Thursday, November 22, 2007

EVERYTHING'S COMING UP BARBIE - An Homage to an American Icon on this Thanksgiving Day 2007

I have this doohickie thingie (I'm such a moron when it comes to techie toys) on Gmail that gathers daily all the information on the web that has to do with Buenos Aires and sends it to me in my in-box. Today, the most interesting piece of news was the grand opening of the Barbie Store in Palermo. I live in Palermo, but I haven't seen it yet. Looks like I'm going to have to do a little touring around my own neighborhood this weekend.

The store, the first of its kind in the world, is the brain-child of 39-year-old Tito Loizeau who, taking a clue from Field of Dreams, thought (and I'm paraphrasing liberally...check out the Chicago Tribune for correct quote), "If I build a shrine to a doll with unrealistic proportions in one of the plastic surgery capitals of the world, impressionable 3 to 12-year-old girls and their wealthy parents will come." And so they droves, apparently. It boasts a store with Barbie-inspired clothing for girls, a funcioning beauty salon, and a tea house, and the place is available for rental for about 600 US smackers. How's that for a tango venue???? See Milonguera Barbie and Milonguera Skipper in a catfight over Milonguero Ken! See Milonguera Skipper dropkick Milonguera Barbie on la pista! See Milonguero Ken screw both of them over for the cute "mozo" (waiter)!

Now, I was more of a Matchbox (trademark symbol thingie here) kid. I liked little race cars, building blocks, puzzles, and games like Perfection and Superfection. I finally got a Barbie (another trademark thingie here) when I was around 8 years old, not because I really wanted one; I just though it was time to get one to see what all the fuss was about. After about a week, I was bored with her, but I played with her out of obligation. Since my aunt took the trouble of shelling out the 20 bucks for her that I might as well play with her. So, I spent afternoons trying to curl her blond nylon hair with my hot curling iron, which left brown crusty stains on my iron...I don't recommend trying this at home...and bending her legs forward at her kneecaps. I loved the snapping sounds her joints made. Though it seems I may have been manifesting inklings of sociopathy--torturing and destroying playthings--she was rather pretty pointless (which, um...I guess is how sociopaths regard their victims. It's been a while since I've been in analysis...). I couldn't see her doing much, though she later transformed herself into Doctor Barbie or Barbie, M.D., and I wasn't going to ask my parents to pay for her pink corvette, her playhouse, or her beefy boyfriend/friendboy, Ken.

No, puhleeeze don't tell me they have an Islamic Barbie complete with hijab and red carpet on which to pray, and puhhhhhleeeze don't mention that now they've spraypainted her different colors and have increased her ass size to better represent POCs (People of Color). Barbie is annoying, and in no way can, as mentioned by a Mattel executive, "maintain [her] relevance by extending her into other parts of a little girl's life." How about making a Boobjob Barbie, complete with surgury scars? Or what about Eating Disorder Barbie? Girls are asking for surgery and are succumbing to EDs earlier in life, the least they can do is make her REALLY relevant. For a funny essay on a more relevant Barbie, check out and look up Hypothyroid Barbie.

And poor, neglected Ken. Will someone please unlock the closet door for him?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A MILONGUERA'S CHOW GUIDE: November 14, 2007

I Due Ladroni-Ristorante Italiano
Fitz Roy 1951, Palermo Hollywood

I had a mad craving for sashimi last night, so we headed out to Dashi, a Japanese joint in Palermo. The usual smiling (and totally fake) hostess greeted us at the door at 8:30, and began to walk us over to a table that was smack in the middle of the still-empty restaurant, which did nothing but irritate the heck out of the BF. He thinks many restaurants conspire to punish early eaters by giving them the worst table imaginable. So, after the BF asked the hostess for some other options, which were as bad as the first, we walked out and headed to his newest culinary discovery: I Due Ladroni.

"No, it's not that I want to eat Italian food. Really!" Whatever. Never come in between a hormonal, PMS-ing woman and her cravings. It can get ugly. But I had just read an article by an Indian guru earlier that day about managing one's expectations, so I wasn't going to get upset, but I did reserve the right to pout.

