We recently published Candace Hartsuyker’s gorgeous “At the Sixth Grade Picnic Lunch, We Are the Last Girls Standing.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) This piece, for me, brings back all those horrifying grade school moments being the kid who didn’t fit in, the kid who was never going to fit in. And yet there’s a touch of beauty — I love that you have found beauty here! Do you think this moment will change the girls? Or do you think it is a moment they have always been expecting, always been preparing for?
I do think the girls have always been preparing for this moment. One of the reasons I chose to write this story in collective first-person was to portray the universal experience of girlhood. Whether it’s prom or getting married or being auctioned off at a picnic lunch, there are all these traditions in society that seem to put more pressure on women than men. When I was in sixth grade, my elementary school had a picnic lunch, and I remember my friend had the expectation that the day would be perfect because the boy she liked would pick her, but he didn’t, and she was devastated.
2) I love the detail in the last moments of this story, the way the girl slaps the boy ” the same way women with sharp eyebrows and shoulders pads in old movies do.” That’s such a great and vivid description! Were you thinking of any movie in particular?
I was picturing Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce, which is a wonderful film noir that poses the question: how much will a mother sacrifice for her daughter? Joan Crawford is magnificent in this role; she is able to show despair one minute and steely determination the next. At the end of my story, one of the girls has a Joan Crawford moment: by slapping the boy, she has agency.