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Why Is My Mother Getting A Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask

Jancee Dunn’s second memoir, Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask, is a laugh-out-loud funny and often touching set of anecdotes about her life; her big, quirky family; her many quirky friends; and her quirky self. A follow-up to Dunn’s first memoir, But Enough About Me, this book is a comedic look at her experiences working for Rolling Stone magazine.

With chapter titles like “Don’t be Weird” and “The Joys of a Breakfast Buffet,” Dunn switches topics frequently, but never loses the narrative pull. I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish this book, but still woke up in a good mood the next morning. Dunn’s humor is like a cross between Dave Barry and Erma Bombeck, with just a hint of an edge. She’s like the really funny friend you always tell stories about. She finds humor in day-to-day moments, the peculiar habits of her loved ones, and of course, self-deprecation. She compares herself to her mother thusly, “Not once have I seen her slop around the house past 8 a.m. in a bathrobe and slippers, whereas my at-home uniform is best described as Mommy Drinks.”

Dunn is a joyous consumer of culture, and her writing is peppered with music, food, and plenty of products (her father and grandfather both worked for JC Penney). Anyone who has ever read a celebrity weight loss book will giggle at “Secure Your Wig With Extra Hairpins Before Lovemaking,” the chapter Dunn devotes to all the crazy beauty advice given by celebrities from Brooke Shields to Elizabeth Taylor. (Think mayonnaise masks and “staying away from cocaine.”)

Conversations between Dunn and her best friend Julie are scattered throughout the book, and I found myself looking forward to those moments. Dunn includes full transcripts of their cell phone chats, from topics as trivial as a trip to Costco with Aunt Mattie to subjects as intimate as Dunn’s procreation decision. They are personal, amusing, intelligent, vulnerable, and an affirmation of the joys of an unconditional friendship.

As funny as it is, Dunn’s book is also an unashamed look at modern womanhood, with all of its challenges. She devotes a chapter to her initial struggle to decide whether to have children, and the many negative responses she gets when others find out she just isn’t sure. She and her husband face pressure from family, friends, and even strangers on airplanes: “I was so bone weary of yet another well-meaning but tactless person joining in the discussion of my sadly empty, tumbleweed-strewn uterus...” Her honest, self-aware description of her decision is refreshing, not to mention hilarious. She is not political. She is simply an “everywoman” trying to chart the best course for her life.

Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask is silly, witty, and emotional, just like it’s protagonist. Jancee Dunn lets you into her life, and unlike with some of those celebrity diet books, you actually want to stay.

Written by: Jennifer Wedemeier, August 16th 2009

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