Once I danced tango with a woman who was tall, with short hair that revealed an incredibly slender and beautiful neck. She was nervous and told me so, something I would have done when I first began dancing tango: put words to the awkward truth of my situation so I could forge ahead with this invasion of my personal space. For me it was an exhortation of my partner’s allure, which was not meant as a come-on, only something I needed to say so I could maintain control of my faculties and attempt to lead with some amount of proficiency.
That was years ago but I often think about her and how hard it must have been for her to attend the tango workshop where we met. In doing so, I realize what an amazing transformation I have gone through myself.
When I first started dancing anything I was full of preconceived notions that homosexuals were everywhere and all women were laughing at me...and that my stupidity was obvious to all. That last part would be true until I learned to keep my mouth shut. In retrospect, I think we all would appear foolish if we didn’t apply a filter to our thoughts which I did not do at the time.
Here is an example of my idiocy. I burned my hands with a rope during a rock climbing accident and both my palms were nothing but giant blister burns. I put gauze and ointment on my wounds and covered my hands with winter gloves when I went to my dance lesson at the local high school that night. I thought it would be cool, kind of like something Michael Jackson would do only with a full set of gloves. Eventually, one of my partners who happened to be a doctor, convinced me to take off my gloves. It took her just a few moments to conclude that I needed to go to the hospital which was advice I did not heed because I am a stubborn man.
That’s who I am: a man who doesn’t go to hospitals. It’s a wonder I am still alive at fifty-seven. I don’t like to go to four star hotels either. The formality of these places is too terrifying a situation for me to endure. I didn’t go to the prom and would have skipped my graduation if it wasn’t necessary for me to get my diploma and escape high school forever.
I tell you this to let you know how hard it was for me attend my first public dances. I wouldn’t have endured the immense anxiety if I hadn’t been involuntarily celibate the three years before I began my education in dance. I was extremely paranoid of being laughed at, of being accused of being a homosexual, of becoming visibly aroused before an audience and of being exposed as a failure. In hindsight, I can see that I was overly self-conscious. All those things happened to me but they didn’t destroy me, in fact, they had quite the opposite effect: they made me stronger and more confident in myself. I had broken through!
I met her somewhere out West at a tango workshop.
“I’m so nervous,” she said, “I had to take two Xanax just to get myself to come here.”
I was flattered to have been the recipient of such an honest insight and responded in kind with a stupid revelation of my own, “Once I told my wife I was taking out the trash and came back drunk three hours later. I think she’d have been happy if I had gone to church and not gone to the bar.”
She responded by saying, “I would have been more mad if you had gone to church.”
Wow! This blew me away. It was then that I realized I had just made a new friend. We had something in common, we were both on journeys of self-exploration and were equally daunted by the task. I liked her, not in a sexual way although I cannot deny that I have entertained those thoughts; I liked her because of her courage which I knew from experience that was needed to throw herself into such a public confrontation with a member of the opposite sex.
My memories of her are my reward for having undertaken an adventure in tango. We had a platonic relationship that was not without moments of sensuality.
I started a practica in the small town where we both lived, an event held only a handful of times and attended by her, me and two others. I showed her how to do a proper molinete and we practiced it over and over in many different ways. I moved on but returned to the area a few times afterwards. Each time we danced was a delight in spite of the fact that she did not pursue tango instruction beyond that which was offered in the remote area where she lived. Our encounters were delightful because she focused on the perfect execution of the molinete which made me proud.
I have rarely taken it upon myself to teach a woman anything, she was one of the few exceptions and, even more rare, she was one of my few successes. Remembering this makes me happy because I know she could go anywhere and dance tango. She might not realize that but I do and I am glad. Once I taught a woman how to kayak in whitewater rivers. It was much harder but in the end she was able to go off on her own and paddle whitewater rivers throughout the world.
Knowledge of my success gives me satisfaction to this day.
Knowledge of my success gives me satisfaction to this day.
On one of my returns to the area where my double-Xanax friend lived, we met at another tango workshop. I enjoyed many dances with her as we explored how to move in balance with each other. Afterwards, we had an early dinner at an Oriental restaurant and parted ways for the last time. She looked so beautiful sitting there across the table from me, her short hair, slender neck and brilliant smile making me feel like I was the luckiest man on Earth; I was absolutely enthralled yet I did not make a pass at her. It was such an enjoyable moment that the memory of it lingered on inside of me for weeks afterward. Eventually I had to put my thoughts into words and sent them to her. That made her feel awkward but I felt good about having done so.
It’s okay to tell someone how you feel about them even though that may make them feel uncomfortable. Dealing with our discomforts is one of the great lessons in life; not mistaking a sensual moment for an invitation to sex is another. Like Odysseus I have heard the sirens’ call and lived to tell about it. I find this incredibly rewarding. I don’t have fame or fortune but I have a wealth of memories that I can be proud of and that is something we should all strive for.