The Migraine Excuse
With the advent of sophisticated new drugs (Maxalt, Zomig and the soon-to-emerge Amerge) and highly specific advice (like avoiding freshly baked bread), migraine sufferers may rejoice. But the miraculous medical technology brings with it a cloud: the slow, inexorable death of the migraine as social excuse.
Really, there is-was-no single ailment more perfectly suited to the demands of modern etiquette than this particular brand of headache, with its attendant crippling nausea.
Take this sample scenario. One shows up at a foolishly prearranged appointment: a “kickoff” party for one of the several hundred thousand film festivals about town, perhaps. One’s host is late and-darting a glance at the assorted cell phones, sideburns and gleaming leather jackets-one realizes she simply lacks the strength to stay. And-what’s this-aren’t the lights a bit brighter, weirder than usual? Aha! The famous scintilla (the aurora borealis-like halos that foreshadow a migraine by approximately half an hour) have arrived. With triumphant urgency, one scribbles a note ( I feel a migraine coming on-nothing to do but knock myself out with codeine ) and escapes in a dramatic screech of taxi.
Later, of course-under the sheets, with the shades drawn-there is the thudding, righteous punishment, in the form of the actual headache. But it is worth it. Now that the condition has been established ( she gets horrible migraines ) the excuse-with its elegant, plastic interval-may be endlessly replayed, downplayed, played up, even when it isn’t, strictly speaking, true (because who knows when it might become true?). A blissful reserve of uncommitted social space in which to maneuver!
A space that has, all of a sudden, shrunk tight as a vise. Yes, thanks to Glaxo Wellcome, Zeneca Pharmaceuticals and those know-it-alls down at Merck in West Point, Pa., the perfect social excuse is no more. Isn’t there something you can take for those? they’ll say. And “they’ll” be right. Pass the bread.
The Hair Menace
Everyone has his own take on why Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace turned out to be inferior to the other Star Wars films. So far, George Lucas has taken the heat for blowing $115 million on this exercise in suckhood. But perhaps Mr. Lucas is not the one to blame. Maybe it’s … Sue Love.
Sue Love did the hair for The Phantom Menace . She began her film career in 1984, doing hair for the Rob Lowe rowing picture, Oxford Blues . Mr. Lowe sported an unflattering cut in that one similar to the coif that former New York Jet Mark Gastineau used to ruin football-player hair in the 80′s. Weighed down by Mr. Lowe’s droopy ‘do and a slack script, Oxford Blues was no blockbuster.
A number of other projects since have fallen to the Sue Love Hair Curse. She did Charles Bronson’s rat-hair cop cut for Death Wish III . It, like Oxford Blues , got no Oscar nominations and did not gross much in theaters. Other films that may-we repeat, may -have failed because of Ms. Love’s hairstyles are Pascali’s Island (1988), Carry On Columbus (1992) and The Fifth Element (1997). Is it cruel to note that, after Ms. Love did Sean Young’s hair in the thriller A Kiss Before Dying , her career fell apart? In her pre-Sue Love days, Ms. Young had sexy roles in No Way Out and Blade Runner ; post-Sue Love, she played a man in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and appeared on The Howard Stern Show .
Ms. Love’s power to destroy a film was tested by Braveheart , for which she gave actor-director Mel Gibson a hair style that could have been plucked from a fanzine for Eastern European metal bands: long and stringy in back, with a shortish, curly hair poof in front. Still, Braveheart won the Academy Award for best picture and best director in 1996. It seems that Ms. Love and Braveheart were a good match. You’ve heard of bad hair days? The Dark Ages was one long bad hair period.
The Phantom Menace takes place a long time ago, too, but Star Wars movies have a tradition of great hair. The original gave us Harrison Ford’s frat-boy shag, Mark Hamill’s homoerotic beach-boy mop, the blow-dried Humperdinckian sex appeal of Chewbacca … not to mention those Studio 54-ready cinnamon buns on Princess Leia’s head.
