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.