Anyhoo, talk about opposites. We were greeted by an exuberant and affable Roman, who let us choose our table, and proceeded to talk in Italian to the BF who hails proudly from Southern Italy (and may your foist child be a masculine child). I have to say that I get completely turned on hearing Italian, sort of like Jamie Lee Curtis in a Fish Called Wanda, so things were definitely looking up.

This establishment is relatively new, having just opened about 2 months ago, but I see a very bright future for Francesco and his business partner, Philip, the more sedate, serious, and considerably shorter of the two owners. Not only is the food outstanding (Frankly, I'll put my already-tainted-rep. on the line to say that it's the best Italian restaurant we have tried in Palermo, maybe in Buenos Aires, with the exception of Marcelo's in Puerto Madero), but the service is wonderful, a rare find in restaurants here. Cheerful owners who listen to you? Fantastic! Waitstaff who are cordial, attentive, AND genuine? Amazing! My experience here was so positive that I made a reservation for 4 for later this week! These guys are the real deal, and they've stolen our tastebuds and our hearts. Get it? Ladroni? Thieves? Stealing? Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!

***A word about customer service in Buenos Aires...OK, two words: IT. SUCKS. In general, restaurant staff (especially) are way the hell too busy talking to each other, goofing off, and not paying attention to the people who pay their bills: the customers. Hello?!?! People come to eat at restaurants. How about coming to the table within 2 minutes of our arrival to take their orders instead of making us flag you down? It really BUGS me. Bad service in restaurants or shops (I DETEST salespeople who hover and watch me as if I were going to steal something in their store full of poorly made products) will make us walk out the door, as we did in Dashi.***

Francesco is like the archetyal Italian mamma, only taller, skinnier, and hairier, bounding from kitchen to tables in 3 or 4 large steps with his incredibly long legs, and doting on us, stopping short of darning our socks and tucking us in. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious, which gives a fun and homey vibe to this medium-sized restaurant adorned with copies of colorful vintage Italian ads, black and whites of famous actors, and red-checked tablecloths. But on to the food.

The meal started off with two scrumptious little pizzas and a basket of bread made in the restaurant, coupled with little condiment bowls of sundried tomatoes, black and green olives, and marinated red and green peppers. We were checking out the Parma ham and bufala mozzarella combo for our entrada, but Francesco informed us that they didn't have Parma ham right now. He could have easily substituted Parma for Serrano, and we probably wouldn't have known the difference, but he scored some serious points by being honest and not trying to pull a slick "viveza criolla" on us. We opted instead for the caprese, an Italian classic of tomatos and bufala mozzarella, which was perfect. I mean, it's so simple, how can a restaurant screw it up? No, this one was so perfectly condimented that it didn't need anything extra, though I added just a touch of balsamic vinegar. What can I say? I have a Filipino palate that likes sour.

Next, the BF chose the risotto con hongos. I chose the salmon, though, I was also tempted by the pasta bolognese, risotto, and pumpkin-stuffed ravioli, stuffed by Francesco himself. It's always a good sign when no one talks during a meal. It means the food is good. BF's risotto was perfectly al dente, and the hongos were real porcini mushrooms, again, REAL porcini mushrooms, not regular funghi slipped in there to unsuspecting customers. I had a couple of forkfuls, and the taste was rich, earthy, and comforting, with just the right amount of...everything. In fact, I'm going to order it the next time we're here...or maybe it'll be the pasta with bolognese sauce, or maybe... But I loved my salmon, fresh and cooked perfectly, with a side of cooked vegetables and yummy puffed pastry with I-can't-remember-and-I-didn't-write-it-down-but-it's-a-veggie inside.

I decided not to get dessert, but if I had gotten one, I would've have gotten the tartufo or the tiramisu. So many to choose from!

On Tuesdays, then have an addition to the regular menu. This week included such main courses as suvlaki de cordero, pollo tandoori, and bouillabaise, all of which would have suited me just fine if I hadn't wanted a slab o' fish.

