Who Woke Me Up (with Simone Polanen, Van Lathan & Rachel Lindsay) | Crooked Media
Pod Save America Live NYC & Boston guest hosts just announced! Get Tickets Pod Save America Live NYC & Boston guest hosts just announced! Get Tickets
March 23, 2023
Stuck with Damon Young
Who Woke Me Up (with Simone Polanen, Van Lathan & Rachel Lindsay)

In This Episode

On the heels of a viral interview around wokeness, Simone Polanen, host of the podcast Not Past It, joins Damon to talk about the history of the word and how we code language that describes Black people, spaces and experiences.


Later, Van Lathan & Rachel Lindsay of Higher Learning help Damon tackle the age old question of airplane seat etiquette. If you didn’t pay… should you have a say?

Send your questions, confessions and/or conundrums in for consideration to be responded to on the podcast at deardamon@crooked.com.





Simone Polanen: Occupy Wall Street—


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Simone Polanen: —was like a really big thing when I was in college. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Simone Polanen: And that also, I feel like was a turning point in how the term wokeness was being used and being characterized. 


Damon Young: Now see when I was in school, woke was still exclusively Black. It hadn’t left the community yet. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Whoever left the gate open and let, like, the white person in [laughter] to the party and use woke. And then the white person was like, holy shit. What does that mean? And then just let it spread. That hadn’t happened yet. [music plays] All right. Welcome back, everyone to Stuck With Damon Young, the show where we stay woke because we’re insomniacs. We literally do not sleep over here. We might need some Ambien. And so the word woke has become like this galvanizing linguistic firebrand where people on the right consider it to be the bane of American culture. People on the left consider it to be aspirational. And Black people, well, we just put it on the list of words we just don’t use anymore because white people ruin them. And there’s no better example of this absurdity than Bethany Mandel’s now viral effort to define woke while on camera. A clip that was like watching woke paint dry. Anyway to talk about the history of the world and also the long history of the racist dog whistle. I’m joined by Simone Polanen, host of the Spotify Original podcast Not Past It. And then Van Lathan and Rachel Lindsay of The Ringer’s Higher Learning podcast come through with some heated answers to a question about airplane etiquette. All right y’all. Let’s get it. [music plays] Simone Polanen is the host of the Spotify Original podcast, Not Past It. And Simone [laughter] woke was a word that was a part of my lexicon back when I was in college. And over the past like 15, 20 years, it has undergone all these transformations and new meanings. And now it is one of my least favorite words. It’s one of those words almost like twerk, where I can’t use it anymore because white people ruined it. [laughter] Right? And so what was the first time that you heard it? 


Simone Polanen: That is a very good question. Do I even remember? I feel like it’s it’s a oh, that’s a tough one, because I just feel like it’s something that—


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Simone Polanen: —was existing in the ether. Like, I’m trying to think if there was, like, a specific moment. 


Damon Young: Well you don’t have to give me like an exact date or time. [laughter] 


Simone Polanen: October 21st. Yeah—


Damon Young: Yes, I was at lunch and I mean, it could be just a range or high school, college or again, it could be a term that just was always, as you were saying, just floating around. Just always a part of zeitgeist.  


Simone Polanen: I think it was something that I, was generally floating around in the ether. But I think when it was more clearly defined for me as its own concept, I was probably more college aged when I would hear the term like thrown around more, more casually, like among peers and stuff. 


Damon Young: Okay. And so when you heard it, what did it mean? 


Simone Polanen: Being woke was sort of synonymous with being politically conscious or like, socially aware. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Simone Polanen: Like an awareness. Yeah. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. I guess my introduction to woke is kind of similar, where I think I first remember encountering it not necessarily in college, but maybe a little bit before college. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: And I’m thinking of it might have even been, like, junior senior high school around that time, because I’m 44. [laughs] Okay, so that means I’m of the age when, like, spoken word poetry, Def Poetry— 


Simone Polanen: Mmm. 


Damon Young: Neo soul when I was a teenager in the early twenties. Those were like some of those like zeitgeist driving forces where you had Def Poetry on TV. And so being conscious—


Simone Polanen: Mmm. 


Damon Young: Was a currency at that time, a currency among Black people and woke at that point didn’t necessarily just mean conscious. It meant at that point conscious to the point of parody. 


Simone Polanen: Hmm. 


