_howard-russell-logoAh, fabulous February! Nothing about your perversely truncated 28 days (sometimes 29, all right!) is homosexually sane: What other month ever dared even invent two holiday celebrations more diametrically lunatic for gay psyches to absorb than Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras — one a paean to cartoon monogamy, eternally held hallow; the other a Dionysian bender of sybaritic revelry? Why, it’s enough to pull one’s purple, green and gold extensions out.

Let’s get right to it.

Dear Howard,

My question ought to be easy as Mississippi mud pie: All I’m trying to nail down, man, is when does 2017’s Mardi Gras “Carnival Season” start? My buds and I were hoping to paint New Orleans red this month during “pre-season” festivities at some point, but I can’t get a straight answer out of any website about even when the parties actually kick off, except they all agree Fat Tuesday is on Feb. 28. You got any clarity, at all, to lend? — Dylan

Dear Dylania,

Clarification is my Lenten middle name; Now, suck in a deep, aromatic whiff of Café du Monde’s powdered-sugar beignets, princess, and follow along attentively — very attentively — down this yellowed, rhinestone-brick road.

2017’s Mardi Gras indeed takes place Feb. 28. Mardi Gras is always the day before Ash Wednesday (the start of Lent); “Carnival Season” refers to the weeks between Jan. 6 (the twelfth night, and canonical last day, of Nativity) up to Fat Tuesday, which must alway precede Easter by (who knows why?) 47 days. All the parades, parties and perversities truly begin kicking into high gear, though, on the Thursday before Mardi Gras. More confusing, still —stay here on the road with me, Dyl — the “official” parade season this year starts on Feb. 17, the second Friday before Mardi Gras. Nonetheless, plenty of “unofficial” parades began already gamboling through The Quarter as early as the aforementioned, final “official” day of Christmas, Jan. 6. Determining the season’s true start every year is (I’m 100 percent with you!) just frustratingly beyond a throw-your-beads-in-the-gutter-baffling endeavor. (And all these rules apply only to how New Orleans celebrates it — Shreveport, La., Mobile, Ala., and other cities have their own traditions.) It’s especially dispiriting when taking into account that all The Quarter’s decent hotels sell out, prohibitively, months in advance of “The Season,” and that Mardi Gras never takes place on the same successive wintertime date(s) twice yearly in a row… or that Dear Howard’s agnostic brain is totally incapable of retaining anything about these loopy perversities annually cooked into Catholic theology. Hence, for king cake’s sake, Dylancy, please do not force me again to pull out my my astronomical sextant, my Antikythera celestial navigation mechanism, plus my astrolabe, cross-staff and abacus, all, to chart for you, too, next year’s 2018 Mardi Gras date: In essence, sugah, all you gotta remember whenever visiting N’Awlins is that the party will always be there.

Dear Howard,

I’m only 26, but already my shoulder-length wavy hair — my glorious trademark — is going thin. I’ve tried Nioxin, Rogaine, Pura d’or, Toppik, but nothing helps. My roommate, Skinhead Cecil, told me about “follicle-stimulating” baseball caps being the latest miracle thing — they’re equipped with, like, hair-growth lasers inside them? Anyway, he says all you have to do is wear the cap for 30 minutes every other day. They’re really kind of expensive, though — 799 bucks  — but shouldn’t I buy one, just the same, if it really works? — J. C. Earl

Dear Jheri Curl,

OK, Curly June, I reserve broadcasting here for my respected readers the marketing label of this “miracle” baseball cap that Cecil catfished you on, except to warn that it begins with the letter “C,” has eight letters total and rhymes, roughly, with the word “bacillus.” May I just add, too, J.C., that your $800 (excuse me, your mere $799) would be far more pleasurably squandered by rolling all seven hundred ninety-nine single bills into a cylindrical wad, and packing it through any restroom glory hole along with your copper-infused, compression workout gear, your electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) body electrodes, plus Cecil’s retro-’70s mood rings y’all discovered in his “bachelor” uncle’s attic next to those old issues of Honcho (you know, the dog-eared ones with their centerfolds’ pages all mysteriously stuck together). At least that exercise — while costing you the same amount of money — might bring you some actual pleasure and not make you look like a naive hick who believes in magic beans and that trickle down economics really works.

Dear Howard,

Here goes nothing: Have you ever gotten, say, any inappropriate “solicitations” from your readers? I’m accusing Valentine’s this month for equipping me with the nerve to ask my next, follow-up question: Are you single? — Roger

Dear Over-&-Out,

Why, bless your nervy heart, you sweet and sweetly inappropriate thing, you. Sweeter than a heart-shaped, crimson moiré box of cream caramels, you are, with a vermilion satin bow on top!

— Howard Lewis Russell

Do you have a question — about etiquette, love, life or work — that needs an answer? Send your problem to AskHoward@DallasVoice.com and he may answer it.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2017.