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Men on Vulnerability and Dating at the 2019 Black Love Summit
by Jamela Green
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July 24, 2019

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Men on Vulnerability and Dating at the 2019 Black Love Summit

“[Being a playboy] becomes redundant. Ladies, if y’all think that men are out here just enjoying [sex], it’s not [like that]… it gets played out quick… [At some point] you just want that stability on a Tuesday night.” – Terrence J, actor and host

And thus was the tone of the 2019 Black Love Summit’s Dating and Vulnerability panel, a one-on-one conversation between TV host and actor Terrence J and Tommy Oliver, producer and co-creator of the hit television series Black Love, premiering its third season August 10th at 10 p.m. on OWN.

But what does it take to get to that “stability on a Tuesday night,” and what, if anything, does vulnerability have to do with it?  

The conversation around men and vulnerability seems to be a new one.  It seems that for generations, vulnerability in men ran counter to what a man’s real job was supposed to be: providing for and protecting the family.  Black Love Summit audience member Jamal confirmed this idea, stating, “I don’t have an urge to be vulnerable in a relationship. I was taught to protect my lady, to provide for my lady, to make sure she feels secure and supported. So for me, being vulnerable is counterproductive.” 

2019 Black Love Summit

But aside from Jamal, the men in the audience were open to the conversation and the act and emotion. Harold, who recently ended a long term relationship, says that he doesn’t find it difficult to be vulnerable. “It’s easy for me to be vulnerable with the right woman.” Shawn, who traveled from New York to attend the summit says, “Being vulnerable means being able to open up and to be willing to listen to other people. Then, take what they see and what they experience from me and use it to grow to become a better person.”

And Terrence J was open to becoming a better man through vulnerability. It is something that he is working on. But he doesn’t find that being vulnerable is encouraged by women. “We never hear, ‘cry to me baby,’” he said before admitting that he doesn’t know how to be vulnerable.

We never hear, ‘cry to me baby’.”

In addition, as a child, vulnerability in a male was not on the table.  

Both Terrence J and Tommy were raised by single Black mothers in an environment that didn’t celebrate boys being sensitive and expressing their feelings openly. Tommy shared that “growing up there was no room to be vulnerable,” so he never knew how.  And his father wasn’t in the home to show him how a man responded to emotions at all.  He jokingly said, “I never met my dad. He could be sitting in the back of the room and I wouldn’t know it was him.” 

And on the myth of men’s excitement of jumping from person to person with reckless abandon, Terrence J said, “Men get lonely, too.”  

Tommy’s perspective of the state of Terrence J’s love life was sobering. “I couldn’t imagine being in your shoes, 30-something and single.” 

Terrence’s response was as real and as raw as it gets. As much as his married frat brothers envy his singledom, the truth of the matter is, he and his single line brothers long for that married life stability and not having to worry about “being on The Shade Room for doing something crazy.” With that in mind, Tommy posed a hypothetical to Terrence, “If you could flip a switch and trade being single and able to do whatever you want to being in a relationship that’s committed and real and [there’s] nobody else, would you do it right now?” 

Without skipping a beat, Terrence responded, “Yeah, absolutely. If the circumstances were right, HELL YEAH!”

And Terrence’s mother — completely on board. When he was younger, she would drill into him to treat women with respect and “don’t ever get a girl pregnant.” But when he turned 34, her attitude switched. She told him, “It’s ok now. Where my grandchildren?” 

And, for Terrence, children are at the top of his list. Especially now that he has surpassed some of his professional goals and milestones. Now that he is stable in his finances and career and has a pool of resources around him, he wishes he had a legacy to pour into.

But Terrence does realize that during this time, when it’s just him, he can do some self work.  Terrence stated, he “never really spent time focusing on me. Now I’m just taking a whole beat from it all and just focusing on myself…” He continued, “This time of being single is time I’m working on me.”

But the work for Terrence J these days, and the work for many men, is work in preparation for welcoming a significant other into their life.

Attendee Keith said, “The conversation with Terrence and Tommy confirmed I’m ready for love. I’ve been single for over a year working on me and I’m ready for love.” 

Terrence closed out the session with this statement, “It’s about making the leap…I guess that’s the first step. I haven’t really dated in a long time…It’s about taking those leaps, and I guess today is day one for me.”

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.” 

Vulnerability expert Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.”  With that in mind, looking for love can be the ultimate leap, the ultimate act of courage, as can be exposing our true selves — hopes, goals, fears, and all — to the people we care about. But whether leaping into the unknown of the dating pool or leaping into the unknown of learning our true selves, perhaps vulnerability isn’t a detriment. Perhaps it’s the one asset necessary to achieve what is truly desired.    

At the Black Love Summit, the men were open, and that seems like a step in the right direction.

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