Damon Young: So like, conscious was good. Woke was an exaggerated, almost performative consciousness. And again, this was how I understood it. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: My definition might have been a bit off, but when I heard woke used in this time and we’re talking like late nineties, early aughts, that’s what it meant to me. 


Simone Polanen: Interesting. Hearing you say that actually now that I think back on it I’m like my understanding or my own personal definition of wokeness eventually evolved to be that like I think when I first encountered it, it was very much in like this earnest definition of being aware. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Simone Polanen: And I think it was had a positive connotation. But by the end of college, I think it had gotten to the point where wokeness essentially meant like a performative awareness and it was more about the the performance of seeming aware or the performance of using the right kind of language or like—


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Simone Polanen: —being in touch with the right kind of social issues. But [laughs] I think part of that, too, is because I think the term woke was initially being used among, you know, the Black students at the college and then by the end of that four years was sort of used more broadly. Like used more broadly in the sense of it was used by more people, but it was also used less specifically, if that makes sense. 


Damon Young: If you don’t mind me asking, around what time frame are you talking when you refer to college? 


Simone Polanen: So I was in college from 2010 to 2014. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Simone Polanen: So like Occupy Wall Street—


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Simone Polanen: —was like a really big thing when I was in college. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Simone Polanen: And that also, I feel like was a turning point in how the term wokeness was being used and being characterized. 


Damon Young: Now see when I was in school, woke was still exclusively Black. It hadn’t left [laughs] the community yet. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Whoever left the gate open and let, like [laughter] the white person in to the party and used woke. And then the white person was like, holy shit, what does that mean? And then just let it spread into the mainstream cu— That hadn’t happened yet. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Like, the doors are still locked. Padlocked. [laughter] Right. 


Simone Polanen: Gotcha. 


Damon Young: So that, I guess the watering down of wokeness didn’t necessarily happen yet. 


Simone Polanen: Mm. 


Damon Young: And again, I’m thinking of, like, examples of when I think of woke or who characterized it best. And have you ever seen, Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood?


Simone Polanen: Unfortunately, I have not. 


Damon Young: Okay. Well, there’s a character in that movie who is like the most Afrocentric, most extreme god body, sister, queen [laughter] person on earth, but he is exclusively into white women. 


[clip of Marlon Wayans]: Hide the bitches up in here—


[clip of Chris Spencer]: Hey, hey, what did I tell you about disrespecting my Nubian princesses. 


[clip of Marlon Wayans]: Ah, peace out. 


[clip of Chris Spencer]: Quit disrespecting. You n— Oh, my God. The mother of Mecca is right here before me. Do my eyes not deceive me on my looking at the goddess Isis herself? Can you, uh. Can you do me a favor my brown skin angel? Can you tap that white girl for me? My Milk of Magnesia. Oh. Oh, after the devil made you, he broke the mold. Well, maybe you and I could make a little jungle fever. 


Damon Young: [laughter] Okay. And so. And so woke again at that point in time when I thought of woke. I thought of people like that who, again, the consciousness was performative. Right. But again, I don’t know if my understanding of the term was universal. And, you know, I did a little bit of research on the term and it originated around like the Vietnam War. 


Simone Polanen: Hmm. 


Damon Young: Where Black soldiers would say this to each other. And it was a way of them saying, you know what? Stay awake, stay vigilant, stay aware. Because even though some of these soldiers, some of these American soldiers are, quote unquote, “on the same team as you,” they might not have your back. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: You might get some, quote, unquote, “friendly fire.” 


Simone Polanen: Hmm. 


Damon Young: Sometimes. 


Simone Polanen: Hmm. 


Damon Young: So stay woke. It may have, you know, existed even before then. But what I read is that, woke, kind of the genesis came from that. And so it makes sense. And so to see it today, you know, 2023 as one, the dog whistle for Black. Also, though, just almost like an umbrella term to articulate everything that people on the right aren’t able to articulate about their anxiety about the 21st century and about progress. And again, it’s become—


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: —this nebulous catchall that could be anything that they want it to be. 


Simone Polanen: Right. Yeah. I hadn’t heard the specific connection to the Vietnam War—


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Simone Polanen: —but that makes a lot of sense. I was doing some research for this conversation and the context that I saw it pop up in. There were a couple of different places. One was like this article from the sixties and the New York Times from this writer, William Melvin Kelley—


Damon Young: Hmm. 


