1. University of Iowa vs. My rejection for entry into the Jean Jacket Club in the 3rd grade
The jean jacket thing was worse. Sure, I would have loved to have attended U of I, are you kidding? But their rejection rate for MFA applicants is traditionally a little over 98%, while the two most popular girls in grade school let all of the girls with jean jackets into the club except me.
2. University of New Mexico vs. William Golding’s 20 rejections by publishers for Lord of the Flies
This one is going to have to go to UNM. They weren’t even ranked when I applied, so when they said no, it hurt in a more visceral way. Maybe if my writing sample hadn’t included so many occurrences of the word “visceral”? Too late now. In contrast, Golding had already published a book of poems by the time everyone was turning down his novel. And it’s true, UNM has suddenly jumped to a top-ten ranked MFA programs this year, which eases the pain a bit, but Golding went on to win a Nobel for Lord of the Flies—giving him the right to be smug and self-satisfied, if he so chose.
3. University of Alabama vs. Jesus’ rejection by the Jews
Jesus totally gets this one. UA was originally one of my top choices, but getting this letter wasn’t even close to being rejected by an entire people.
4. University of Arizona vs. The guy in front of me at the grocery store last week whose credit card was rejected
Man, he was really bummed. You know, you spend all this time shopping for things you really need, only to be told “sorry” at the end by some overworked, underpaid cashier who is wearing way too much eyeliner? You feel helpless: there’s nothing you can do, unless you want to hold the line up while you try two more cards, or even worse, start subtracting things until you get down to however much cash you have on hand. But, sorry guy at the store, losing a chance to study at my number one choice was worse.
5. Penn State vs. George W. Bush’s rejection to the University of Texas Law School in 1973
Tie. To be fair, I don’t think either of us cared at the time as much as we both should have.
6. Notre Dame vs. Expulsion from the UN of the governing body known as the “Republic of China,” 1971
Another tie. In this case we both knew it was coming: I’m not Catholic and they weren’t Communists. I know that’s a huge simplification, since the University of Notre Dame says that’s not a criteria for attendance, but I have no doubt it contributed to my missing the short list of lucky admittees. At least the ROC was told personally—probably on masthead; all I got was an e-mail.
7. Portland State University vs. The International Astronomical Union’s rejection of Pluto as a planet
I know Pluto fans will disagree, but I am going to have to give this one to PSU because Pluto itself could care less about its exclusion from the oh-so-exclusive club of planets. Trust me, Pluto-nuts, getting turned down by my hometown school, my safety school, and my last school —all in one letter —was worse. That letter meant another year of working retail, another year of trying to get some writing done on my 30-minute lunch breaks, and another year of busting my ass for unpaid bylines—what does Pluto suffer? It’s not like they’re going to rename Plutonium or that dumb dog.