Every now and then, a terrible deed is counteracted by a really good one, and even though a lot of unfairly maltreated people never have anyone advocate for them let alone exact some measure of social justice from an unfair situation, when someone is vindicated, we can all at least console ourselves that the world isn't a thoroughly awful place — it's just mostly awful.
On Friday, an 11-year-old girl from the New Orleans metro area named Emily Mueller was treated to a private post-Mardi Gras party in the den of the popular all-women Mardi Gras paraders, the Krewe of Muses. She got to climb aboard the krewe's signature fiber-glass shoe and take home some of the best parade throws, including the super-rare glittered and bejewelled shoes that Muses riders hand out to lucky parade goers. What thoroughly terrible episode, you ask, could precipitate such a magical little event? Well, a week before, when Emily was attending the Muses Mardi Gras parade, — for which she had been preparing and calendar-crossing for 2 months — an jerky college guy called her a "retard" to her face.
Emily's mom, Amy Mueller, posted her account of the unexpectedly awful parade night on the blog NOLA Femmes on Thursday (by Friday morning, the story had received over 30,000 views and over 700 effusively sympathetic comments). She wrote that Emily, whom she describes as "a high-functioning autistic child," had been looking forward to the Muses parade since January 6th, going over the details of her outfit, daydreaming during math homework (which, to be fair, isn't really that hard to do), and crossing each passing day off her calendar with her special pen. Her mother, however, anticipated the parade with that extra touch of jaded caution adults glean from a lifetime of reading about and observing people be dicks to each other. She explained,
Since our first parades as New Orleanians a few years ago, our Mardi Gras holiday has consisted of Muses on Thursday and d'Etat on Friday. Having a spouse working in the restaurant business, Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras were never spent together – he is busy insuring everyone else has their spirits high on these two special days. And because my daughter is a high-functioning autistic child, we stayed away from the crowds of the super krewes. Just in case.
Just in case, say, a group of inconsiderately plastered college kids wandered by and started waving lit cigarettes around like they were off-duty orchestra conductors. Mueller describes the interlopers coming to stand directly in front of her and her daughter, forcing them to stand and back up away from the street. When one particularly tall and garrulous young man started spilling beer and flicking his cigarette dangerously close to her daughter's hair, Mueller politely asked him to be a little more mindful, a request that was met with pretty much the worst [verbal] response of all time.
He looked at me blankly, then looked at her. He looked at my daughter from head to toe, staring at the patch on her coat that would indicate she was autistic to medical personal should an emergency arise. He sneered at me before laughing in my face...
"Hey, man! I need to move. This woman is bitching at me because her retard daughter can't see the parade!" he shouted to a kid a few feet away.
He turned back to us, looked my daughter in the eye, and shouted to no one in particular. "This retard is making watching the parade a challenge."
Mueller then writes that her daughter was so heartbroken by the man's general awfulness that not only did she insist on skipping out of Muses early, she said, "I don't think I want to go to Mardi Gras anymore. Not ever again."
If it takes an acute douche bag to ruin Mardi Gras, then it requires a commensurately awesome group of people to save it, which is exactly what the Muses, along with almost all of the 700 + commenters on Mueller's post, did. In less than a day after the post went up, Staci Rosenberg, Muses' founder, opened the organization's den to Emily in an effort to make up for her bummer of a parade. Despite the short notice, many of the Muses members attended in full-force (and full costume), bestowing parade throws and dance numbers on Emily, who promptly pronounced the experience "overwhelming." A host of other groups turned up, including the nationally semi-famous 610 Stompers and the Rolling Elvi. Said Anne Titelbaum, a member of the marching/dancing group the Pussyfooters, "We're an all-women marching group. We support women - the mom and the little girl. We were all little girls at one time, and no one is perfect."
The "no one is perfect" aphorism goes double for the guy slinging "retard" around like he's Lady Gaga. But don't stress about the offending gentleman too much, everybody — if he was as wasted as Mueller claimed, then he definitely got bonked on the head with a bag of beads or a highly-coveted shoe, which he no doubt ignored to tend to the bump swelling on his big, stupid face.
Lit Up Like a Parade [NOLA Femmes]
Mardi Gras soul, in action, turns girl's parade nightmare into a dream come true [Nola.com]
Photos: Party for Emily Mueller at Krewe of Muses den [Gambit]