a parade or two. When you see a person on the street or on a balcony offering up beads of that caliber if you will lift your shirt, please pass on the offer. Ladies Demand Quality!!! I cannot stress that enough. You are worth more than that. I don’t care if your boobs are big or small, perky or pierced, they are all lovely and worth quality beads. What do I mean by quality? Big beads, long beads, beads with characters strung into them, beads that light up – there are even beads that play music. By big beads I suggest the beads be the size of a quarter or larger. Long beads would be ones that hang at least to your waist but to your knees is even better. Characters could be ANYTHING! This is the largest selection of what I consider quality. You’ll never have them all and every year there are new ones to choose from. The possibilities are endless – rubber duckies, shot glasses, butterflies, parrots (with real feathers!), dice, frogs, sports team logos, cartoon characters…I could go on and on and not cover 2% of the possibilities. Beads that light up and play music are self-explanatory. Glass beads are even making a comeback; don’t discount them just because they’re small. And then there are always some specialty items that you might want to trade for, such as Hooter Meter beads (which means you’d have to try on the Hooter Meter and you’ll know it when you see it, trust me) or a Certificate of Exposure from the Judges set up in the Royal Sonesta bar on Fat Tuesday (again, you’ll recognize them when you see their long white wigs and black robes). Look for the guys with piles of quality beads around their necks. These men are good guys to deal with!
First, thanks to a great man named Chicago Tim for summing up this whole process as Boobie-Economics. It’s genius. At this point we know you are willing to flash for some beads, and you know what types of beads are worth the transaction. The first flash is the toughest, but after that you’ll wonder what the big deal was all about and get that look of a hunter stalking her prey. But not everyone you see is someone you want to deal with. It would be helpful at this point if you have read the award-winning (as if) “Field Guide to Mardi Gras Males”, but not essential. Like many layers of bead quality, there are many layers of bead-trader quality. As the Sweet Potato Queens say often: “Be Particular”. You can either trade with people who are on balconies or people right in front of you on the street. Some people flash at parades and trade with float riders but this is NOT recommended. You are not on Bourbon Street during a parade and you may be around children. Those two things make it far more likely that you will be arrested. I believe most Krewes also tell their float riders that they should not be encouraging flashing, but of course many riders ignore this. Back to Bourbon Street: you have the balconies and you have the guys standing right next to you. MG flashing virgins may initially feel more comfortable with the idea of flashing someone who is far away on a balcony while they are on the street below. However, balcony transactions have some serious drawbacks for several reasons. It’s hard to tell if you are dealing with Bourbon Street Gentlemen or the type who likes to Bait and Switch, by hanging nice beads over a balcony but actually throwing you something else of lesser quality. Then there’s all the yelling and pointing you have to do to set up a transaction. Waiting for someone with quality goods to notice you can sometimes be very frustrating (not to mention tough on the ego). And of course, the longer loud negations go on, the more guys will circle around you with their cameras ready to take pictures of you when the shirt finally does go up. Now, it’s a fact of Boobie-Economics that photos and videos will be taken. You’re a fool if you think you won’t be caught on film during a transaction. But Ladies try to keep that type of exposure to a minimum. Are all those Freeloaders going to give you any good beads? Hell no! There needs to be some give and take in every transaction – not just take. The more people huddled around you, the more likely one will try to grab a little something they have no business touching. That’s called sexual assault and wasn’t part of the deal. And before people think it: Saying you “asked” to be grabbed because your shirt was up is ridiculous. Negotiating a transaction on the street with someone is generally faster from start to finish than a balcony transaction, and you get a better feel for if the guy (or gal – don’t want to be sexist here) is a creep. Plus, it is possible to complete a transaction quietly and before anyone around the two of you even knows what is going on. Nothing’s funnier than hearing a “DAMN!” to your side as you put your shirt down and see some dude fumbling with his camera, trying in vain to get some breasts on film. It’s fun to catch the Freeloaders off guard.
