Saturday, January 17, 2015

Closeness and distance

We have been dancing together regularly since I first began tango, which, I've realized, is now beginning to approach ten years. But the last milonga, while making small talk between dances, was the first time I shared some of the history that has been most basic to my adult life. Not where I work or what I study; something more personal that I don't always share with people I'm not sure of, but which has been foundational to the person I've become, some of the choices I've made for myself.

And then I ask him the simplest of questions to get to know a person, but one which I'd never asked before, among all our chats. And along with his answer, he reveals a piece of himself that I had not previously known.

For the rest of the evening I am pensive, thinking about how we can encounter people socially, for prolonged periods, and still not really know them. I think that I've missed out--deprived myself of potential friendships in this group, and shared, really, very little of myself, despite the feeling of intimacy in the dance.

And, let me note, I think that's perfectly okay, if that is what a person wants. Not everyone goes to an event like a milonga to make close friends. Moreover, my understanding is that there are older milonguero/as in Buenos Aires who might never have shared so much as their last names with others at the milonga, because tango was, to them, a separate world from their daylight hours, from work and family and friends. And maybe because attending the milongas regularly was, for some time, maybe a little bit shameful (more than a little bit? this is an area where I find the history and mythology of tango, as I've received them, to be particularly muddled), and at times, so I understand, even a risk to one's safety.

But it wasn't what I wanted or intended. I allowed it to happen mainly because I've been afraid. I've been wrapped up in competition with and criticism of other women--which is really, of course, mainly a matter of my own insecurity.

(The things my teachers and parents tried to tell me in grade school were right, and it's a little galling, not to realize that, but to realize how old we sometimes have to be to understand it.)

With men and women alike, I've largely held myself back, because I was afraid of getting hurt. Afraid of being rejected. Afraid of being found not good enough. Afraid that I might not have anything worthwhile to share. And so I've missed out on some potential for actual connection, for a pretty long time, and that's something I am beginning to regret.

It's not just tango but other areas of my life as well. I mean, of course it is; you can't have a problem that deep and expect its effects to be isolated to only one facet of your life.

It's even part of why I keep this blog anonymous.

So what am I going to do about it? Well, I'm not sure. I'd like to change this, maybe try to start getting to know some people better--but I'm still afraid. It's not an unreasonable fear; I've been rebuffed in attempts to make friends before. I'm sure everyone has, at some point. It's not as easy as in preschool, when another kid playing with a toy that you liked constituted enough of a shared interest to be the basis of instant best-friendship. 

But I believe this--or I try to, even when it's difficult: The potential for genuine connection is worth the risk of being hurt.


1 comment:

  1. We can share more about who we are in the embrace of another without speaking than we do chatting away between dances. We transmit our energy to our partner and communicate with our body when we are present in the moment. You haven't missed opportunities or potential friendships. We don't make friends. They develop day by day when two feel a connection. It can take years to call someone a true friend.

    It was common for milongueros to use another name or nickname in the milongas. Men who shared a table for decades knew nothing about one another's lives outside the milongas. The milonga was for dancing, not socializing. If a man and woman were interested in getting to know each other, they did so outside the milonga.

    Years ago, being referred to as a milonguero was not the title it has become today. A milonguero lived for the night of drinking, smoking, and dancing, going to the horse races, was maintained by a woman and didn't have to work. They're still around but fewer in number.