Simone Polanen: —who was like a novelist. He uses woke in the title of this article, and it’s essentially writing about how the beatniks of the sixties were co-opting language from Black circles. And I don’t know, there’s this similar like conversation around like the diluting or the watering down or the the shifting of, of of language like terms like dig it like—


Damon Young: Mm hmm


Simone Polanen: —dig it becoming sort of more mainstream and hearing people walking out of the opera, talking about like using like, you know, as a, as an interjection. And it’s just, it’s interesting to see these like patterns in culture. Doesn’t surprise me to, to, to hear you bring that up. 


Damon Young: Yeah. And language evolves and there are some terms that enter the cultural lexicon and there are some terms that are grandfathered out. Like, for instance, when we refer to people who hate women or who have like this antagonism towards women, we say misogynists, we might say sexist. But 20 years ago, 25 years ago, people said chauvinistic. People just don’t use that term anymore. But if you watch a movie from like the nineties and there’s like a guy who’s like a player who, you know, does this, does that. He’s referred to as a male chauvinistic pig. But that, again, that term just isn’t really a part of our discourse anymore. You know, we’ve replaced it with something that is actually a lot more direct [laughter] right. And intentional. Another term that has kind of escaped the zeitgeist is ghetto, which I’m glad about because I’ve never liked that word. And again, this is another term that has shifted to meaning because, you know, if you go back decades, it refer to neighborhoods that Jewish people were basically shuttered into by the Germans, by Nazis. And then it became a term that was synonymous for inner city. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: And then it shifted again. And it became a term synonymous for places in the inner city where Black people lived and then ghetto became a word to describe a certain type of Black person. Right. But, like, it doesn’t even sound right coming out of my mouth [laughter] right now. I feel like I’m speaking a different language when I say it. But again, this was a term that even 15, 20 years ago, I feel like was still a part of the general cultural lexicon and it’s not really—


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: —anymore. I can’t think of anyone who says it. Un ironically, in just regular discourse now. And woke seems to have had like a similar sort of journey. And now did you see the interview with Bethany Mandel, where she is this conservative commentator who was being interviewed by Briahna Joy Gray? 


Simone Polanen: Yeah. 


Damon Young: And Briahna asked her to define woke. 


Simone Polanen: Uh huh. 


[clip of Bethany Mandel]: And probably fewer of them consider themselves to be woke. And so, you know, when we talk about traditional—


[clip of Briahna Joy Gray]: What does that mean to you? Could, would you mind defining woke, because it’s come up a couple of times and I just want to make sure we’re on the same page. 


[clip of Bethany Mandel]: So, I mean, woke is sort of the idea that. I. This is going to be one of those moments that goes viral. 


Simone Polanen: Yep. I’m so happy she asked that question, too, because that is—


Damon Young: Yeah. [laughter]


Simone Polanen: —that is usually the first thing I’m like. Before we jump into this conversation, can we define our terms but yeah, yeah. 


Damon Young: Yes. It’s. She sounded like a car that has been turned on for about two years [laughter] and it’s the coldest day of the year and you decide to go outside and turn this car on, like she sounded like that engine. 


Simone Polanen: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Right. [laughter] Just sputtering, smoking, blurting. 


Simone Polanen: Damn. Yeah. [laughs] 


Damon Young: I will say that I have been there before. Not a racist who would try to define woke, but I’ve been in a live interview where I’m trying to think of a word and I just go blank. Right. So I get that part of it. But I think that one of the things that made the interview so such a part of, I guess, our cultural experience, you know, the reason why it’s gone viral is because I think it’s just been indicative of like this nebulous ness of this conversation. You’re asking them to define this term and they can’t define it because they’ve made it intentionally, indefinable, intentionally, something that could be a bunch of different things. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: So that anything that they feel a way about can fit underneath this umbrella. 


Simone Polanen: Yeah, I’d even go as far as to say, like it’s both been made very nebulous, but at the same time it’s also been made out to be its own like organized ideology. You know what I mean? All of a sudden it’s like this is an organized group of people and they are a threat. And. Right. The nebulous ness kind of serves that argument because then you can launch that against pretty much anything and anyone. Because if you don’t have a definition, then, you know, whatever you don’t approve of can fall under that umbrella. [laughter] It’s interesting that we’re having this conversation about language evolving and being diluted and its definition being stretched like wokeness is being painted as the enemy of language. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Simone Polanen: And and like a manipulator of language. And the conversation is so convoluted and so devoid of nuance that, I mean, frankly, I personally have, like tuned out a lot of the conversation because it’s like it’s so frustrating. None of these words are like anchored in anything concrete and there’s like this constant moving target. And I don’t know. To me, it seems very easy to drum up this atmosphere of fear and threat. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Simone Polanen: Because it’s this like shadowy, shapeless thing. So, yeah, again, I appreciate [laughs] I appreciate, like this effort to actually define what it is that we’re talking about because— 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Simone Polanen: —that feels like it’s at the core of what is so frustrating about like how wokeness essentially doesn’t mean anything right now. Like it’s it’s so devoid of any substance. 