Practice Makes Perfect
Having a good strategy is what separates the Ladies from the Tramps. And you want to be a Lady, don’t you? There are some things you may want to practice at home before you get to New Orleans. They may sound silly now, but practice makes perfect – and willing significant others can’t get enough of your practice. The most important thing to practice – and the thing flashing newbies have trouble with – is the proper exposure time. As in: how long does my shirt have to be up? Long enough. If you are a speed-flasher, you better be prepared to do it again if you want any beads. Fair’s fair – let them see what they wanted to see so they will feel it is worth trading their beads. I don’t mean they are deciding if your chest is good enough to give beads to, so don’t worry about that. If someone has agreed to the transaction that means they are an admirer of breasts, and while admirers may have their favorites I can assure you that all boobs are good boobs to them. So you need to work on your timing and a good way to do it is this: Lift the shirt and count to yourself “ONE Mardi Gras, TWO Mardi Gras!” and then put the shirt down (and claim your prize!). The two-second rule seems to please everyone, including whoever you are practicing with. Once you have the timing down you can work on presentation if you’re really an overachiever. But even without a shimmy or bounce, you will meet with great success. Two seconds may feel like forever, but it’s not long enough for many Freeloaders to get the cameras ready, unless they could tell what would happen and prepared ahead of time. Another aspect of the trade you could practice is your approach. There – I said it – have I lost some of you? You should be approaching people with good beads who have good vibes and initiating the trade. I’m always coaching Ladies who are amazed that they are “allowed” to do the asking, and that’s just sad. If you want to accumulate you need to initiate! Don’t give me the shy southern belle crap; men are often just as reluctant to ask the hottie walking by as the hottie is to ask. The guy doesn’t know if you are a flashing type of gal, but most guys are willing to deal. What do you ask? Well, that’s up to you and that’s what you practice. You could spot something you like and simply ask the person – “Hey, could I have that?” I think that’s a little greedy but it works because he will counter your offer most likely with a request to flash. Or “Those are nice beads – could I flash you for them?” I look for guys with piles of great beads on because I know exactly what they are wearing them for. It’s not their neck and back health. “Hey, you look like a man who knows how to do some bead trading. I’m interested in those (point to your favorite) – what do you say?” Nine out of ten times you will end up with those beads. The tenth time you’ve picked someone who is a complete idiot because you are fabulous, so just smile sweetly and tell them happy Mardi Gras and move on. It’s their loss.
You’ve spotted that set of beads you having been dreaming of (or are jealous of your friend already having). They are hanging around the neck of someone who looks friendly enough, and doesn’t seem drunk enough to be dangerous. He doesn’t give you the creeps. Do you look okay? You know, lipstick not smeared all over your face, you didn’t just have a hurricane spilled all over you? Hand your drink to a friend (it’s hard to lift your shirt without spilling your Huge Ass Beer) and put forth your offer to the guy!
With whatever magic words you’ve decided to use here, let’s assume his response is positive. First, you need to make sure your partner-in-trading is ready for the show. Many times they want to get the camera ready so allow them a chance to get the camera out and focus where they are going to focus (hint: it ain’t your face so relax). Don’t be standing around looking all sneaky with your hands gripping the bottom of your shirt for 5 minutes while the camera gets ready (that draws attention from Freeloaders). As with a speed-flash, there’s nothing more annoying than having to re-expose because someone’s camera wasn’t ready. If you are lucky he’s not carrying a camera around his neck and just wants to see you in action, not record you on film (pretty rare). That makes things easier because fewer Freeloaders will be tipped off to the impending transaction.
At this point, your posse of bodyguards should be discreetly surrounding you on your left and right sides. The posse normally consists of ladies taking turns with you on the bead-earning circuit and/or some men who don’t get distracted or jealous when you flash (these types of men are rare but wonderful). They are not only standing in the way of Freeloader cameras, but they are a physical barrier from people who might try to cop a feel. The key is for them not to be obvious. They shouldn’t be slapping cameras out of people’s hands and creating a scene like rock star bodyguards, because that is when arrests happen. Remember, you will be caught on film once in a while and you don’t have to rejoice it, but you have to be okay with it happening.
So you’re totally nervous and details of the deal have been agreed on. Everyone is ready and it’s time for the lift…UP!
ONE MARDI GRAS, TWO MARDI GRAS!
Claim you beads! You can do any necessary readjustment after you get the beads. In fact, if you are lucky enough to be comfortable going braless, readjustment isn’t even necessary. Be polite, help him untangle your beads from whatever else he is wearing, smile and say –
“Thanks honey, happy Mardi Gras!”
Now go get yourself some more beads.