Don’t Be a “Drag”

“The dress is an oil slick. The dress / ruins everything. In a hotel room / by the water, I put it on when / he says, I want to watch you take it off. /” (Jones 29).

In the first few lines of “Drag”, I think the narrator implies how his family’s homophobia bleeds into his relationships. I think the dress symbolizes the speaker’s queerness and the confidence that he has gained in understanding his identity. However, simultaneously, “the dress ruins everything”, which may represent how the narrator’s self-worth is decaying. As the narrator distracts himself by looking out of the window, the poem captures the narrator’s split between embracing his “drag”, and being consumed by self-hatred, which is symbolized by the oil spill. Based on the other poems in this set, I think these lines comment on how queer people are made to feel that they are dark and dirty, like an oil spill.

The image of oil versus the water creates a binary, where oil symbolizes unhealthy self-esteem, and the narrator as a whole, and the water symbolizes purity, and what the narrator’s father hoped he would be. The symbol of water reoccurs in the poem with lines like, “the rain has owned us” (Jones 29), which I think comment on how the narrator still feels indebted to his father because of the abuse he suffered. In turn, this hatred is like an oil spill, ruining his relationships.

The title of this poem is also relevant. The narrator puts on the dress so he feels secure in his identity. However, even with the dress on, I think he still feels like a drag, a burden, an oil slick, like he’s ruining everything.

I think these lines are representative of Jones’ internalized homophobia and the remaining effects that still linger from his father’s abuse.

4 thoughts on “Don’t Be a “Drag””

  1. I think it’s really interesting that you say how the narrator’s internalized homophobia that he’s learned from his family is bleeding into his relationships. This theme of dresses representing shame and self-hatred shows up a lot in Jones’s poetry. For example, in Closet of Red, he writes “There’re always more/ corseted ghosts, red-silk bodies crowd/ my mouth. I would say no, please.” In both of these poems, it is clear that Jones is facing an internal fight of both a love and a deep shame for his queer identity.

  2. I really love your analysis of the poem. When I was reading it, I was more focused on the literal meaning of the dress, so I did not understand the metaphors as much. I also feel like themes of this poem, in a sense, relate to Gloria Anzaldua’s writing. In her short essay, she talks about queer women of color’s response/ interactions with a world that does not accept them as they are and how they feel about that. Both these works cover their responses to the hatred and stereotypes in the world. Jones’s poem differs in the way that he is directly addressing his family’s influence on his perseption of self/ self acceptance, while Anzaldua’s is more about Queer women of color’s rage/ sense of injustice at society and systems.

  3. I love your analysis, especially the image of water vs. oil creating the split between purity and being dirty. As you made the connection between the lyrical I having low self-esteem and feeling dirty, due to the remaining effects of the fathers’ abuse, I needed to thing about the poem “History, according to a boy” section 14. In that part the lyrical I also experiences physical violence from their father who disrespects his son for masturbating to gay porn. Both poems represent violence towards queer people and the consequences of the abuse the victims carry with them for the rest of their lives.

  4. The analysis on “oil & water” portrays how deep your understanding is to this poem, and personally, I love this analysis. I have never thought of such parallel image between water and oil being purity and dirty, because for me, the author’s queerness and low-self esteem seems to be identified with the dress. The decay of the author’s confidence being with the line “the dress ruins everything”, in my opinion, is a well-thought analysis that directly connects to his low-self esteem as it correlate to the image of the oil – for the author himself feeling dirty.

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