Damon Young: It reminds me of I have a few friends who are conspiracy theorists. 


Simone Polanen: Mm. 


Damon Young: Okay— 


Simone Polanen: Fun. 


Damon Young: And when you talk to them about the things that they feel like are great conspiracies, they have an answer to everything. It’s the circular logic sort of thing where everything that you say there’s a ready made pushback for, even if you prove to them without any sliver of the doubt that what they’re saying, what they believe is wrong, then they can always come back with, well, where did you get that? Or that’s what they want you to believe. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Or you’ve been brainwashed, you’re a sheep, etc., etc.. And they’ve constructed like this foolproof, you know, fortress or cocoon around their belief and it’s impenetrable right. And I see the same thing happening with the right and that term. Where too, and I’m glad you brought this up about how there also is this idea that we on the left or whatever are organized [laughs] right have like this intricate agenda to wokeify everything, whatever the fuck that means. You know what I mean? There are so many things that exist that we just don’t. We don’t have a consensus about anything. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: You know what I mean, we don’t have a consensus on whether or not skinny jeans are still in. They’re not. Right.


Simone Polanen: They never were. [laughs]


Damon Young: There was a window from like 2014 to 2018, I think, where they were in. But anyway, again, a point of disagreement. 


Simone Polanen: Fair. [laughter]


Damon Young: There we go. So we can’t even agree on this. So this idea that there is, I don’t know, this weaponized conspiracy that we’re all online, that we’re all marching. You know, to the beat of the same drum. And again, I wonder too actually I don’t even wonder. I know that this is also a bad faith sort of thing where one of the strategies for them to galvanize their people, their base, whatever, is to act as if we are galvanized. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: To act as if we are organized to a tee. And it’s like, you know what? They’re doing it. They have it. And so we don’t get this way. If we don’t rally around, if we don’t start banning all these folks. If we don’t make sure that critical race theory is out of our schools, if we don’t rid our curriculums in our discourse and our lexicon and our politics of wokeness, then the entire country is going to be Venezuela. 


Simone Polanen: Yeah. Is, one plus one equals two? Yeah. [laughs]


Damon Young: Yeah. So. Woke, you know, I mentioned this earlier. Woke has also become a dog whistle for Black. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: In fact, I think that that’s one of the clearest and least nebulous, I guess, interpretations of what they think work means. You know, there have been times I forgot which politician one of the especially evil ones was talking about the Super Bowl and how woke their performances were at the Super Bowl and like no, you’re just talking about how Black the performances were. Wokeness that literally nothing to do with Sheryl Lee Ralph singing the Black national anthem that is you being upset about the presence of Blackness. We didn’t expect Black people to be so just thinking about woke and thinking about how to become a dog whistle for Black has made me think about some of the, I guess the historical and present day dog whistles that also indicate the presence of Black people or ways of saying Black without actually saying Black. Urban. 


Simone Polanen: A classic. [laughs] Yeah, uh huh. 


Damon Young: Classic. Inner city. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Obviously. At risk. 


Simone Polanen: Mm, mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Low income, thug, welfare recipient or dependent. Any out-of-context reference to Chicago. [laughter] Drug dealer. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: But not drug addict. Not drug addict, but drug dealer. 


Simone Polanen: Mm. 


Damon Young: Single parent. Renter. Underprivileged, underserved. Affirmative action. 


Simone Polanen: Oh. 


Damon Young: Affirmative action is a tricky one because we know that the Democrat who has benefited the most from affirmative action is white women, actually. And when we think of affirmative action, particularly like in a in a college admissions context, it is always, you know, the Black student from the hood whose grades weren’t as good as the whites student but got into the school. And that’s like where all the focuses is. And no one or at least this conversation doesn’t account for the nepo babies. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: It doesn’t account for the legacies, doesn’t account for the athletes. Right. And I’m not talking football, basketball, but like rugby, lacrosse, tennis. You know, the sports you know, most of the sports on campus are are predominantly white. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Right. It’s just that the revenue generating sports at the biggest schools are mostly Black. And those are the ones that people focus on when they think of student athlete. But most student athletes in the country are white. 


