Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

In & Out, Either/Or, and Everything In Between

Sixth Grade (21)

In the poem, ‘Sixth Grade’ Lisa Dordal transports us to a warm June afternoon in which she is ‘married’ to a boy named Bruce under the watchful eye of her classmates. Dordal takes note that this event transpired in the “race-sore” seventies of southside Chicago. This stands out because their difference in skin tones is not the problem, it is their queerness that is not tolerated. I found this particularly interesting because it’s interesting to compare the 70’s in this particular instance, to today’s society. Today race and queerness are still touchy subjects individually, but now even more so if they are combined in the way they are in this sixth-grade marriage, (i.e. interracial same-sex marriage).

Secondly, Dordal’s attention to detail in the clothes that they both wore during the ceremony caught my eye when I later realized Bruce is also gay. Specifically, the color pink of Bruce’s oxford button-down, which from my own sixth-grade experience, recall cis-males stereotyping as being a gay color that straight males just can’t be seen in. This spurred my questions of whether or not their classmates knew that they were, in fact, marrying off two gay people. Did they make assumptions based off of visual cues such as this one? Or did they simply do it out of boredom?

Finally, what I found most striking was the remark that the officiant Peter, had said to Lisa. “…There were two types of women: that I was the kind men married, not the kind men used for practicing (what they never wanted to perfect).” I interpreted this as Peter telling her that he, and perhaps other boys liked her but did not find her sexually appealing enough to “use for practicing.”

Relating this to the rest of the collections of poem in Mosaic of the Dark, I wonder how Lisa Dordal had interpreted this remark herself. Clearly it made an impact on her because it made it into one of her poems. Yet I still find myself wondering if that remark was an insinuation that her classmates had their suspicions about her sexuality or if that boy in particular just didn’t find her attractive. Most notably, I wonder why this is the sort of thing that these sixth graders are concerning themselves with. I think that this serves to the point in time that this took place, where sexuality was slowly becoming more enthralled in conversations, and perhaps this was something that these kids were hearing from their parents. Which wouldn’t surprise me considering Lisa’s own mother was lesbian and that was a topic of conversation between her and her father.

1 Comment

  1. I originally took the comment about there being “two types / of women: that I was the kind men married” to be more of a sexist attempt at a compliment than an insult, although I can see your point about sexual appeal. I think that “the kind men used for practicing / (what they never wanted to perfect)” is definitely not a group of women that men look up to, although it’s possible that neither group is held in terribly high esteem.

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