Conversation with an Anti-Liberal Arts Know-it-All (Spoiler, I lose)

“What do Franz Kafka, Emily Dickinson, and Anne Frank have in common?”

After yesterday’s graduation ceremony, this seemingly innocent question – posed by someone I had a beer with once – precipitated a most undesirable conversation.

“I’ll just tell you. They were all writers who were basically insignificant until after their death.”

I sensed something mischievous in Marcus’ employment of dark humor during a supposedly joyous moment, but I was distracted by the weak parallels. Anne Frank wasn’t even a writer for God’s sake. Instead of considering how he was trying to relate this simple utterance to my life, I mulled over my friend’s lack of propriety. You can’t just erroneously reference Anne Frank in casual conversation. What was this, Family Guy?

“Yeah! Who do you think you are? Seth Macfarlane?”

“Do I, um, what?”

I pushed this tangent back into the recesses of my brain.

“Nothing, that’s an interesting little fun fact.”

Really, we only had drinks once. Don’t feel obligated to enrich my life with things you read on the back of a Cocoa Puffs box.

“You know, I’m trying to make a point with this ‘little fun fact.’ You just graduated with a Liberal Arts degree…”

+1 for proper usage of air quotes.


“And you think you want to write…”

The look in his eyes became furtive. -1 for circumventing the impending lecture.


“And that’s not exactly an auspicious combination for arriving at success and financial stability.”

I pictured the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse using their scythes to chop off exactly half of this guy’s mustache. It looked like someone glued a wad of tousled straw to his face anyway. However well-intentioned his observation may have been, it was still a disparaging critique on the legitimacy of my degree.

“You don’t believe I can be successful as a Liberal Arts graduate?”

Choose your words carefully, cretin.

Not unless you’re reasonable about your options. Why are you wincing? Are you picturing me in some sort of agonizing situation? Can you be Xena and I’ll be the tortured victim?

You’re weird Marcus. Get out of my brain theater.

I was unwilling to admit that straw face had a point, as does every person who thinks that the College of Liberal Arts is like a permissive tribe of idealists, eager to apply enlightened and expansive philosophies (re: delusions) to the campaign for a more perfect world. Although switching majors my junior year wasn’t the best financial decision, it exposed me to a more sophisticated way of seeing the world – like a unique pair of glasses that turned the mundane into complex, the bland into beautiful. I couldn’t tell him that I was immensely excited about the esoteric debates I was now equipped to win.

“Have you ever read Hitler’s Mein Keimpf or The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides?”

“Do you know how to properly calculate derivatives? Do you know their economic functions?”

Poor Marcus, use that line and you’ll never get laid buddy…

“Use that line and you’ll never get laid. Perhaps I am unfamiliar with your business jargon, but I genuinely think that I’ve developed a greater awareness, not only of the world around me but of the people in it. I’d venture to say I’m more of a people person than you, Marcus.”

“My name is Brandon.”


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