Simone Polanen: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Marginalized, ghetto, hip hop. [laughter] Sketchy. The neighborhood is sketchy, right? [laughter]


Simone Polanen: Oh, yeah. Is janky on your list? I would throw that one in the mix. 


Damon Young: Janky is not on the list, but janky could be. 


Simone Polanen: Where I grew up. It was used as a euphemism [laughter] for sure. 


Damon Young: Oh, with janky, okay. [laughs] And sketchy. Sketchy is a funny one, because if you take it literally, then it’s like, what is this neighborhood just out of focus? [laughter] Does everyone all of a sudden develop cataracts? 


Simone Polanen: Yeah. 


Damon Young: In their— [laughter]


Simone Polanen: It’s impressionistic. 


Damon Young: Is everyone in this neighborhood just like this amorphous blob that would just sketched [laughter] together, like [indistinct] would say, impressionistic? Like, what is sketchy? What is that, even fucking mean? 


Simone Polanen: That’s, go, good point, fair points you raise.


Damon Young: Gang related. Diverse people, diverse population. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. [laughter] 


Damon Young: Vulnerable. Those people. They, them. The list goes on. I mean, are there any you know, you mentioned janky, are there any others that I’m that I’m forgetting. 


Simone Polanen: Oh, gosh. Yeah. That’s a pretty I mean, that’s a pretty solid list. I’m trying to think like, oh, the things that are coming to mind are more like questions people ask, like uh—


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Simone Polanen: —about your culture. So tell me about your culture. Like, that kind of stuff. I don’t know if I have any other ones, but affirmative action. 


Damon Young: Oh. 


Simone Polanen: That one hits home. That one definitely had a lot of like, I remember applying to colleges and that being a conversation that I never started but seemed to be happening a lot in my direction. 


Damon Young: Mm. Low information voter is another one. 


Simone Polanen: Oh. Man.


Damon Young: Because, again, it was a way of suggesting that we’re stupid, right? Basically, that’s what it was saying, that when Black people go, you know, we are ill equipped to make the proper decisions and so we are low information voters. 


Simone Polanen: Hmm. 


Damon Young: Because if we have more information, if we were smarter, if we were able to understand complex and nuanced topics at a higher level, then we would make different choices. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Obviously. 


Simone Polanen: Did you say underprivileged already? 


Damon Young: I did say. I think I did say—


Simone Polanen: You did say that. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Simone Polanen: I’m just trying to think of all the w— I’m like, I grew up in the Bay Area, which is like where they make well-meaning liberals and I’m, like—


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Simone Polanen: —trying to think of all the words, that I would hear. I feel like I’ve just blacked out all of these words [laughter] from my memory, I don’t know. I’m not coming up with any. 


Damon Young: You know, some of the ones that I named are basically the same word with like two or three letters changed. I mean, underserved, underprivileged. 


Simone Polanen: Mm, mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Disenfranchised, marginalized. I mean, you go to a definition and look at, you know, synonyms. Those those words are are all saying the exact same thing. Disenfranchised. Right. There is a, I guess, a long and robust history of like euphemisms for Blackness, because there was a point in time where, yeah, you could call a politician or people in plain society could openly refer to us as niggas, could say that, and then that wasn’t cool anymore. You couldn’t win elections. You couldn’t keep your job by saying that. And so you referred to us just as Black people and things you don’t want to see Black people do when you were openly racist, but you did say the N-word. And then it got to a point where, you know what, we can’t necessarily be openly racist. So what can we say to indicate the presence of Black people without actually saying Black people? And you could go back to Reagan, the Willie Horton thing and the the welfare queens. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Even Clinton, you know, has some stuff with the what was it, the super predators? 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: And again, the list goes on and on and on about just the ways that we’ve been indicated without actually saying us and woke is just the latest iteration of it. 


Simone Polanen: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Five years from now, there’s going to be another word. Woke is going to escape the zeitgeist, just like how ghetto did. And there’s going to be another world. Do you have any predictions? 


Simone Polanen: Any predictions.


Damon Young: What the new euphemisms going to be? 


Simone Polanen: Silk pillowcase users. [laughter]


Damon Young: Okay, that’s a good one. 


