Grocery stores always give me a bag when I don't need one, when I've bought just a pack of gum or a banana or some potato chips that are in a bag already, and then I feel guilty about their wasting the plastic, but the bag is on before I've noticed them reaching for it so I don't say anything. But in the video store, on the other hand, they always ask if I want a bag, and even though, theoretically, I should be able to carry my video without a bag, and the bag is another waste of plastic, I always need a bag at the video store because, for reasons that will soon be understood, I believe all videos should be sheathed.
I'm only half a block out of the store when I see Ronald, the rice-haired milquetoast who works at the coffee shop around the corner, approaching. "Hey, Carrie," he says, looking down at my video. "What'd you get?"
Uh oh. I have to give this speech again.
"I can't tell you," I say, "and there's a reason I can't. You see, someday, I might want to rent something embarrassing, and I don't necessarily mean porn; it could be a movie that's considered too childish for my age or something violent or maybe Nazi propaganda - for research purposes, of course - and even though the movie I have in my hand is considered a classic, and nothing to be ashamed of, if I show it to you this time, but next time I can't, then you'll know for sure that I'm hiding something next time. But if I never tell you what I've rented, it puts enough doubt in your mind that I'm hiding something, so I can feel free to rent porn or cartoons or fascist propaganda or whatever I want without fear of having to reveal what I've rented.
"The same goes for what I'm reading. I want to be able to pick a mindless novel as well as Dostoevsky. And I also want to be able to choose something no one's heard of. Most of the time, people say, 'What are you reading?' and if I tell them the name of the book and it's not Moby Dick, they've never heard of it so I have to give an explanation, and if the book's any good it's not something I can explain in two seconds, so I'm stuck giving a 25-page dissertation and by the time I'm done I have no time to finish reading. So books I read and movies I rent are off limits for discussion. It's nothing personal."
Ronald stands there blinking for a second, then leaves.
My rules make sense to me, but people find them strange. Still, I need them to survive. This world isn't one I understand completely, and it doesn't understand me completely, either.
People think I'm odd for a 19-year-old girl - or woman, if you're technical - that I neither act excessively young or excessively "girlish." In truth, I feel asexual a lot of the time, like a walking brain with glasses and long dark hair and a mouth in good working order. If we were to talk about sex as in sex, as opposed to gender - as everyone seems to want to these days - I would say that my mind's not on sex that much, and I was never boy-crazy when I was younger. Which makes me different from just about everyone. I did have crushes on two of my professors in college, one of which actually turned into something, but that's a story for later on....