No need to be intimidated by discs. They work great. Your friend with the fussy brakes probably has either loose caliper mounting bolts, or he's just really bad about pulling the levers with rotors out. Calipers and pads generally don't move at all when installing and removing wheels unless you happen to squeeze the levers or the bolts are loose. Disc brakes aren't THAT horribly touchy. As far as pad spacers go, if you don't squeeze the levers with the rotors out you don't need 'em. If you just REALLY wanna be sure about this stuff you COULD buy pad spacers, or you could just fold a thin piece of cardboard in half and stick that in between the pads. Works just the same as a pad spacer, but costs you nothing.
Rotors ARE bendable, but not so bendy that you have to worry about them constantly. They're also springy and want to stay straight as long as you don't bend them past the steel's yield point. The road/gravel/CX crowd in general seems intimidated by disc brakes and it really makes no sense. If they were THAT fussy and prone to failure or slicing off a leg then they never would have become the standard in mountainbiking, which is a MUCH more dangerous sport involving MANY more crashes than roadies typically see. Relax. Buy the disc equipped bike. You'll love it.
Support your local wheel builder. Run REALLY LOW tire pressures!