Simone Polanen: Yeah. This is like I don’t know if I feel comfortable with this exercise. [laughter] Like, did you say minority as a part of your list earlier? 


Damon Young: I might have. I think I did say—


Simone Polanen: Oh damn. 


Damon Young: —already. Yeah. 


Simone Polanen: Okay. Shit. Okay. Never mind.


Damon Young: It was a robust list. It was a thorough list. I think. I think I got most of them. 


Simone Polanen: [laughter] It was, it was. 


Damon Young: But now we’re trying to predict. 


Simone Polanen: Former BlackPlanet users, I’m like trying to think. [laughter] Do you have any before, before I say something I regret? 


Damon Young: I don’t know, Wakanda residents, Beyoncé fans. 


Simone Polanen: Oh. 


Damon Young: Black Air Force 1 wearers. [laughter] Family members of Patrick Beverley. [laughter] I don’t know. 


Simone Polanen: I feel like beehive, beehive is an organized group. Like that is [laughs] that may be the next one. 


Damon Young: Simone, thank you for joining us today. Where can people find you?


Simone Polanen: Yes. Thank you for having me. You can find me on social media, on Twitter and Instagram @simonepolanen. And if you happen to be in Pittsburgh this Saturday, March 25th, I’m going to be giving a talk at Carnegie Mellon, TEDxCM. I’m sure if you Google that, you’ll find the details. But March 25th at Carnegie Mellon. I’ll be there. 


Damon Young: Okay. You’ll be in the Burgh. 


Simone Polanen: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: All right. Thanks again Simone. 


Simone Polanen: Yeah. Thank you. 


Damon Young: Up next is Damon hates. The section of the show where I talk about shit that I hate because I hate a lot of shit. [music plays] Okay. I have slowly accepted the fact that I will never dunk a basketball on a ten foot rim again. And this isn’t a rant about that. I am not complaining about that. This is the circle of life. Things change. At a certain point, things evolve. I’m still useful on a basketball court. My game has evolved. I can still shoot. I can still handle. I can’t guard anyone. I don’t play any defense, but I play smart team defense. I can’t stop a good player, but I could get that good player back when I have the ball. So again, I know my value and my value isn’t in the catching alley-oops anymore. So that’s that. So I’m not upset about the fact that I can’t dunk anymore. I’m a little upset, but not upset enough to rant about it. What I’m upset about is the fact that no one told me that my last dunk was going to be my last dunk. Like, I don’t even remember when my last dunk was I know that it happened maybe ten or 11 years ago, but I don’t remember. Like, if I would’ve known that my last dunk was going to be my last dunk, I would have gotten a cake. I would’ve gotten a video camera crew. I would have invited my friends and family and also each one of my exes, including the ones who knew me when I could still dunk, just to show them that I still have it. I would have invited the mayor. I didn’t even fuck with the mayor of Pittsburgh at that time. I would have invited him to the park if I would have known it was my last dunk. And I feel like whenever we have a monumental, like the last time that something like this happens, there should be something like a register or whatever that lets you know, like, you know what? This will be the last time that you ski. This will be the last time that you’re able to eat a whole pizza pie in one setting. This will be the last time you’re able to drink 15 shots at one time at the bar. [laughter] And this will be the last time that you dunk a basketball. I don’t ask for a whole lot. I’m a simple man just trying to do the best I can. But someone please invent this so the next person who is having this anxiety can have it. [music plays] So coming up next, Van Lathan and Rachel Lindsay of The Ringer’s Higher Learning podcast come through for dear Damon with some questions or an answer, some answers to a question about airplane seating etiquette. Van what we got this week? 


Van Lathan: So we have the question here. 


Damon Young: All right. 


Van Lathan: Says this was, hi, Damon. I was on a flight a few weeks ago, a long flight from Boston to Austin, and a woman seated behind me asked if I could switch seats with her so she could sit next to her boyfriend. I had a window seat and he was to my right. This person says. I considered it for 0000000.5 seconds before telling her no, thank you. Maybe I would have considered it if she was in a window seat. She was in an aisle seat. Okay. I went back to checking my email and I could feel her staring daggers at me. He didn’t really seem to care, but the woman was apparently very mad. Whatever she says. And then a few moments later, a flight attendant asked me the same question. Apparently, the woman got his attention. And asked him to ask me. She went over her head [laughter] to the flight attendant. Same answer she gave. The question that this person is asking you is, was I in the wrong here? 