This restaurant was instant love, and will be a regular stop on our weekly dining circuit.

Ambiance: Homey for a decent-sized restaurant. I can see families and couples coming here.

Service: Impeccable and down-to-earth. A RARITY!!! PLUS, Francesco speaks English pretty well.

Price: I didn't look at the bill, so I can't tell you what I paid, and I hate math. BUT here are the price ranges in pesos. Aren't I a benevolent goddess? Entradas: between 16-22; Salads: 22; First Plate: 27-35; Second Plate: 31-36; Dessert: 9-16. This is not an inexpensive place, but they use quality Italian ingredients (De Cecco) which shows in their food. So completely worth it.

Overall: Fantastic find! Get on a plane, and try this now!

To all my (3) readers out there: A hearty "hola" and "que tal" to all!

I decided to take an unannounced hiatus from pretty much everything for 2 months. Call it laziness, call it my thyroid wreaking havoc on my hormones, call it leaving BA for a month to visit the Philippines and China. But volví, y voy a quedarme aca (sorta, except for little jaunts to freeze-my-So. Californian-ass-off Ushuaia and the Chilean fjords) until May, when I leave for the States again. So, you're stuck with me again for awhile.

First things first: Women in their mid-30's need to have their thyroids checked! If you've been feeling exhausted, irritable, and depressed, are gaining weight though you haven't stopped watching what you eat or exercising, are not finding pleasure in things that usually interest you, like tango dancing--sort of like PMS has invited itself for an unwelcomed extended stay--get yourself over to your nearest endocrinologist to get your hormone levels checked PRONTO!

Second: Get yourself second or third opinions. I didn't want to be put on any Levoxythorine or any other hormone just yet, so, before I left for Asia, I went to a homeopath in Los Angeles who is also an MD. I wanted to do a treatment that would be as "suave" and as natural to my system as possible. I'm not a completely new-agey person, but I hate taking medicine. I take baby aspirin, for chrissake, when I have a headache. I like my body to be able to work its kinks out the way it thinks it needs to. (Of course, this doesn't apply to those who are suffering from really serious disorders that really need allopathic meds.)

Although the medical care is pretty good in BA, and there are very good homeopaths here, there's nothing like being able to talk about your feelings and health in depth and in your own language without having to fumble for words. There are just some subtleties that you feel in your own language that you can't quite capture in a foreign least for me, that is. The good news is that I'm feeling back to my old self again, and my TSH level has decreased. I'm going to keep tracking my levels YOU HAVE OTHER OPTIONS!

Third: Since thyroid problems may kick in when you're stressed out to the when you move to another country, start a new relationship with someone who doesn't speak your language, and are in the middle of writing a need to take care of yourself! Take a yoga or pilates class; watch what you put into your body; take a hot bath; get a massage! In short, spoil yourself! I've taken advantage of the decent exchange rate in Argentina, and have started getting massages. Cintia at Petit Pilates, where I also take my pilates classes, is wonderful for a gentle lymphatic drainage massage (in Palermo: 4777-1042), but there are other massages available like Chinese or Thai massage. Check them out! (I get no kick-back for this or any of my recommendations. I wish! I just like supporting people I think give good service.)

Enough, I say! Enough of all this serious business! Let's get back to some tango and food related fun!

Some updates:

I. A reader asked me for an update on my friend who hooked up with a milonguero. Well, as expected, they didn't last beyond 3 or 4 boinks, but I like to think that they enjoyed their moments together. He called her a few weeks back just to say, "Hello," and he greets her at the milonga if they manage to pass by each other, but he doesn't look at her to dance.

Now, this could be taken two ways: He's an ass. Or he just doesn't want to lead her on. Like he told me and my BF, he dances with people he likes dancing with or "para cojer" (to fuck). Um, I appreciate and respect his honesty. At least he makes things clear. I suppose if this were an ideal world, and if we all acted like grown ups all the time, we could take things casually and be friendly with our ex-flings without having expectations, but, let's face it, as Barbra warbled, "we're children...needing other children...and yet letting our grown up priiiide...hide all the neeeeed insiiiide...acting mooooore like children (sniff) than children." Damn. Baby, it's cold outside, but, hey, there were no guarantees to begin with and no promises made.

