This is what I tell myself most mornings. But today, today the sun is on my side. And the coffee was good, and the candle Rachel gave me smells exquisite. And last night…last night I had a change of perspective.
Last night I went dancing, yes, I made it out twice in less than a week. And it was so good. Although I must tell you, the evening started out tricky. I had barely put my shoes on when this man I had never seen before, asked me to dance. And as I always do, I said yes. I never turn down an offer to dance. Which isn’t always a good thing. And I don’t mean this in a “I’m such a great dancer, I deserve only the best” way.
Tango is an intimate dance, and coupled with the fact that one dances a tanda(a set of three dances) with someone, this can lead to disaster. Not “world is going to end disaster”, but “I have to spend the next 12-15 minutes with this person” kind of disaster. The culture of tango is complicated and full of rules one of which is when you begin a tanda, you’re in it for the long haul, unless….unless you really can’t and you excuse yourself with a polite, “thank you.” “Thank you” means “we’re done here.” Done at the end of the tanda, it means “thank you that was lovely.” Done in the middle of a tanda, it means “I can’t do this with you any more.” Now mind you, I have endured many dances over the years, and only once used the “thank you” card in the middle of a tanda, and it was entirely appropriate and warranted. The truth is I could have said “thank you” hundreds of times where it would have been completely appropriate and warranted and I haven’t. Five years of tango and only once. I’m a coward.
So last night, this very nice man asks me to dance, and as I took the embrace, he says gleefully, “this is my first time.” And I say, “ever?” And he says , “yes”.. bless his heart. And so we stumble and spin and do the weird moves that is beginner tango. I say this not with judgment, but with honesty. I’ve been the beginner, I know. Unfortunately, this is the first song of the tanda…two more to go. And so I do what I never do when the song ends, and say, “thank you,” in the middle of the tanda.
Now why you say, why not just endure it, you were a beginner…you’ve been there? Yes, I have. And I am sure I have made people endure a few dances with me. Why not endure one more time? Because one dance was enough. It wasn’t totally awful, he smelled nice and wasn’t creepy. But it was hard, and unpleasant, and one dance was enough. And why I have to keep enduring awful dances for fear of hurting someone’s ego is ridiculous. Tango is a tough world, life is tough. When I ended our tanda early, I acted kindly…saying “thank you” genuinely, not trying to embarrass or insult this man. I merely took a moment to recognize the truth.. that I was doing no one a favor by enduring the dance. Who wants to share an embrace with someone who’s feeling uncomfortable? Sometimes it just doesn’t work, and that’s okay. And you know what, the world doesn’t end with one bad dance. I walked off the dance floor feeling liberated and empowered.
As a woman in tango, I wait for that invitation to dance. The ball always seems to be in the man’s court. Last night, I felt the ball was squarely in mine. The truth is, this is how tango is supposed to be, and is for most people. The ball is equally in both courts. Women routinely turn down men, and men routinely decline the offer to dance to a number of women. I’ve judged this phenomenon very harshly. Why can’t everyone just get along and dance with everyone. But the truth is some dances are just better than others, some are just particularly sweet and delicious and leave us wanting more. It’s okay to want more. Tango isn’t about settling. Neither is life.
I seriously doubt I be turning down dances left and right from now on. But I feel like I could if I wanted. And I don’t feel badly about that. I feel like I’ve grown up a little.