Friday, June 29, 2007

TANGO BURN-OUT: Sometimes A Goddess Just Has to Chill

Thursday night is our usual tango night at El Beso. I get gussied up for a few whirls around on the dance floor and then dinner. Last night, I just wasn't feeling the urge to go through the whole production process...and it IS a production. After all, the Goddess is a GodDESS. Why, even Aphrodite had to bathe and perfume herself before she went on the hunt for an unsuspecting mortal lover. I'm not on the prowl, as I am happily hooked-up, but, still, I don't want to look like I've just rolled off the pilates mat all smelly and hair askew.

I wonder what the deal is with these occasional breaks I need to take. Sometimes, the milonga scene is just too much too take. After all the beautification, (which, hell, doesn't take THAT long, and, usually, I really enjoy the primping and preening), I feel as if I have to go to work. I mean, I never liked the whole pick-up bar scene anyway, and when I went dancing, it was usually with a bunch of girls I ended up dancing with the whole night. In the milonga, I have to sit and wait, follow the codes to get a dance invite, not be too eager or look like I'm too bored, look good, AND dance well. Then there's the gossiping, the pettiness, and cattiness that get on my last raw nerve. Sometimes, it's just too much work and bad ju-ju, and I'd much rather spend my time in my jammies watching King of The Hill...which I do every so often.

It is VITAL for people to have a life outside of the milonga, or you will wither away until you look like one of those old, hard-core milongueros who have nothing BUT the milonga. And, really, how interesting are they outside of the milonga? Have you spoken to one lately? They're not really that much more interesting during the milongas. Take a Spanish class; work out; take a non-tango dance class; travel outside of Buenos Aires; check out some museums; take in some theatre; meet non-tango people for cultural exchange talks over coffee. There is so much more to life than the milonga. Just check out the BA Herald or any one of the number of on-line BA resources. I knew that if I wanted to survive here and feel like a normal person, I would have to find other things to do with my time than dance. I'm glad I did.

Going to the milonga is a bi-weekly ritual my partner and I enjoy, but I also relish occasional breaks from the scene. After a week or so away from the milonga, absence makes my heart grow fonder, and I usually can't wait to go back. That's a nice feeling to have after 10 years of dancing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

MILONGA CODES LEARNED THE HARD WAY: A Tango Demi-goddess' Initiation into Full Goddess-hood

First off, let me explain the Tango Goddess' absence. She was fretting about her final dissertation draft, which is, thankfully, over and done with, and had been traveling and doing all that graduation and post-doctoral meltdown/depression stuff. She has now climbed down from her perch off Olympus momentarily to bid you all a hearty, "Welcome back!" Have you missed her? Have you? Have you? Place a pair of new leopard-patterned leather dance shoes in the offering box there at the entrance, and she will bestow upon you at least one tanda with the man you want to dance with tonight. She goes through a lot of shoes. (Surely, the goddess must have ancient links to that archipelago called the Philippines...)

I thought that I would jumpstart this blog once again with something that I wish someone had clued me into. Aside from all the usual dance-related codes one needs to learn, such as the cabeceo, a savvy non-Argentine tango afficionada needs to have one of those electronic translator contraptions to figure out what these milongueros are REALLY saying and, more importantly, what one saying back to them. The Tango Goddess is not only stunningly beautiful (and oh-so-humble); she is kind and gracious to all those mere mortal men with whom she chooses to dance. This bewitching combo has gotten her into quite a number of very sour pickles! Thankfully, the first gerkin has a happy it concerns her mere-mortal partner on and off the dance floor.

It was her last night in Buenos Aires. She didn't know if she would ever see this man again. She used all her divine powers to get him to stay, but, no, being a mere-mortal, he had to go eat and then sleep. She was near mad with desire (and a few hours away from a very long bout of the flu), so she told him she would accompany him downstairs. She battled with herself (and tried to get her balance with the rail...she was also about to start her period...oh, joy): This was it. She either had to do something about what she felt, or find some Roman Catholic restraint and risk asking herself for the rest of her immortal life, "What if? What if?" So, she did what any red-blooded North American would do. She took the bull by the horns. In other words, once she and her prospective beloved reached the bottom of the stairs, she took a deep breath, grabbed him, and planted a big wet one on him. Then, she asked him if he wanted to go out for coffee.

Now, to most people from North America, this would seem like a sweet scene right out of a 50's comedy (edit for tongue, of course) with hero and heroine walking hand-in-hand in the middle of the empty street at night to the 24 hour diner on the next block. Roll closing credits. A kiss for us is, indeed, still a kiss, and does not necessarily imply, in moment of said kiss, other parts of the either party's anatomy. A kiss is an event in and of itself. Retold to Argentines in Buenos Aires, however, a kiss implies sex. Not only did I initiate tonsil hockey with the man, I also invited him for *gasp* coffee!

I was a bad, bad girl. I was a brazen hussy. I was asking for it. (Look, why waste time? I had less than 24 hours until my plane took off for the United States. The clock was a-tickin'. ) "No," you say. "Stop!" The Tango Goddess wasn't asking for it. She was planting the seed for "IT", but IT still needed time to grow and be fertilized and watered and all that stuff that the Tango Goddess is really bad at. If the kiss was not enough to seal the deal for the mere mortal, the very forward invitation to coffee was.