PLUS, she isn't exactly free either, since she was still seeing her ex once a week and seeing her the milonguero unduh-covuh. How much of a committment could she have made, even socially? Which makes me want to ask her (if I had the balls...which I don't): What do you want? I don't think she knows. So, until she knows, how is she going to get it? Maybe she got what she needed for a few weeks, and maybe she just needs to be satisfied with that. I dunno. Not exactly a romantic way of looking at this, which is disappointing for romantics like moi, but then again, they're waaaaaaayyyyyy the hell past the rose-colored glasses stage.

II. Our friend Nestor La Vitola, the now-former teacher and dancer, has lost to date a whopping 11 kilos!!!!!!!! My BF badgered him to death until he relented to starting a diet that consisted of reducing portion size and replacing sugar with sweeteners (which I, personally, don't like... I mean, really, how good for your body is aspertame? Pero's a start.). Let me tell you, the man dances better, if that was at all possible. Without all that weight to schlep around on the dance floor, he's dancing is "mas liviano" (lighter), he's able to move better, and he doesn't wheeze as he's dancing like he used to. He noted the same changes himself, and he's much happier now.

One more little note about Nestor: He decided to resign as Monica Paz's co-instructor a few weeks ago due to non-tango work committments, but Monica is still teaching and is currently on the East Coast (US) on a teaching tour.

All the best, and happy dancing! TG

Monday, August 27, 2007


My friend just got laid. My friend, a striking older woman with a laugh as loud and bawdy as a bunch of sailors after a 12 pack of cigarettes and a few bottles of Johnny Walker, got her grrrroove on with a milonguero. From her glow, I'd say he gave her a rockin' good time. I'm so proud of her.

But it took a while to get to this state of post-polvo (post-orgasm) bliss. Lemme 'splain old-school, milonguero-style courtin' by reviewing a little of the basics of the birds and the bees.

My BF has a courting theory based on genetics and evolution. He says that women are built to "hacer la luchita", or to play hard to get. It helps the propagation of the fittest species. Who wants to get laid by, or god-forbid, have offspring with someone too eager and desperate? Desperation is soooo NOT a turn-on. Eeeewwww. Go AWAY! We want men who are willing to work a little bit, and then know when they need to back off, and, if necessary, to have enough of a backbone to tell us to "andar a la reputa que nos repario" (literally: to go to the very slutty mother that gave us birth twice over" or to go fuck off), but in a nice, gentlemanly way, like Rhett Butler: Frankly, Graciela, a mi no me importa.

An avid Animal Planet and Discovery Channel watcher, he cites observations of crocodile courting behavior as proof that all animals have this little tango dance o' love before the van starts a-rockin'. The male crocodile follows the female around in the water, nudges her a little bit with his nose, swims little circles around her, splashes the water with his tail to show how big and bad he know, typical testosterone-driven behavior. The female of course, being female and proper and well-brought-up with good breeding, snubs him. This goes on for a week until, when he's pretty much ready to throw in the towel (my BF's assessment and wierd segway (sp?) into explaining human behavior), she finally gives in, has little crocodilos, and then, of course, suffers from the baby daddy's up and leaving her. But that's for another blog note. Let's focus on the romance, people!

Female homosapiens, it seems, are no different than the crocodilas. We, too, play hard-to-get...for the most part...except for that one time in Spain when...oh, and then, there's that guy I met at that club in college...oh, yeah, the guy at the airport. In general, we like feeling desired. That's part of the fun of the milonga, too, isn't it? It's gosh-darn primal. Feeling our power to attract los machos, getting dressed up to go out and play the field, even if it an imaginary field that only exists for 2 or 3 hours. It's fun, that frisky singleton feeling.

