Here is a strange but true lesson I’ve learned about myself from taking tango lessons.
I am not used to touching people on a casual basis which has never been a big deal to me until now.
My family was never a huggy type of family. Even on the day I got married, I remember the photographer telling my future mother-in-law and me to hug as he took a photo….we just looked at each other, laughed and shook hands. Seemed fair enough and somehow more honest.
I remember one of my brothers married into a huggy family. It used to pain me every time I saw his in-laws. They would always hug hello and goodbye. How strange to have these people invade on your personal space every time you saw them.
Speaking of personal space, try getting on a subway in New York City at rush hour. Just sends little chills down my arms being in a packed compartment with the unwashed masses that you don’t know where their hands have been and you’re wondering what is that smell.
I digress. So back to tango and here is what happens at a milonga. Milonga is a term for a place or an event where tango is danced. A guy looks across a room at you and gives you a look, you nod and stand up as he leads you to the floor and you wrap one arm on his shoulder with your elbow resting on his, one hand in the other and you dance in close proximity.
I lean slightly forward and try to step back far enough that my toes don’t get stepped on.
He leads, you follow doing your turns, pivots and walks. It can be simple, it can be intricate. He is suppose to feel when you need a pause and you are suppose to follow as he shifts his weight from one foot to the other, stepping together. I watch others dance and how elegant they look, how in sync with each others needs, wants. They look almost meditative.
Last night I danced with about 6 different men. To be honest, usually only men I date are allowed to get that close to me. One of them, a very nice senior citizen, John, showed me a dance step called the drag, where he puts his foot inside of yours and appears to push it out of the way.
I like dancing with John cause he is always happy to see me, he is a strong lead (not wishy-washing at all), never gets impatient with my lack of skill and shows concern when I am just not getting it.
Fred, a college student, had me practicing my ganchos where he puts his leg behind your thigh and you kick up (hook) behind that leg. That one needs work. I feel awkward having his thigh against mine.
He was patient, but I could feel his frustration with me not getting it. But then, I was equally annoyed with his unwillingness to take it slower, to let me feel the movement….I felt off-balanced with him as I caught my reflection in the full length mirrors.
In writing this post I’ve discovered something called “touch-blind.” People who’ve lost their sense of touch. I don’t think I am that but I feel definitely impaired somehow. There’s the emotional touch system. It’s mediated by special sensors called C tactile fibers, and it conveys information much more slowly. It’s vague — in terms of where the touch is happening — but it sends information to a part of the brain called the posterior insula that is crucial for socially-bonding touch. This includes things like a hug from a friend, to the touch you got as a child from your mother, to sexual touch.
True fact, we lose our sense of touch as we age.
Maybe it is something that has rubbed off on me from my past failed marriage. My ex would go into a silent rage if he thought I was looking at a guy too long. I think that I still have remnants of that emotionally abused woman inside of me. This close embrace would have sent him into a nuclear melt-down, I can laugh now- hehehehe.
I keep telling myself this is dance, this is normal, this is the fun part of life. Recognizing my shortcomings, I adjust, repair and tango on.