Coffee, it seems, has a different connotation within the milonga. Multiple choice: A man asks a woman for coffee in the milonga because a) he wants to get to know her better over a cortado in a public confiteria, or b) he wants to get to know her in the biblical sense, preferably in the privacy of his or her own home. The answer, as I have been told over and over again by men and women alike after my mere-mortal partner and I have regaled this episode, is B...always, always B. I had sex on my yankee brain, and I was gonna get me a little action before I was leaving the country.

So, recap and Lesson I: self-initiated kiss + self-initiated invitation to coffee = horny North American ready to party. Don't let this happen to you if you don't want it to happen to you. If you should receive an invition "para tomar un cafecito", remember that coffee (usually) = sex and that "men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way" (unless, course, you and he have already boinked and have done away with the sexual tension...but when is it done away with, really? Or if one of you is gay). This is never so true as in the milonga.

My next sweet mini gerkin has to do with the subtleties of the Spanish language and my attempt to translate American sentiment into castellano, which is impossible to do. You know, you watch a show like The Sopranos or King of the Hill with Spanish subtitles and the translators completely miss the point of what the characters are saying. It's just painful to read sometimes. Imagine how wacky you sound sometimes when you're trying to speak another language that you can't yet think in.

I made the mistake of telling one of my favorite dance clients that I hadn't seen him in the milonga in ages and that I hope he hadn't forgotten about me. I also told him that he now had a debt of 3 tandas. In my mind, I meant exactly what I wrote. There were no hidden sexual come-ons at all. If I had to translate it further, I would say that I meant, "Hey, haven't seen ya in ages. Put me on your dance card. Since I don't dance with ANYONE for more than one tanda (which he knew, of course), I expect that we'll have a dance for the next 3 weeks (which really could have gone without saying because every time we see each other at a milonga, we look at each other to dance a fast milonga)."

This guy blew "Don't forget about me" all out of proportion, and ended up writing something to me about how exciting it is to dance with me, and how, if it weren't for the obvious immense respect he has for my relationship with my romantic partner, he would dance all night with me, etc, blah, blah, blah, all of which I took as normal milonguero bullcrap and promptly forgot. Somehow, his live-in girlfriend finds out about our e-mail exchange, and now she's pissed off at me. The sad thing is that he likes this drama because his OTHER girlfriend (and yes, my dears, many of them do have official wives and official girlfriends, as well as some unofficial ones) tucked away in some barrio. Many of them are forbidden to dance where they dance.) feels even more sorry for him now that his official girlfriend has gone off her rocker again with her jealousy. When I commented to him, half-jokingly/half-mockingly, "My goodness. So many women fighting for you," he answered, "La verdad...que si (The truth is...yes)." I haven't danced with him since that comment, as it finaly dawned on me that he is a sad little man stirring up a little drama for himself to make himself feel important. It's just boring to watch. I'm willing to strike him off my dance card.

A little note about poligamy here. Many men, and I'm assuming some women, too, have a little somethin'-somethin' on the side there to spice up whatever they have going on "on the record". The sad thing is that they are often looking for number 3. That's fine and dandy if everyone were on the same page and in agreement, but, sadly, it is often not the case. The Tango Goddess has had her fare share of liaisons, and she can tell you from experience that the drama eventually takes its toll.

Look, the things that should throw up the red flags with men at the milonga are the same things that should make you suspicious of men off the dance floor: If a man tells you he has his milongas and you have yours, it means he's on the prowl. If he does not give you his home number, he's married or living with someone. If he only wants to meet you on certain days and times, once again, he is comprometido and already has a woman and chilluns. Oh, but he really loves you? He thinks you're the most beautiful thing in the world? His wife and he don't make love anymore? His girlfriend is a harpy, and they're going to break up at any moment? Lies, lies, lies. Believe them at your own peril.

Lesson II? Watch what you say and do, even if it sounds innocent to you. Men can easily take amiability as flirtation and will push your good will and good manners as far as they can go, preferrably right into the sack. These guys have fantastic imaginations.

Lesson III? You are most likely one of the many mares in the stable, and there are many stalls available. Do you want to be another mare?

Gerkin Tres - Well, this is just a general note about how much it sucks to be relatively young, slightly above-average looking, a decent dancer, friendly and dating an Argentine who dances. You lose prospective female friends. I have had women who were really open and friendly in the beginning to me turn ice cold once they discovered I was dating one of their own. How dare I! HOW DARE I. It's downright mind-boggling and, gosh darnit, it hurts my feelings. And when they do ask questions, I always feel like they're fishing around for my motive in staying with my partner. Money? Power? Sex? All of the above? I feel them studying me, waiting for me to make a complete fool of myself so they can sneer. The fact is, though, I've no problem making a fool of myself because I carry it off very well. Fallen in front of people? Done that. Made an alcoholic spectacle of myself away from the milonga? Uh-huh. Danced really sluttily with cheesoid, grabby men? Yup. Is my head still high? You betcha. I've figured this much out: People will always gossip. If they're gossiping about you, it's because you're life is far more interesting than theirs.

Lesson IV: Women will talk if you're attractive and if you pose a threat to them. By Jove, let 'em talk.

Toodles, my loves! TG