However, there is an art to the "luchita" (the little fight). There is only a certain period of time a guy or crocodile or ape (Hmmm...are these things synonymous?) will put up with a woman's flirtatious rejections. Sure, he'll make a pest of himself, teasing, cajoling, practically seducing you with his dance for a while, but, after a while, he'll suddenly turn to ice. I mean, once it gets to this point, he may very well ignore the woman at the milonga, so she can just forget about looking at him. Hmph! This has happened to many women I know at the milonga and yours truly, of course.

Now, if she only saw him as a pest, good riddance. BUT _IF_ she had been interested in him, it's time for her to stop the playing around, time for the cazada (hunted) to be the cazadora (hunter). If the woman works it, and I mean, WORKS it, pulls out all the stops, wears that outrageously expensive Victoria Secret push-up bra, and seduces him, the man will fall. They like to beat their chests and howl at the moon, but, for the most part, they're incredibly easy to get into bed, IF that's what you want to do. And this is, indeed, what my dear friend wanted to do and did.

Back to the story - After my friend turned down his various invitations to go out, he had HAD it. And yet, every time we went out together as a group, she would exhibit the tell-tale "I'm-so-ready-to-throw-down-let's-move-the-furniture" mating signs: leaning into him, laughing at his stupid jokes, etc. It was adorable, damn it. So, she was definitely into him, just letting the luchita get outta hand. How'd she get him back? Goddess-style: SHE invited HIM for coffee. How could he resist?

Now, who knows if this is going to last. Who knows if this is going to be one of those crazy milonga flings people get into. And who the hell cares. My friend was glowing, and we, her friends, basked in her happiness.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chila-Buenos Aires Cuisine
Alicia Moreau de Justo 1160

Say, Buenos Aires Cuisine, and you may think about beef and chimichurri, chorizo, and dulce de leche. Or pasta and more pasta. This elegant restaurant in swank Puerto Madero serves up "suave" dishes, many of them based on seafood, for a not so "suave" price. This place is expensive, but is it worth it?

I've gotta say, "No." But that doesn't mean that I had a horrible time either.

First, the service is wonderful. The waiters are attentive and nice to look at. Second, it's located in pretty Puerto Madero, and on a nice day, it can't be beat, except maybe by Marcelo's next door. Third, the bread is outstanding. The waiter came around with a basket full of freshly-baked flavored breads and a generous slab o' butter sprinkled with salt. From a savory nut and cheese to a lovely malbec-touched slice, you're sure to find something to whet your appetite. Fourth, the coffee presentation was so elegant. A little silver tray of condiments (?) came with containers filled with brown sugar, dark chocolate powder spiked with cinnamon, and regular bleached sugar. The bite-sized morsels of creamy chocolate goodness and the half-a-thumbprint sized lemon tarts were enough to sate my dessert craving.


what about the food-food?

The BF wanted to try something different, expand our already expansive restaurant repertoire. As I studied the menu in front, my eyes glazed over in boredom. Now, I like food, and I was hungry, but I wasn't feeling the love. Still, in the name of culinary adventure, I followed the BF in.

It was already 1:00 in the afternoon on a holiday, and we were one of only 2 couples in the restaurant. Usually, other popular restaurants are bustling, but, strangely, this one was practically empty. We outnumbered the staff.

There were only a couple of things on the menu that appealed to me: a salad of hojas verdes with walnuts and a spaghetti dish with broccoli, cashew nuts, and dried tomatoe in a creamy mustard sauce. The BF ordered the besugo (fish-don't know what kind) in broth. Neither main course was "feo" (ugly), but my palate didn't do summersaults of joy either. It was just...OK. It was a case of being hungry and being fed in a beautiful and elegant setting. But was it worth the hefty price tag? Mmmmm...not so much.

Ambiance: Elegant and modern. Great date place, especially with the mellow music, low lighting, and scenery.

Service: Excellent.

Price: With drinks and coffee, about 130 pesos for two, maybe a little more. Can't remember what the receipt said.

