“Minimalism”, I once wrote in these very pages, “is anorexia projected outwards”. This suspicion that my ongoing dedication to asceticism might be a mental illness was further demonstrated this week.
“It’s pathological!” my girlfriend teases me after I decline a carrier bag at the pharmacy. As a result of doing so, I had been forced to walk around the rest of the shops with a box of condoms and a roll-on deodorant, repeatedly showing the receipt to security guards to demonstrate that I’d bought the goods elsewhere.
“Don’t you see? When your minimalism interferes with day-to-day activities, you’ve got a problem,” she said.
I refuted this because, to me, the mild inconvenience of walking around with a box of johnnies and a niff stick™ was preferable to the burden of being responsible for another fucking carrier bag. But was this the skewed perspective of a mentally unstable individual?
Later in the week, we went for dinner with our friend Shanti. Somehow we’d gotten onto the subject of whether or not you’re supposed to jam your wallet into the mouth of someone suffering an epileptic fit.
“That’s not for fits,” someone pointed out, “You’re thinking of spoons. You have to put a spoon in their mouth to stop them from swallowing their tongue. You do the wallet trick if you need to snap a broken bone back into position. They bight down on it to distract from the pain.”
I love discussing the strange idea that shoving a spoon into the mouth of an epileptic is supposed to be useful. Imagine recovering from a horrible fit only to find that someone had placed a spoon in your mouth. “What’s this?” you’d ask. “Oh, you know, it’s a spoon,” a well-meaning stranger would reply. And you’d say, “Right.”
I also like the idea that you might have to do the wallet trick one day only to enrage the patient who, a lifelong vegan, becomes offended that you’d forced a piece of cowhide into their gob.
On this occasion, however, I didn’t wax lyrical on the epileptic/spoon myth or the sudden idea of snapping the bone back into place in an angry vegan. Instead, I got my wallet out.
“My wallet wouldn’t be much use there!” I bragged, “It’s about as thick as a beermat.”
I never miss an opportunity to brag about the slenderness of my wallet. To the dedicated minimalist, a slim wallet acts as a sort of talisman: a symbol of minimalism carried around at all times. So proud am I of my super-slim wallet, I actually like to get it out and demonstrate the contents at dinner parties, much as I was doing now, oblivious to the fact that nobody is really interested. The way I see it though, is that since I’ll never have children, I should be able to use the time normally allotted to showing photographs of my children in any way I like. People at dinner parties have no choice but to listen.
“Look, here are my cash cards, a health insurance card, a few bank notes, my casino membership card, my press ID card AND THAT’S ALL,” I conclude proudly. “No receipts, no business cards, no loyalty cards, no photographs of my mewling spawn. Just the essentials.”
Our friend, to her credit, seemed genuinely impressed.
Upon demonstrating the handful of essential plastic cards, I saw that my library card from Glasgow was still in there. I have no plans to go back to a Glaswegian public library and by the time I’m in one again the card would have surely expired. I had a rare opportunity to permanently remove something from my wallet.
Naturally, I made a big show of this by removing the card and stuffing it ceremonially into the milk jug.
My girlfriend, presumably recognising the signs of my “pathological” malaise, extracted the from the milk jug, cleaned it off and popped it into her handbag.
At first I shrugged this off. If she wanted to harbour this burden out of the extreme off-chance that we’ll want to borrow something from a Glaswegian library, she was welcome to do so. But now it’s slightly starting to bother me that the card continues to exist in my material sphere. I don’t want it any more! The fact that it exists outside of a garbage can is starting to pull at my attention. Even though my girlfriend has ostensibly taken responsibility for it, I still know that it’s there and still mentally account for it.
The worst thing about all this is that I can’t possibly tell my girlfriend about this and ask her to throw it away because then she’ll have the final confirmation that I’m mental.
Suicide is the only way out of this.