Damon Young: I mean the easy answer is fuck no. [laughter] Hell the fuck, no. If I want to add another word to it. Two more words. 


Van Lathan: Yeah. [laughter]


Damon Young: I mean, this is just me, right? So flying. I’ve been on hundreds of planes right now, but I’ve never got used to flying. It is an anxiety inducing experience for me. I do not enjoy the prospect of being in the air. I’m like a halfway Christian and I still say five Hail Marys before the flight goes up. I’m always intoxicated, whether through pills and but I mean, like— 


Van Lathan: All right we’ll get you some help nigga. [laughter] Be careful.


Damon Young: —alcohol, sleep deprivation, like the night before, is like, you know what I’m not going to sleep so I can sleep on this flight. And I always you know, I always make sure I either get a window seat and if I’m able to get first class. I get first class because I need that space to sprawl. I need the space to stretch out, 6’2″ I got long legs. I need I need space. And so for someone, after I’ve gone through all of that. To ask me to switch my motherfucking seat. No. I just feel like if if this was a thing and I have empathy for people who might have got separated by their, by their separated from their girlfriend or husband or kids, their grandma or meemaw, concubine, whatever. 


Van Lathan: Separated, they’re on a plane, it’s not the border. 


Damon Young: It’s not the border, you’re going to be like— 


Van Lathan: Yeah, like you’ll be straight. [laughter]


Rachel Lindsay: I feel like there’s exceptions to these— 


Damon Young: You’ll be straight. You know what I mean, and so this was a conversation, you know, I feel like that went viral sometime last year. And I even wrote about it. And yeah, it’s no, I’m not giving up my seat and you shouldn’t feel like a bad person if you refuse to get off your seat because you paid for this shit. And maybe you had the same reasons, the same anxieties, the same neuroses, the same physical constraints. I got arthritis, in my knee. No, I’m not sitting in a fucking aisle with my left fucked up ass knee that I had ACL surgery on in 1998. You know what I mean? No. It ain’t happening.


Van Lathan: Rach?. 


Rachel Lindsay: I’m mean on a plane. We know this. 


Van Lathan: Yeah. 


Rachel Lindsay: I mean, I—


Van Lathan: It was on TikTok. 


Simone Polanen: Unless, unless it’s an equivalent seat. I’m not moving. Unless it’s a child under the age of ten. I’m not moving. 


Damon Young: Is it—


Rachel Lindsay: That’s it. 


Damon Young: Is it a big child? Like is it, is it—


Rachel Lindsay: Ten. Ten and under.


Damon Young: —normal size nine year old? Because if it’s like a 6’2″ nine year old, then he’s just going to have to grow up fast. 


Rachel Lindsay: This has this has happened to me multiple times. And I’ve looked them straight in the eye and I’ve said, absolutely not—


Van Lathan: Your daughter—


Rachel Lindsay: —and I put my my, my AirPods back in and I keep it moving. 


Van Lathan: So here’s the thing with me. This is my thing. I’ve asked people to switch seats with me. 


Rachel Lindsay: Why? 


Van Lathan: So I could sit next to the window. Okay. But let me tell you. Let me tell you why I’m a regular American that understands life. [laughter] I don’t just ask people to do something out of the kindness of their hearts. What I say to people is, hey, I couldn’t get a window seat at the end of the, at the end of the thing. I’m a big guy would like to sit by the window, lay my shit so I could sleep. I’m just like you. I tell people, hey $50 for the window seat right now. 


Rachel Lindsay: I would still tell you no. 


Van Lathan: I’ll tell people. Hey, $60 for the window seat. If you want to switch seats with somebody, how about make it worth their while? How about, hey, we in prison now? Yo, can I have your chips? You know what I’m saying? Like, buy me a ginger ale. Like, if— 


Rachel Lindsay: Has that worked? 


Van Lathan: —you’re. If. By the way, when I offer hard cash money for someone to switch a seat with me, it is almost always effective. Yo, I got 50. I got 60. 


Rachel Lindsay: In first class? 


Van Lathan: Obviously, you’re not going to switch seats in first class this was back in the other days. It’s not in first class. [laughter] In first class, every seat is good. I’m saying if you’re going to do that is do it. Make it worth the person’s while, right? Make it worth their while. If you’re going to ask somebody to be less comfortable so you can be more comfortable, there has to be a trade off. Here’s a little cash. If not, I feel like you’re trying to play me. I’ll be honest with you. I feel like you’re telling me that your experience is more important than my experience. 