Overall: If you're willing to skimp a little on the elegance and presentation, head on over to Marcelo's next door, where you'll be served twice as much for the same price.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON DANCE: Circulo de Trovador

This long weekend, I had the chance to catch the show "Bodies: The Exhibition" at the Abasto Shopping Mall which opened on August 15. These are real bodies--previous owners apparently signed an agreement donating their remains to science--preserved in formaldehyde and dissected. It sounds like a horror movie, but it's absolutely fascinating. Seeing the intricacies of the body--the seemingly cotton-candy lightness of the capillaries of a finger pad, slices of brain, a clogged artery, the tendons of a left foot, a liver with cirrhosis (eeeuuuwwwww!)--made me want to pledge myself to veganism and a life in the country.

After seeing a comparison between a healthy lung and one stained dark gray with nicotine-related cancer and emphysema, I thought smugly, "Well, thank god, I don't smoke. Then I remembered I had just spent 2 hours inhaling second-hand smoke at the Circulo Trovador, a dance hall (one of the few that were still operating in greater Buenos Aires shortly after Cromanon in December 2004) located in the provincia of Vicente Lopez at Libertador 1031, where we celebrated the birthday of a friend from the milonga.

This venue has not one, not two, but--count 'em--FOUR disco balls, 2 strobe/whirly light contraptions, black lights, and a fog machine. These people take their Saturday night seriously. The marble floor was extremely slippery, but these people were not dissuaded. The management placed a damp rag on the floor by the entrance for dancers to wet the soles of their shoes so they wouldn't slip.

When the "milonga" started, the DJ opened with a strange, rather depressingly slow tanda. It was going to be a very. long. night. A few couples showed off their moves on the floor, and it was clear, as one of my friends observed, "They dance differently here." I'm not quite sure how to describe the "provincial" style, except to say it is "provincial". They don't dance like tourists with legs flying and complicated choreography, nor do they dance like city slicker milongueros with elegance and technique. Perhaps what distinguishes them from these aforementioned groups is their non-descriptiveness. However, enthusiasm and their gusto in pursuit of a good time, especially during the salsa, compensate for their lack of "milongueroness".

Thankfully, after his apparent warm-up tanda, the DJ started spinning some traditional milongas, valses, and tangos. Interspersed were fun sets of salsa, merengue, cumbia, and swing. It had more of a discotheque feel than a milonga, which explains why organizer calls this a "baile" instead of a milonga.

To tell you the truth, except for the second-hand smoke, I enjoyed myself at the Circulo, burning off a few calories dancing salsa and swing, and replenishing what I had burned with some glasses of red wine and picadas. All in all, it was a nice break from our usual Saturday night routine.

Your best bet would be to reserve a table for you and a group of friends. I wouldn't go alone. First of all, it's too far. Second of all, the cabeceo is used here, but, since most people come with a mixed set of friends, they usually danced with people in their own group. It could make for a lonely night. However, with a group, you could have a fun time here. Make reservations by calling 4838-0546 or 4838-0472.

Friday, August 17, 2007

CHATTIN' UP: Oscar y Lucia of Lujos (El Beso)

Enter El Beso on a Thursday night, and you will be greeted with a kiss on the cheek by Lucia, the dark-tressed, and often cat-eyelinered milonguera, who bears a striking resemblance to both Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, and Morticia Addams. Don't let her warmth fool you, though. She has been known to incur the wrath of many women, foreign and local, for her apparent disregard of their comfort and seating preferences at the milonga. Thankfully, I had always felt cared for and respected by her, even as she ushered me to my seat in the "segundo fila" (second row) during my first two trips to BA.

So, last night, our usual tango night, I accosted Lucia for an interview while she was trying to strap on her heels. Catch her off guard, I thought, and she'll give me the goods. With the grace of a fine hostess, though, she obliged and sat me down for our tete-a-tete before she continued with her duties as "anfitriona" (hostess).

I had my usual query prepared: How do you score a good seat at this popular milonga?

