Dave Chappelle, Patton Oswalt

Dave Chappelle and Patton Oswalt have been friends for 34 years.

The first two decades of the 21st century have been a reckoning of sorts for humanity. Technology has shrunk our global community and broadened our connections with one another, forcing us to grapple with how prejudice, inequality and oppression of all kinds have influenced us all.

Some of that has been great. Some of it not so much. Social media has proven to be a double-edged sword, expanding our exposure to diversity on the one hand, and limiting our ability to have nuanced conversations on the other. Platforms such as Twitter allow people to make clear, concise statements about where they stand, which can be good and necessary at times. They also create an environment where a stance that doesn't fit neatly into 240 characters is ostracized as being wishy-washy at best and highly problematic at worst.

All of this combined has resulted in a weird paradox of people pushing for complex social discourse while also insisting on removing all complexity from that discourse.


Case in point: Patton Oswalt's last two Instagram posts about Dave Chappelle.

The comedian shared a series of photos with Dave Chappelle in Seattle on New Year's Eve. Oswalt had been performing in downtown Seattle when he got a text from Chappelle to come join him at his show just a block away.

Oswalt wrote:

"Finished me set at @mccawhall and got a text from @davechappelle. Come over to the arena he’s performing in next door and do a guest set. Why not? I waved good-bye to this hell-year with a genius I started comedy with 34 years ago. He works an arena like he’s talking to one person and charming their skin off. Anyway, I ended the year with a real friend and a deep laugh. Can’t ask for much more."

Chappelle has long been known for pushing the social envelope with his comedy and has created some controversy for himself, especially with his recent Netflix special in which he tackled the issue of transgender rights in a way that felt harmful to many trans people and allies. (Full disclosure: I have not watched his special myself, so I am only sharing the reactions I have seen to it, not commenting on the content itself.) Some people accused Chappelle of being anti-trans, others accused him of "punching down," while others were more offended by how old and tired his LGBTQ-oriented jokes were than by the jokes themselves.

Patton Oswalt has been an outspoken ally of the LGBTQ community, so seeing him celebrate sharing the stage with Chappelle was jarring for some fans. They made their feelings known, which prompted this response from Oswalt:

"I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time this New Year’s Eve. We’ve known each other since we’re teens. He’s a fellow comedian, the funniest I’ve ever met. I wanted to post a pic & an IG story about it — so I did. The friend is Dave Chappelle. Thirty four YEARS we’ve been friends. He’s refocused and refined ideas a lot of us took as settled about race & history & Life On Planet Earth and spun them around with a phrase or punchline. We’ve done bad & good gigs, open mikes & TV tapings. But we also 100% disagree about transgender rights & representation. I support trans peoples’ rights — ANYONE’S rights — to live safely in the world as their fullest selves. For all the things he’s helped ME evolve on, I’ll always disagree with where he stands NOW on transgender issues. But I also don’t believe a seeker like him is done evolving, learning. You know someone that long, see the struggles and changes, it’s impossible to cut them off. Impossible not to be hopeful and open and cheer them on. Also, I’ve been carrying a LOT of guilt about friends I’ve cut off, who had views with which I couldn’t agree, or changed in ways I couldn’t live with. Sometimes I wonder — did I and others cutting them off make them dig their heels in deeper, fuel their ignorance with a nitro-boost of resentment and spite? I’m an LGBTQ ally. I’m a loyal friend. There’s friction in those traits that I need to reconcile myself, and not let cause feels of betrayal in ANYONE else. And I’m sorry, truly sorry, that I didn’t consider the hurt this would cause. Or the DEPTH of that hurt. I’ve been messaging a lot on IG today, and the back and forth has really helped guide me in the writing of this. I (naively) deleted a lot of posts in the comment thread — critical ones from LGBTQ writers AND shit-posts by TERF/anti-trans orcs looking for clicks & giggles. I wanted a 'nice comment thread' about the pic with my friend. Ugh. So easy to think someone ELSE needs growth and miss the need in yourself. Gonna keep trying."

Right here is where I, as a writer, feel the need to choose my words carefully. That's fine—I'm a firm believer that people should choose their words carefully. However, I'm also fully aware that no matter what I say from this point on, some people in the comments are going to complain. That's why I wanted to share Patton Oswalt's posts and write this article—because while so many people have a desperate desire to remove complexity and nuance from our discourse, I have a desperate desire to insert it.

Here's my TL;DR stance on that topic: Relationships are complicated. Perspectives are complicated. Practically nothing in this world is black-and-white, and if we refuse to acknowledge that seemingly conflicting things can be true at the same time, we will never be able to work through the things that divide us.

I'm not here to defend Dave Chappelle, nor am I here to defend Patton Oswalt. I'm here to defend the idea that people who consider themselves friends can have wildly different beliefs, can disagree vehemently with one another on really important issues, can debate and fight over such things and still see value in one another and in their relationship. Everyone makes different choices about what and who they support, as well as why and how, but those choices are rarely as simple as some make them out to be.

Let's say someone decides, "I flat-out refuse to be friends with someone with racist/sexist/anti-LGBTQ views." Great, so where do you draw the line? Because the vast majority of people have shades of those views, even those who purport not to, simply by living in and being groomed by the world we were born into. If you cut out all people with any hint of those views, you're basically cutting out most of humanity.

"Well, we can be friends as long as they are educating themselves and making an effort," one might say. Great, so how do you assess that? What criteria do you use? What if they aren't learning what you want them to or at a pace you deem acceptable? How do you measure those things? And even if you do decide that someone is too problematic for you to associate with, what is your purpose in cutting them off? Is it to change their mind? (Unlikely.) Is it to punish? (Understandable impulse, but is that actually solving the problem?) Is it to reduce harm? (If the person is causing you harm, disassociation makes sense. If the person is causing other people harm, is your disassociation going to stop that harm? Could you do more good in the world by maintaining the friendship?)

This is where nuance and complexity come in. The answers to all of those questions are going to be different for every single person and every single relationship, and that's okay. Some people don't even feel the need to ask and answer those questions because they view the nature and purpose of relationships differently, and that's okay, too.

I'm not saying we should tolerate or befriend Nazis; what I'm saying is that there's an ocean of gray between befriending Nazis and piling onto or disassociating with anyone who hasn't reached a perfect stage of social enlightenment. While we all can decide where on that spectrum we want to be, we cannot—and should not—decide that for anyone else. Every person is different, every relationship is unique and I don't think any one of us should be in the business of judging who should be friends with whom.

We need fewer black-and-white hot takes and more acknowledgment that living with other human beings in this world is complicated. Oswalt's post was the response of a complex human with complex relationships who is trying to navigate a world that doesn't embrace complexity. Perhaps it's imperfect, but really, when did we start to demand perfection from people?

Call out harm when it happens, absolutely, but let's move away from the idea that one person's problematic words or behavior mean that everyone associated with that person must be called to account for their sins. There's just no way that ends well for anyone, and it definitely won't get us anywhere near where we want to be.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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“F’s” and “v’s” belong to a group of sounds known as labiodentals. They happen when you raise your bottom lip to touch your top teeth and are used in more than half of today’s human language. But science suggests we didn’t always have this linguistic ability.

As hunter gatherers, our ancestors ate a diet that was minimally processed and required more effort to chew. As a result, by adolescence their teeth would develop what’s called an edge-to-edge bite, where the jaw is elongated so that both the bottom and top teeth are completely flush with one another.

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"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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