For more than 20 years, the head monk at St. Anselm's Abbey in Northeast Washington did just fine without "Star Wars." But then, Abbot Aidan recalls, a student "said that I reminded him of Yoda.

"All of the other seniors burst out laughing, so I would sort of like to understand better what he was really saying," said the 68-year-old abbot. "I think this summer I will try to find a way to see it."

You don't believe that someone -- even a cloistered monk -- has never seen "Star Wars," that totem of American pop culture? As the marketing blitz for its "prequel," "The Phantom Menace," envelops America, is this possible?

Yes. And there are more of us than you might think.

I never intended to boycott "Stars Wars," but when it came out in 1977, I just wasn't a sci-fi fan.

And then, as the years passed, I began to feel that I'd seen it.

Like "The Godfather," "Gone With the Wind" and "E.T." (yes, I have seen all those), "Star Wars" is such a part of the culture you just sort of breathe it in. I know that calling someone Darth Vader is not a compliment. That R2D2 is a midget robot. That "The Force" is something you want on your side.

Why bother seeing a movie, I figured, that I already felt I knew so much about? Life is short.

So embedded is "Star Wars" in our collective id that some people aren't even sure if they've seen it or not.

"I imagine I have, haven't I?" mused Jeff Aronson, who does a newsletter on the Middle East. "I'm sure I've seen it . . . but if you asked me about the plot I couldn't tell you."

But there were times my "Star Wars"-free status led me into difficulty.

A few years back, I was talking to my then-10-year-old niece about it and apparently asked too many questions. Eyeing me suspiciously, she asked, "You have seen the movie, haven't you?"

From the tone of her voice, I feared I was headed for a precipitous plunge in her esteem if I told the truth.

So I lied.

"Of course, I've seen it!"

Some of us were otherwise engaged when the movie debuted. "I was going to the seminary," said the Rev. Susan Gresinger, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase.

"I've never felt the slightest urge" to see it, she said, and "never thought of myself as culturally deprived. I always knew Darth Vader, I remember something about `The Force,' and R2D2. And, what is it? Princess Leia?"

Still, the minister doesn't advertise her cinematic gap. "I think most of us keep it a secret," she said of the movie's non-aficionados.

Some of us may unconsciously be waging guerrilla war against America's addiction to hype, suggested clinical social worker Dori Aronson.

"Those of us who haven't seen it, or don't particularly care, know it's just a movie," said Aronson, who has a private psychotherapy practice in the District. "There is a culture out there saying, `This is more than a movie!' And we're bucking and digging in our heels and saying, `It's just a movie!' "

Judy Wise has made it clear to her office mates, who include some "Star Wars" maniacs, that she is not interested in becoming "a statistic" in its galaxy of fans.

"It's become like a point of honor to say I've never seen any of them," declared Wise, 52, who works in a Berryville, Va., book publishing firm.

Others, however, have not been able to resist pressures to see the film. "My youngest son, who saw it three times, said there was something wrong with me if I didn't see it," recalled 81-year-old Doris Williams as she ate in the sunny dining room at Aarondale Assisted Living in Annandale.

So, she went.

"I liked the little machine," she said of R2D2. "That's the only thing I remember. He's cute. He looked like a little vacuum cleaner on wheels."

For those of us who have never seen "Star Wars," the lion's den is the sidewalk outside the District's Uptown Theater, where "The Phanton Menace" is raking in hard-core fans. On the movie's opening day, I confessed my secret to some of those standing in line.

"It's unfortunate, I guess," District resident Ricardo Reinoso, 26, replied sympathetically, as if I'd told him I been diagnosed with a terrible disease.

He tried to be understanding. "People have their circumstances."

Timothy Jordan of Alexandria, a 20-year-old psychology student at Virginia Tech, was less calm. ""That's blasphemy!" he cried. "It's a classic!" he sputtered.

"I can't imagine a child not knowing who Darth Vader's son is -- wouldn't that be sad?" Jordan asked his girlfriend, a 20-year-old student at Northern Virginia Community College who uses just one name, Felony.

I pushed the envelope. Could they be friends with someone who'd never seen "Star Wars"?

"Of course," Felony replied, "we don't hold it against them."

Bridger McGaw, 24, sporting a faded "Star Wars" T-shirt, agreed. "But I wouldn't marry someone who hadn't seen `Star Wars,' " said McGaw, who works at the Department of Defense in public affairs, "because the song has to be played at my wedding."

As for myself, I don't think I`ll be seeing "The Phantom Menace." I figure I should see the original and its two sequels first.

I'll rent them someday soon. Really. Very soon.