Marriage Advice for Panama Jackson, Who Is Getting Married This Week

Illustration for article titled Marriage Advice for Panama Jackson, Who Is Getting Married This Week
Photo: Iris Mannings (Iris Mannings Photography)

Three weeks ago, while Panama and I were doing a talk at Princeton University, I shared the story of how, although we first met in 2004 and started VSB in 2008, we didn’t meet in person until our three-year anniversary party in D.C. in 2011.


The more I tell that story, the less sense it makes. It’s geographically absurd. D.C. and Pittsburgh are a four-hour drive apart—a trip that seems even shorter because Breezewood, Pa., exists between them as a convenient halftime to break it up. It takes longer than that to go to Costco. That it took seven years for us to actually see each other was ludicrous.

It also, of course, is a meta-commentary on the sorts of relationships fostered by the internet, the ubiquity of which is so singular that it’s become atmospheric. Anyone attempting to shoehorn a distinction between digital life and “real” life now is a clueless anachronism. We just didn’t have to see each other in person to know and trust each other and didn’t feel a need to force a meeting, instead allowing it to happen organically.

The bulk of the senselessness of that story, however, is mined from the fact that Panama is one of my best friends now. Considering what we’ve experienced together, us seeing each other for the very first time in 2011—just seven years ago—feels absurd-er. We founded and sold a business. 

A list of the places we’ve been to together includes Los Angeles (twice), New Orleans (twice), Chicago, Stanford, Yale, Harvard and Princeton. We’ve met each other’s families and been to each other’s homes. He met my wife before she was even my girlfriend; I met his fiancee years before they had children and got engaged. He helped carry me down the steps at Ozio when I blacked out during my bachelor party in 2014, and I, well, made sure he at least stayed hydrated at his. He would have been a groomsman at my wedding if I had them. (Wedding parties are expensive, and I was still broke-adjacent then.) And I’m looking forward to Friday when I’ll be a groomsman at his very lightskint African celebration.

My bachelor party, approximately four hours before the blackout
My bachelor party, approximately four hours before the blackout
Photo: Damon Young

Anyway, just as he had a head start over me with children, I have a four-year head start with marriage. If marriage were a Ph.D. program, I’d be close to defending my dissertation around now. This officially makes me a marriage expert—wise and resourceful; sensible and shrewd; perceptive and pragmatic; astute and sagacious.


This wisdom has equipped me with the ability to deliver poignant, sapient, applicable and timely advice. I’m a motherfuckin’ marriage maven. A black-ass marriage Yoda. Because of this, I’ve decided, in anticipation of his wedding, to give Panama the greatest gift I could possibly give him: A collection of best practices I’ve gained from experience, combined with a few nuggets of especially handy advice that helped me.

Without further ado, here’s everything I can possibly say to help ensure that his marriage is a long and fruitful one:

And if there’s one thing I totally, absolutely, definitely need to tell him — a relevant and unique insight about marriage — it’s this:

Also, just because I’m feeling jolly and magnanimous, here’s a list of other people they should maybe listen to about their marriage:

I hope that helped.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)



Here is my expert advice for Panama: Pick up after yourself on a daily basis. That has been the thing that has annoyed me the most about living with men. Like, food containers, junk mail, socks, etc. Just put stuff in the trash or away. She’ll love you more if you do that. Also, if you’re ever weirdly annoyed and snapping at each other? You might just be hungry. Eat something and have a drink and you’ll see your mood improve. Congrats!