Addressing the Tango Goddess by her mortal name, Lucia reminded me of how this milonga began 4-5 years ago in Lo de Celia--before the lamentable Cromagnon discoteca debacle, before foreigners began the mad rush to buy property, before one had to wear protective gear to dance in Salon Canning on Sunday nights. They gained a loyal following in those days, and these people, most of whom are excellent dancers, continued their patronage when they moved to El Beso. Obvio (obvious) that they should keep these people happy by reserving them the better seats. The rest of the good seats are given based on merit, on how you dance.

"I'm always watching," she said.

It may sound ominous, but Oscar, her snow-white coiffed business parter (and maybe ex-lover or present lover?), claimed to do the same. He studies people on the floor--their elegance (or lack thereof), their balance (ditto), the placement of their bodies--and seats the men according to his observations. He declared, "I'm a bailarin (a dancer), not a milonguero. I enjoy the dance. A milonguero is usually "buscando cosas" or "hac[iendo]travesuras" (something like-doing bad things, or being up to no good)." He added in sotto voce, "I like women, of course, but I'm always very respectful." In the end, the dancing is his love; it even gives him "placer" to just sit and watch. "I even got a divorce after more than 40 years of marriage because of the tango."

Lucia remarked that there are women--good dancers--who opt to hide in the back instead of being squished like a sardine in the primer fila with the rest of the women. However, these women don't lose any dance momentum; they dance just as much as the women who are easier to see because they dance well.

She may consider placing a woman she doesn't know in the front if she asks nicely and if there is an available seat, or if she comes recommended by a good dancer. But don't put it past her to take away that privilege if she ends up having two left feet.

If a group of tourists enter with a guide, she will ask the guide if they dance. If the guide is honest and says, "Mas or menos", she will allow the group to enter and to sit, but not dance. She explained, "The place is small, and we don't want this to turn into a place for only tourists."

I cited what happened at Cachirulo last Saturday. A group of friendly Northern Europeans (Germans, perhaps?) had descended upon the milonga, and, the men, in ignorance of or disregard of the codigos, began to invite women to dance "al lado" (literally, on the side or beside; in this case, inviting without using the cabeceo). It flustered Hector so much that that he begged someone make an announcement to them in English to please "cabecear". Asking non-dancers or so-so dancers to just sit and watch prevents all that embarrassment from occurring, she remarked.

Knowing the codes is part of the milonga experience, but, unfortunately, many people aren't familiar with them. It could save a lot of ego beating if people would just ask someone local (or better yet, read my blog!). Lucia, for example, will take away dance privileges if she notices that they don't know how to "manejar la pista" (navigate the floor), or if they look like they are competing for the tango escenario championships with voleos and ganchos, moves which are generally banned from tango milonguero clubs. I have seen Oscar approach people (usually foreigners) to tell them to leave the dance floor during the intermezzo (music between tandas) to remind them to please respect the establishment and the rules.

Snagging a good seat at Lujos, then, is just a simple matter of dancing well and following the rules. It's harder than it sounds, of course, because becoming a better dancer and learning the codigos is a long, frustrating process, but one that improves greatly one's experience of the milonga in the future.

Lujos functions on Thursday nights starting 6:45/7:00-ish p.m. at El Beso, on Riobamba, near Corrientes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I don't know many tango dancers who don't carry along a pack or two of Tic-Tacs in their suit pocket or their bag. If my BF manages to forget to bring along one of the hundreds of packs of those Listerine breath strips I always bring back from the US, he usually stops by the kiosko around the corner from El Beso to pick up a bit o' minty freshness.

The thing is, how do you kill off your early dinner of ajo con pasta with 2 tiny "1 and 1/2 calorie breath mints?"? Or how does someone with poor to non-existent dental hygiene cover up that odor of rotten eggs emanating from his mouth? This is no exaggeration, by the way. I had the unfortunate chance of dancing with someone who danced divinely, but who smelled like last year's Grand Slam breakfast deal at Denny's. This is a case of some hard-core, non-TicTac interventions. Skanky-breath-ed milongueros, please take note.

Check out this blog article I stumbled across from today about how to handle bad breath.

