Most of the time, it's easy to avoid being a douchebag: don't make racist jokes, don't try to pick up people at funerals, don't deliberately push orphans into traffic. Sometimes, though, it's trickier to navigate those rocky shores. Because of unfortunate implications that we have no control over, a few completely normal statements and opinions can send you sailing directly into the crags of the Land of Douche. For example ...
There's nothing wrong with not watching television. Maybe TV shows just don't interest you, maybe you're too busy, maybe a television once murdered your family. And it's fine to tell people this, too. A lot of social interaction involves discussing television shows, so the subject is going to come up. Sometimes admitting that you don't watch television is the only way to shut down that one guy who is still trying to get everybody to watch The Wire.
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"The last 30,000 recommendations didn't move me to try the show, but I'm sure yours will do the trick."
Unfortunately, there's another type of person who doesn't own a television. This person will bring up their lack of television viewing whenever they can and then use this revelation as a stepping stone to a story about their fucking wonderfully meaningful television-free life. "I can't even imagine owning a television," this person will say. "We use our living room for more culturally significant things, like reading Proust in the original French and then interpreting it into postmodern dance. Did you know that the average American spends 400 hours a day in front of a television set while slowly stewing in a pile of their own filth?"
This attitude has always been a bit obnoxious, but the advent of fast Internet has made it insufferable. There is nothing virtuous about disconnecting yourself from the TV screen when you can just download Game of Thrones on your MacBook Pro, you douchebag. Everyone knows that time you save from not watching television is not being used on learning Russian or developing your woodworking skills. You're going to fuck around on the Internet, just like everyone else.
"We like to watch porn in the original German."
The existence of these anti-television asshats means that if you're a normal person who just doesn't like television, you're trapped. If you want to confess your non-viewer status, you're hit with immediate pressure to prove you're not a douche, which usually involves following up with a weird little speech: "I don't own a television, but it's not like I look down on people who have televisions. A lot of my best friends have televisions. If my daughter came home and wanted to marry a television, I'd be completely- wait, where are you going?"
Rates of celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that causes your intestines to start a historical re-enactment of the life of Vlad the Impaler if you consume food that contains gluten, have increased fourfold in 50 years. Nobody knows exactly why this illness and other forms of gluten intolerance are on the rise. But one good thing has come out of it: The general public is now largely aware that bread can make some people sicker than that time in college when you did shots out of a Taco Bell urinal.
As this awareness has increased, gluten-free diets have somehow become trendy. People have started seeing the "gluten-free" label on foods and have absorbed the vague idea that "gluten" is something inherently bad for everyone, even people who are symptom-free. Avoiding gluten, they apparently decide, will help them lose weight and/or get the attention that their father never gave them. And unsurprisingly, the "starting an inconvenient and time-consuming diet because I saw it on The View" category of people overlaps almost entirely with the category of "douchebag."
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"I heard that gluten causes vaccines."
For people who need to follow gluten-free diets because of medical necessity, these dieters are like a person who looks exactly like you going around making farting noises at people and then running away. As soon as you go into a restaurant and ask for a gluten-free menu, you see the waitress cringe, and you know she is wondering whether you might actually be seriously harmed by consuming gluten or if you're someone who's avoiding it because their macrobiotic diet wasn't impressing their homeopathic knitting group friends anymore.
The worst thing, though, is that there is absolutely no solution to this problem. Yes, you could spend time assuring your harried, underpaid Applebee's server that your request is based on a legitimate medical need, but this will just take up more time she doesn't have. She wants to take your order and move on to the next table, and you're wasting her time describing your diseased digestive system. The only way you can make yourself look less like a douche is by making yourself look more like a douche.
These days, ordinary people have access to intimate knowledge about our own genetic heritage that was previously the sole province of Heinlein characters. All you gotta do is spit in a cup, and within weeks you'll receive a genetic report that will have you wondering how your great-grandmother who spent her entire life on Prince Edward Island managed to cheat on her husband with a Samoan. In a perfect world, we'd all be able to discuss these newly revealed ethnic backgrounds with complete neutrality, and no one would care.
Just like the "I don't own a television" problem, the issue here isn't with the words themselves. It's that people so often use them as a gateway drug to douchebag heroin. They'll assume the tiny race-sliver in their genes bequeaths some kind of Racism Invisibility Cloak that allows them to say whatever they want about an ethnic group without consequence.
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"We're all originally from Africa, so why isn't it OK for me to use the N-word?"
Sharing a small amount of ancestry with an ethnic group does not make you a casual spokesperson for that group. If you are 1/8 Mexican and your surname is Green and you grew up speaking English and your paper-white skin burns after five minutes in the sun, you do not share the experience of a dark-skinned first-generation immigrant called Ramirez. You don't get to constantly bring up your Mexicanity as a trump card during discussions about race.
And stop pretending you're Irish enough to wear that shirt.
Obviously, there are perfectly good times to bring up one's obscure racial background: you're talking about family history, you're explaining why you've always wanted to travel to Cambodia, you're telling people how you inherited a rare genetic condition found only in Samoa. But realize that as soon as the phrase "one-sixteenth Native American" comes out of your mouth, everyone around you will probably start looking desperately for a way to stab themselves with their cellphone.