The Thing About Relationship Panels


Last night, I was apart of a relationship panel in DC. It was the focal point of a larger event called The Loves Jones Cafe which featured some spoken word poets and a live performance from my boo and yours, Teedra Moses, to bring it to a close.


For quite some time now, I've strayed away from doing relationship panels. Namely because 1) I'm not a relationship expert and neither are most people for that matter, and 2) relationship panels at their core are like the lead up to Obama's inauguration THEN the last 6 years while he's been in office: a lot of hope, then a bunch of reality.

So let's talk about why relationship panels, while very entertaining, are often exercises in futility. Mmkay? Mmkay.


For starters, who attends relationship panels…on purpose? Well, largely, its people who are very invested in discussing relationships ad nauseum. There is a term for these people: single women. Of course, scattered about the legions of single women are married women and a few married men whose wives dragged them along for the ride. Also, you get a few single men in the midst who knew that relationship panels are like shooting fish in a barrel. And some folks in relationships looking for a fun date night but who know to take this all in stride. I tend to think that when most women get into relationships, the constant discussion about relationships that invovles actively getting into your car and paying to hear people tell you what you either already know or don't care about because you got you a boo, becomes less and less attractive. Of course, there are those who are just interested in the human condition and the give and take between men and women, but they ain't paying for it.

They read VSB for free.

Now this isn't to disparage single women at all. This is #factsonly. Now, many of the women who attend these events are indeed attempting to ascertain two things: 1) insight into why they may still be single amongst the current dating landscape; and 2) insight into men's perspective on relationships…to inform their insight on why they may be single in the current dating landscape. Alls fair in love and basketball. And these are interesting things to be interested in. I mean, all most of us want in this world of sin is a little bit of love. So when its elusive for whatever reason, we want to figure out why. Again, alls fair in love and basketball.

That's the hope part.

Here's the reality. No matter what people come looking for, everybody has their trigger. Especially when it comes to relationships because at the core nobody ever wants to believe they are truly the reason why they can't find love. Our egos can't manage that. So things go swimmingly…until somebody starts talking.


As soon as the first opinion - and remember, its a panel, it's ALL opinion - is uttered, where there are more than two gathered in relationship's name somebody is going to get in their feelings. As Tupac said after he died, that's just the way it is. It's a panel, which should mean that the people who've been 'pacifically beckoned should be worth listening to. But the thing about relationship discussions is this, literally EVERYBODY with an opinion has a dog in the fight AND a desire to share it. So most folks really just want to state their piece during these things. I feel like you could pass a micrphone to almost every person in the room at any discussion and they'd be able to give you at least 5 minutes regarding their stance on relationships. And almost all of it would be controversial to somebody else.

Like for instance, at last night's panel, there were four main questions that got asked: 1) What's the impact of social media on relationships?; 2) How long should you wait before having sex with man (to the ladies obviously…which is odd since really this is a question thats geared more towards a man's opinion yet the first 15 minutes of this discussion was dominated by the women panelists and folks in the audience before either of us male panelists uttered a word)?; 3) What values do you look for in a mate?; and 4) Can you date the ex of a friend?


All of these are pretty standard relationship fare. Nobody's inventing the wheel no matter how those questions are answered. There's also a very slim chance that any new perspective is going to be realized from them. However, they are ALL trigger questions. So from a "provocative, gets the people going" standpoint, they're perfect because they're flashpoints of disagreement. In fact, the discussion about how long you should wait spawned a pseudo-argument amongst a panelist who handled it very well (kudos to Miss Lena Chase) and a 46-year-old, married audience member who confused the living shit out of me, but said she made her man wait for 6 months. Now it was pointed out that while he may have waited for 6 months to sleep with her, he was probably sleeping with other people, which somehow caused the audience member to more or less pop off (I looked at one of the panelists, Enitan and said "whats happening here?") about how he could sleep with whoever he wanted but he respected her. Which, I have no clue what that had to do with anything.

(An important point about relationship discussions, for anybody in a relationship, whatever they did "worked" for them. So they tend to be inclined in a charged environment to beat that drum because, again, it worked. People tend to forget to realize that relationships either work or they don't. The how you get there is completely differnet for everybody.)


Of course, during this pseudo rant, there were tons of claps and "yaaaaaaaaaaaaasssss" and the like, and I have no idea why. I really wish I had it on tape.

But it illustrates the point I'm making about panels. You gather individuals as panelists, but because they're speaking about something we've all dealt with, every single person has a legit claim to state their beef. Except instead of any real perspective, it tends to become a free for all. Which isn't a bad thing mind you. I think the give-and-take of a relationship discussion is a good thing.


Except common sense gets lost in the mix because logic will ALWAYS lose to emotion. And relationships and therefore the discussions of them are emotional. Always. If I feel this way, I don't care how much sense you make. Because I FEEL this way.

There was a convo to end it about friends dating your exes. And it went about how I thought it would. Overwhelmingly, women thought it was completely off-limits (even an argument about what constitutes real friends made it into the foray), and both of us men and Lena Chase on the panel thought that while we get while its frowned upon, its unreasonable to make folks off limits if it didn't work out.


Common sense be damned because that's just NOT how things work apparently. Because the other panelist, The Date Whisperer, yeah she was not here for that at all. It made for fun, and a bit contentious and aggressive theatrics though. I remarked at one point that it felt real RHOA when Portia snatched Kenya all up on the stage.

But that's the thing about relationship panels. A person like me? I'm there for the shits and giggles. You ask me a question, I'll answer with some common sense and sip my tea like Kermit. And I tend to think thats the MO for most folks on these panels. But again, as soon as the first opinion is uttered, the devolution of how we got here starts to happen.


I often wonder if anybody ever walks away with anything meaningful - other than being entertained - from relationship panels. I know its possible and I'm sure it happens. But usually it feels like most folks just go off into the night arguing further about what was said. No real answers, because Sway.

So what's your take on relationship panels? Are they fruitful? Or just reasons to gather and yell?

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.

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So I've never been to a relationship panel, but I want to know, how long SHOULD you wait to have chex with someone and what is the rationale behind all this? And if you're dating someone and it's all nice and platonic and not chexual do you just get to whatever the appropriate point is and be like "hey, we should probably fvck sometime soon, it's been x amount of time"? How does this all work?