Rachel Lindsay: I am. 


Van Lathan: [laughter] And I should move so that you can be more comfortable. So if. If. If you ask me for something, there’s nothing in it for me? That’s not the way things work. You know what I’m saying? Th— 


Damon Young: No, no I agree with you. I mean, I agree to a point because, like, my my parents and I used to play a game called everybody got a price. And the game would be, you know, how much would it take for you to walk butt naked to the corner store and would you do it for $50? Nope. $100? No. $2,000? My dad would probably say yes at that point. At that point. [laughter] $2,000 is usually like his like his limit where he would do anything. And so I’m saying right now that I would I still would not move my seat if you offered me cash. But there’s a there’s always a number, you know what I mean, there’s always a number someone could reach. And so yeah, if you want to do a thing like that and you want to change the seats, if you’re not offering to upgrade then, yeah, you need to offer some cold and it needs to be cash. You can’t be like Cash App. 


Van Lathan: Na. [laughter] 


Damon Young: Like I need to feel the actual physical tactile money in my hand. 


Van Lathan: Yeah. It don’t hit the same.


Damon Young: I need the visceral experience of you passed me the cash, me holding it in my hand and me putting it in my wallet in order for me to make that decision. So bring cash with you. But the thing is, we’re expecting niggas who didn’t plan ahead enough to plan out their seats [laughter] to also bring cash in anticipation of having to switch the seat. So these are niggas who don’t plan ahead already. You know what I mean?


Van Lathan: Right. 


Rachel Lindsay: Right. 


Damon Young: But I feel like it’s it’s almost like a moot point at this point. 


Rachel Lindsay: Can I ask both of y’all a question? Both of y’all said, you alluded to it, you said it, Damon, that you get anxiety on a plane and you want to sit by the window. 


Van Lathan: I want to sit, I don’t know if he said he wants to. 


Rachel Lindsay: Yeah, he did. I actually get more anxiety sitting next to the window knowing I’m that close to the outside. I like to be tucked into the middle in case something happens. 


Van Lathan: I don’t even want to talk about this— 


Rachel Lindsay: I’m sorry, I just find it very interesting it gives me anxiety—


Van Lathan: I don’t want to talk about, if nothing happens, it don’t happen. I don’t want to, it’s not—


Rachel Lindsay: We don’t have to talk about nothing happens. I just want to understand the logic because I get I concerned. 


Van Lathan: I like to watch, I like to watch the wing. 


Simone Polanen: That gives me so much anxiety. That I am, go ahead Damon. Sorry.


Damon Young: I sleep. So I put the wind— I put the, I put the shade down. And I use that—


Simone Polanen: Gotcha. 


Damon Young: I use that as like, I put my coat or the pillow or whatever, and I go to sleep. 


Van Lathan: Yeah. 


Damon Young: And I also, you know, I slobber sometimes, you know, I sleep with my mouth open. And so you don’t want me to sleep in between people and just got a random nigga slobbering on you. So it’s better for everyone if I’m sitting next to the window so that whatever comes out of my mouth will just drip on the windowsill. [laughter] Shout out, shout out to COVID. [indistinct] Again, I just want to thank everybody for coming through again this week. Thank you to Simone Polanen host of Not Past It, a Spotify original podcast. Also want to give a shout out to Van Lathan, and Rachel Lindsay from Higher Learning and their very special dear Damon segment. And again, subscribe. Listen for Free to Stuck with Damon Young only on Spotify. And also if you have any questions about anything etiquette based, Kyrie Irving based, relationship based. Whatever, hit me up at askdamon@crooked.com. All right y’all. See you next week. [music plays] Stuck with Damon Young is hosted by me, Damon Young. Our executive producers are Kendra James and Sandy Girard. Our producers are Ryan Wallerson and Morgan Moody. Mixing and mastering from Sara Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. Theme music by Taka Yasuzawa. And special thanks to Charlotte Landes. And from Gimlet and Spotify our executive producers are Krystal Hawes-Dressler, Matt Shilts, Lauren Silverman and Neil Drumming. Gimlet’s managing director is Nicole Beemsterboer. Also special thanks to Lesley Gwam. Follow and subscribe to Stuck on Spotify. Tap the follow button and hit the bell icon to be notified when a new episode drops.