The Day You Get Your MFA in Poetry

by Lindsay Miller

Today, you get your MFA in poetry. Today all your hard work and determination and binge-drinking and late nights crying over the thesaurus have finally paid off. Today the world is your seafood dish of choice.

Today your parents will call you long-distance to tell you congratulations, and that you’ve always been their favorite child. “An MFA in poetry — we couldn’t be prouder,” they’ll say. “It’s too bad your brother didn’t follow your example, instead of frittering away his time in medical school.”

Today, the girl who picked on you in junior high will send you a message on Facebook. “hey just saw u got ur mfa in poetry. wanted to say sorry i was so mean, u don’t have greasy hair i just said that because i was jealous. ur the person i always wanted to b. ps i am wastin my life in a dead end job and havent had sex in like a year.”

Today, if you tell the Starbucks barista that you got your MFA in poetry, she’ll give you half price on the tall beverage of your choice.

Today your ex-girlfriend will call you. Yes, the ex-girlfriend who moved to Alaska to get back together with her ex-boyfriend (well, her ex-ex, now-current boyfriend) because “the whole gay thing was just a phase.”

“I heard you got your MFA,” she’ll say, in her sultriest tone. “In poetry.”

“I did,” you’ll agree.

“That’s so hot,” she’ll murmur. “I’ve always wanted to sleep with someone who had her MFA in poetry. All my boyfriend has is a stupid MBA in non-profit management.”

“Bummer,” you’ll say.

“So I was thinking we should get back together,” she’ll say. “I’ve learned some super crazy new tricks to do with my tongue.”

“No thanks,” you’ll reply casually. “I’m deeply in love with someone who’s much hotter and funnier than you, and also has way bigger boobs.” You’ll hear her deep sigh of remorse and self-recrimination as you hang up the phone, and feel a faint pang at having broken her heart. But what can you do? Your life is about to become one long string of beautiful women throwing themselves at you, and you’ll have to learn to turn them down without feeling guilty. That’s just the way it goes when you have an MFA in poetry.

Today you will be offered the job of your dreams. Don’t say yes right away, because while you’re on the phone with them, you’ll get a call from another organization offering you the same job but for like three times as much. Tell them you’ll do it if they’ll throw in a helicopter. It will be in your backyard by five o’clock this afternoon. You can make those sorts of demands now — after all, you have an MFA in poetry.

Today, your agent (did you forget that you had an agent? Look again — her business card is on your refrigerator among the menus from your three favorite Thai delivery places) has been on the phone since six a.m. mediating the bidding war over your manuscript. “They’re going fucking wild,” she’ll text you, which will confuse you for a minute if you’ve forgotten that you have an agent and don’t recognize her number. “They’re willing to pay anything. Poetry is such a seller’s market right now.”

“I know,” you’ll text her back. “That’s why I got my MFA. It was an investment in my future.”

Today you can eat as much ice cream as you want and you’ll never feel nauseous or have a sugar crash. You have your MFA in poetry; you’re not going to let something as trivial as your metabolism slow you down!

Today all your financial problems are over. Today you are loved and appreciated by everyone you encounter. Today the ice in your drink will not melt too fast. Today you can wear button-down shirts and they won’t gap over your boobs. Today your teeth are looking really white. Today there is no weird smell in your car. Today everyone laughs at your jokes. Today your friends and family are throwing you a surprise party, and there will be cake, and anyone who uses the word “less” when they mean “fewer” will be asked to leave immediately.

For a moment, you may stop and wonder whether this is even fair — whether you deserve to be so happy and carefree. But then you’ll remember: of course you do. Because you have an MFA in poetry.

Lindsay Miller also writes this column.