Truth and Tango

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 yoTango Photograph at Very Tangou’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.

Wish this was me!

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 awkwardTango Photograph at Very Tango 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.


9 thoughts on “Truth and Tango

  1. Actually what you said about loosing that sense of touch as we age and also the touch blindness makes a lot of sense to me for reasons I won’t go into here. Thanks for posting this. It was an insight that is very interesting to me. Tango on, girl! (Can you close your eyes when you dance?)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, thank you so much for your response- you have no idea how much it means to me that you can relate.

    Funny you should ask about closing your eyes. I did have a more experienced dancer say how some women close their eyes, don’t have the trust in my own skills quite yet, but you bet I’ll post when I do.


  3. I love this post. I’ve always adored the tango and would like to be courageous enough to try and learn it….
    You write beautifully and I felt as though I was right there, a part of the scene. Well done (as always).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It took me a long time to get up the courage and now I wonder what took me so long….like many things in life, it isn’t as hard to do as we make it out to be.

      I found a local Tango MeetUp group in my area. Cheap lessons and free milongas. I am finding many cities have tango clubs with similar offerings.


  4. I get the touching stuff myself. More in the saying hello than in anything. I’m English and “Polite reserve” is our middle name. I like to shake hands, or a brief near kiss on the cheek for someone I actually know, but all this “three air kisses” stuff, always seems unnecessarily time consuming and shallow to me. Is that me just being a little over-stuffy I ask myself and you. The answer is probably “Yes!”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can certainly relate. Before dancing tango, I was reserved, always in control and needed my personal space. I’d never, ever close my eyes to have a nap on a train or plane – I couldn’t bear the idea of strangers seeing me in that ‘state’. So I never dreamed I would one day enjoy dancing so closely with a man I met just seconds ago, closing my eyes as he leads me around the crowded dance floor and then not wanting to let go when the music comes to an end. I have tango to thank for opening me up and turning me inside out.

    Liked by 1 person

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