The Phantom Menace is another story. Liam Neeson, as Qui-Gon, wears a variation of the Sue Love Braveheart cut. Mr. Neeson’s hair style-ponytail in back and hair cascading down his shoulders-is a style favored by certain Midwesterners who play Christian-themed rock guitar with lots of distortion. Mr. McGregor, as Obi-Wan Kenobi, wears a spiky cut with a samurai-style pony tail on the back of his head and a rat tail hanging down to his nipple. This hairstyle- red hot in the suburbs in, oh, 1984-is now the preferred style of the 11-year-old soccer-crazed son of permissive parents from Minnesota or Kansas.
It looks as though Ms. Love barely styled the hair of young Jake Lloyd, who plays Anakin Skywalker. It is shaggy and one length all the way around. Maybe Ms. Love was pressed for time after the elaborate hexing of Mr. McGregor’s and Mr. Neeson’s heads. Or maybe she just plopped a Darth Vader helmet on Mr. Lloyd’s head and gave him the Jedi Bowl Cut.
All of the essays, reviews and reports included in this book originally appeared elsewhere. The author gratefully acknowledges the original publishers.
“On Not Saying I Love You” first appeared in Harper’s Magazine , January 1993.
“The New Americana” first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly , February 1988.
“Sleeping Through Breakfast” first appeared in Breakfast and What They Did With It: An Anthology of Writers in Their Twenties Encountering the First Meal of the Day , edited by Debra Spark and Thomas Beller, copyright 1993 by the author.
“Notions of Ass” first appeared, in somewhat different form, in Allure , June 1995, under the title “Tighter Buns in 10 Days.”
“My Penis, My Self” first appeared in GQ , May 1995.
“I’ve Never Read T.C. Boyle” first appeared on “The Breakfast Table” section of Slate , December 21, 1998. Reprinted by permission.
“A Moveable Beast” first appeared in Imaginary Encounters With Ernest: 34 Writers in Their Twenties Spend Time With Hemingway , edited by Thomas Beller and Darcey Steinke, Grove Press, 1994.
“Justine Bateman Is a Scary Woman” first appeared in Rolling Stone , Oct. 28, 1989.
“A Week in Health-Spa Hell” first appeared, under the title “Ladies and Gentlemen … the Rock-Hard Male,” in Esquire , January 1995.
“Against Air Conditioning” first appeared in Yankee , June 1991, and was reprinted in Reader’s Digest , August 1991.
“My Dinner With Hitler” first appeared in The New Yorker , June 26, 1994.
“On Getting Drunk” first appeared in Harper’s Magazine , April 1997.
“Liz Phair Is Not Amused” first appeared in Rolling Stone , Feb. 22, 1995.
“My First Boat” first appeared in Boating and Yachting , September 1995.
“Trashed in Europe” first appeared, in somewhat different form, under the title “Chug-a-Lug, Matey! 12 Hot Spots,” in Loaded , May 1997.
“I Probably Should Have Driven Her to the Place” first appeared in Hidden Shames: Male Writers Express Regret Over How They Behaved When Their Girlfriends Had Abortions , edited by Elizabeth Wurtzel and Thomas Beller, St. Martin’s Press, 1995.
“Cramps in the Airport” first appeared on Doodie.com, May 1998.
“Woody Allen Has a Cold” first appeared in In Flight Magazine , October 1998.
“She’s Got Leaving On Her Mind” first appeared, under the title “Is She Dumping You? 13 Warning Signs,” in Maxim , May 1997.
“Nope, I’m Not Gay” first appeared in Out , April 1997.
“The New, Improved S.A.T.” first appeared in The New York Times , Op-Ed page, Jan. 19, 1982.
“She Dumped Me” first appeared in Marie Claire , August 1997.
” Housesitter to Mixed Nuts to Spanish Prisoner : The Later Films of Steve Martin” was commissioned (but not published) by American Film . Copyright 1998, American Film, Ltd.
“Selling the Boat” first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly , September 1997.
“On Not Being Ironic” first appeared in Harper’s Magazine , June 1994.