English majors. Paperback-sniffing, semicolon-slinging, hairy-hearted mystics of the collegiate pantheon. Boys and girls with corduroy souls, cracked paperbacks, marginalia tattoos. The depths of English majordom are dark and deep, my friends, and this has been written about before, but here are some (new, very advanced) ways to know you’re a part of it:
1. You know the pleasant, slightly inebriated feeling of sitting in a room of people paying $50,000 to talk about the color of the moon in a paragraph by J.D. Salinger.
2. You have read a Paul de Man passage multiple times while being unable to think of anything but “this guy has such a cool name.”
3. Colloquia. You’ve gone to them. Heard a graduate student in a J. Crew shirt discuss “the real.” And then you ate five small scones that were nearly as beige as the graduate student.
4. You have masturbated to a lowborn protagonist in a novel written before 1900.
5. Lo: the academic colon. You have written enough papers with a colon in the title to develop, for the rest of your life, two tiny circular holes in your intellect.
6. You have visited a professor’s home and drooled at the ethnic decor and the twee-but-beautiful names of their children: Theo, Pia, Oliver. What you would give to have a trio of red-cheeked children with those names, playing with artisanal marbles on that Moroccan rug!
7. You know the difference between parataxis and hypotaxis.
8. You know that there are two types of books on Earth: those with serif and sans serif fonts. Serifs always add a few ounces to a book’s weight.
9. When it comes down to it, you share one fantasy with all English majors: to wrap yourself in brownish-red scarves as you gaze out at trees that have been kissed by sweet, sweet October. As you do this, autumn fingers you from behind and whispers in your ear, you are young and full of promise.
10. You know that reading a nineteenth-century novel is like riding a boat. You lift your feet off the ground, take a seat inside a ten-line sentence, and ride it out to the middle of the ocean.
11. You never fear that you will be replaced by a robot. A robot cannot wield a colon. A robot cannot make love to a paragraph about clay pots in Robinson Crusoe. A robot cannot lead a colloquium entitled “The Write to Rock: Racial Mythologies, Feminist Theory, and the Pleasures of Rock Music Criticism.” A robot cannot hold a glass of wine by the stem at a department party while rolling your eyes in just the right way when someone mentions Raymond Carver.
12. Your idea of heaven is reading something by Haruki Murakami in the Mirrorcube at the Treehotel.
14. You like beautiful things. Delicate magnolias of metaphors. You are the one who inspects the sidewalk square for symmetrical gum dots. You are the one who pauses a recording of a football game to reveal balletic poetry in a calf muscle.
15. You have made a choice. A choice to curl yourself into the imaginative coils of your temporal lobe as the rest of the world ticks the boxes toward savings accounts, health insurance, Outlook calendars. Not that you won’t have those things, too. You may. But you’ll have to travel the world ten times in your mind to get there.