This happens multiple times a week: I’m having a conversation with someone and they inevitably start talking about a TV show. I inform them I haven’t seen it, so of course they start talking about another show and I’m forced to say the dreaded words:
“I don’t have a TV”
It’s as if, in the middle of our discussion, I decided to wave around my genitals while singing “Deutschland über alles“. Later, on social media I see they’ve posted: “I hate people who are always saying they don’t have a TV, it’s so elitist and rude.”
Fine. Fuck it. I give up.
An open letter to TV viewers who want to talk to me about TV:
How do you want to handle this because apparently what I’m doing isn’t working. You want to talk about TV, I don’t have a TV, but then you get offended when I tell you I don’t have one.
We are at an impasse.
Somethings gotta give. Let’s start with the fact that I’m not getting a TV and you obviously want to talk about TV, thus we need to figure something out.
However, before we go on it’s essential to address the following point because it’s a foundational issue: The blowback against those who verbalize their lacking in this area seems to center around the absurd contention that people without TVs are somehow always telling everyone about it. I suggest the opposite: there are a lot of folks who want to talk about television all the fucking time and we without TV’s functionally can’t, and are therefore forced to mention it to people WHO ARE ALWAYS GOING ON AT LENGTH ABOUT FUCKING TV.
Look back on every conversation you’ve ever had with a non-TV owner and think if it really started with them offering out of the blue, “I don’t have a TV, let me tell you all about not having one…” Is that how it went? Really? You know what, those who don’t practice a particular hobby or activity are not prone to carrying on about their lack of participation. However, those that do a particular thing notably are. We’ve all been bored at a party listening to someone drone on about an interest after it’s been made apparent through easily detectable social cues no one actually wants to talk about that. When you’re talking to me about TV, that’s you.
Examples: No one says “Today I didn’t practice Ikebana, the traditional flower arranging art of Japan because I have no knowledge of its requirements or practice.” Neither do I describe my not boar hunting, my lack of a steam-powered gyrocopter or the fact that I don’t keep an alpine ibex for a pet.
Because I don’t watch TV I’m NEVER the one to bring it up as a topic. Why would I? So what do you want me to do after you’ve ask if I watch Game of Thrones? I’ve said I don’t, but THEN you inevitably have to ask if I watch House of Cards. I say, “no.” So then you ask about Sons of Anarchy or Breaking Bad? Are you not getting the picture here?
It’s a similar issue for people who went to Harvard I’ve found (I did not go to Harvard). People ask, “Where did you go to school?” They say, “Cambridge.” The inquisitor then asks, “Where in Cambridge?” and the one being questioned finally has to break down and say, “Harvard.” Next thing they’re dealing with someone going on about “I hate how people who went to Harvard are always throwing it around.” Well, what the fuck are they supposed to say when talking about college? She tried being vague, but you pressed her. Some people went to Harvard, get over it.
So in our imagined conversation I’ve just said I don’t watch the three shows you’ve offered. Three popular shows and I’ve never seen a singe episode of any of them. Huh. Yet the possibility I don’t watch ANY television at all has somehow not made it out onto the stage of the Cartesian theater of your consciousness (which may or may not have been addled by some passive, mindless activity you spend too much time at) so you keep listing shows like some kind of TV Guide girded in human flesh until you, exasperated, blurt out, “What shows do you like then?” And thus cornered I am forced to slap you in your very face with the the fact that I don’t have a TV.
My bad, I guess.
No other appliance seems to muster such affrontery. My foodie hipster friends without microwaves don’t engender rage explaining their meal-warming life-choices. It’s not an insult for them to heat their coffee on a stove (for the record I have a microwave that I love the shit out of). Tell people you don’t have a stand-up mixer or even a dryer and no one gets huffy about it. But man, mention you don’t have a TV in context and they think you are making some kind of cultural judgement. Full disclosure: I am. But that’s fine, we don’t have to like the same things.
It’s my choice and I’m happy with it. I’ve tried every possible way to inform you of this without offending you. I’ve nodded along. I’ve hoped you’d change the topic. I even said “I don’t watch much TV,” hoping you’d take the hint. But then you started telling me about the ‘educational’ TV you watch, how you and your significant other are really into ‘binge watching’ this one show, all the food programs you get great ideas from and then on to your ‘guilty pleasure trash reality TV’ you ‘hatewatch’ and you know what? WE ARE STILL TALKING ABOUT FUCKING TV. The only way to get you to shut up about TV is to tell you I have absolutely no knowledge about TV beyond what I casually pick up via cultural osmosis and no desire to obtain more. It’s just not a thing I do.
So how to handle this? Should we come up with some kind of agreed-upon physical gesture I can make when the topic of TV comes up as not to upset your sensibilities? A flashing lapel pin? An app that tells every smartphone in a 50 yard radius a non TV-watcher is nearby so they can avoid talking to me? Semaphore flags? Hipster beard and copy of “Infinite Jest” tucked under one arm at all times?
You tell me, TV people. I’m all out of ideas.