Interview with Jancee Dunn, music journalist and author of “Why Is My Mother Getting A Tattoo?”

by Caren on September 29, 2010

JanceeNewPhoto2Each Wednesday, we post short interviews with interesting people about their thoughts and feelings on women and drinking. There is such a wide array of perspectives about this topic, and we are excited to gain insight into as many as possible and to share them with you.

Jancee Dunn has written three books: But Enough About Me, a memoir, Don’t You Forget About Me, a novel, and Why Is My Mother Getting A Tattoo? She lives in Brooklyn.

Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?

Jancee Dunn: I was 16. Lauren Suraci’s parents were out of town and she had a huge party. I drank one of those hideous mixtures of liquor taken from some unsuspecting parents’ liquor cabinet. I remember it looked and tasted exactly like NyQuil, thanks to a healthy dose of vermouth and crème de menthe.

How did your family treat drinking?

Every night, my folks had a scotch (in the winter) or a gin and tonic (in the summer). Then maybe they’d have cheap wine with dinner. So it was casual and not very extreme, which was nice.

Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?

A few months after college, I got a job at Rolling Stone, and I went out every single night and pretty much drank like Nicholas Cage’s character in Leaving Las Vegas, as I went to bars and music clubs.  When I got promoted, I was astonished to find that I could sometimes expense my bar tab, because I was ‘on the job.’  Whoo!

What’s your drink of choice? Why?

These days I like room-temperature tap water, and, when I’m feeling nutty, chocolate milkshakes. I stopped drinking about ten years ago.images

Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?

I was sent to interview Kim Deal when she was in the Breeders and doing the Lollapalooza tour in Atlanta. It was for a ‘Women In Rock’ themed issue and she was not into it. She wouldn’t answer any of my questions—instead she just kept plying me with tequila. She got me so drunk that at one point I was yelling, “Answer my questions!” and she would laugh and holler “No!” Somehow we started wrestling on the lawn of the venue as the guy who wears diapers in P-Funk wandered by. Then she dragged me to the place where the Beastie Boys were playing and brought me up to the side of the stage, and we danced (terribly, I’m sure, because we were about ten sheets to the wind at that point). I got maybe three sentences of quotes and the piece was killed, but I had a great time. That Kim Deal is a lot of fun.

What about the worst time?

It was during the end of my run at Rolling Stone and I had gone to a party and had too much whiskey. I felt so awful the next day that I couldn’t stand upright. I used to get debilitating hangovers, even with two drinks, and when I was younger I would ignore them and still be able to function. Well, this time I couldn’t function – couldn’t go to work, couldn’t eat, couldn’t do anything.

Do you have a favorite book, song, or movie about drinking?

I love Kate Christensen’s In the Drink. Everyone I know was reading that book when it came out and it really captured how many of us were feeling at the time.

Why do, or don’t you, choose to drink?

I really stopped because it made me feel so lousy. I’m not in any sort of program – I just quit. Now, even if I have half a glass of wine, I get a screaming headache the next day. It just isn’t worth it. My motivator is really a fear of hangovers. I have a toddler and I see how much my fellow parents live for that end-of-the-day glass of wine (and I see now why toddlers are often compared to drunks, with their slurred speech, wobbly gait, and quick tempers).  I wish I could join in, but I just can’t. I do feel better without alcohol, although it’s harder to go to events and parties without a little Dutch courage. Like many people, I’m a little shy, and it’s daunting sometimes to take a deep breath and walk into a room. But I do it, and I’m always glad I did.