The overwhelming fear of being judged based on a film selection.

Origin:I was recently tasked with renting a long list of movies so that ourphoto editors could make screen grabs for the latest gallery: Watching the Unwatchable. I skipped merrily through the video rental store, and happily plunked my movie picks on the counter. The clerk took a long, hard look at me, followed by an even longer look at my film selections. I followed his eyes over the titles:

American History X. Pulp Fiction. Saw (starring Tobin Bell, pictured). The Hitcher. Blade Runner. Reservoir Dogs. The Ring. Requiem for a Dream.

It dawned on me. I was being judged. And, guessing by the look on the young employee’s face, I ranked somewhere between disturbed and psychopathic. He seemed momentarily lost in a reverie, and I knew. I just knew he was picturing me running home and hosting a graphic movie marathon, a weekly event celebrating film in its unrated, grotesque, and downright offensive glory, a night culminating in some sort of sacrifice, ending in a toast with a glass of my own blood.

And if it wasn’t the selections that offended him, it’s quite possiblethat he questioned why anyone would need to rent eight moviessimultaneously. It was as if I had handed him an announcement that Iwas engaged to my DVD player.

Shuffling the movies around with my hands, (as if this would somehowdistract him) I tried to explain myself. “It’s work!” “For my job!””It’s a gallery!” “Screen grabs!” “Really!” “Not my thing!” “Gosh, thisis awkward!” “Sell any Sno-Caps here?!” His eyes narrowed. I guess theother thing that made my movie choices so atrocious is that I barelylook old enough to rent an R-rated film.

So, I have to ask. Have you ever had a case of cineparanoia? Do you experience a heightened sense ofanxiety or depression around theaters and video rental stores? Do youinvent cover stories should your Blockbuster clerk notice you’verented Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights seven times in the past month? “Oh, [chuckle] my mom just lovesthis junk!” Right. Remember, the first step is admitting you have a problem.