Wishing you many lovely tandas with partners with fresh breath. TG

Monday, 13 August 2007 (
Women Tips on How to Prevent Chronic Halitosis By Learning What Causes Your Bad Breath

I once took a class in Argentine Tango, which was set up so that men and women constantly exchanged partners while learning the stylized steps. That was okay, but there was one guy who had zero rhythm, and three minutes of trying to tango with him (counting to himself and still failing his steps miserably) was like a stumbling, cursing lifetime. But dancing with that poor klutz (I'm no Pavlova, by the way) was nothing compared to the man whose breath was so bad, I had to fight to hold my own breath or simply go mad. In the few steps where we turned away from each other, I had to gasp for a fresh breath of air, then turn for the next hellish step into the miasma. I felt bad for the man at first: clearly, taking a tango class wasn't going to make him popular with women as long as he could not get rid of his bad breath. But soon, I started to hate him: how could he not know the effect his breath had on others? Why wouldn't he chew a mint, for crying out loud?

It was so bad that I actually considered telling him, a total stranger, that he should chew gum so I could bear to dance with him. I didn't have to go that far, though, because in the end, I met a lovely, sexy, middle-aged psychologist who was not only a fine and graceful dancer, but who smelled nice and liked to dance with me. He managed to show up in front of me more and more often in the partner exchanges, and soon, I hardly danced with anyone else.

Preventing bad breath from occurring or at least affecting others

I brush my teeth about five times a day, and chew gum too. I good swish of mouthwash can be quite refreshing after a garlic filled dinner as well. But there have been times when forays into Vietnamese cooking or beer-and-pizza-with-the-guys has left my mouth less than fresh, which is why I carry gum in my purse for emergencies. This is a quick, temporary solution to curing lunchtime bad breath. While some people swear by breath mints, I've found that they don't do much for eliminating your breath once they're gone.

Natural Solution to Stop Bad Breath

If you don't want to get into any serious breath medications, there simpler more natural products available. For super-halitosis emergencies, you can use Breath Assure, which is nothing more than capsules of parsley oil. You don't chew them (I tried it once and was rewarded with a strong, sweet, oily taste that made me look like my friends' cat the day we tried to give him Benadryl to reduce the swelling from a spider bite. The vet didn't specify the type, just the dosage, and the liquid baby-dose Benadryl made him foam at the mouth for two hours. It was extremely unnerving.) The parsley oil works wonders, eliminating garlic breath and sweetening the breath for hours. Maybe that's why Greek, Turkish and Arabic cuisines combine parsley with lemon and garlic for relishes, salads and sauces.

If you are on a date and in a pinch with absolutely no breath prevention methods on hand, try eating the parley sprig most restaurants place of their plates as decoration. It's free, easily available, and it works! Just be discreet so your date doesn't catch on to your halitosis worries.
Causes of Bad Breath

Bad breath that comes from food is easily finished off by brushing your teeth, scraping your tongue, flossing, gum chewing or the aforementioned Breath Assure, but chronic bad breath can be a symptom of other problems health problems such as tooth decay, sinus infection, gum disease, or stomach problems. Eating disorders can also create halitosis from the stomach acids churned up by hunger or by vomiting. If you (or the guy in your tango class) experience chronic bad breath, the first thing to do is get to your dentist for a checkup. After ruling out possible dental care issues, your dentist may recommend a visit to the doctor to rule out other illnesses.

Home Treatment Remedy for Halitosis

Old mouthwashes contained alcohol and mint flavorings. New mouthwashes include zinc and chlorine dioxide. Zinc stops the process that creates the sulfur compounds in the mouth, which are largely responsible for causing bad breath. Chlorine dioxide kills the sulfur that's already present. You may decide to add mouthwash to your regular hygiene program whether or not you have other health issues that need to be resolved in order to stop chronic halitosis for good.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

MILONGUERA'S CHOW GUIDE: Special Breakfast Reportaje-August 9, 2007
Kentucky Bar and Pizzeria
Corner of Godoy Cruz and Santa Fe

My tango teacher, Roberto Canello, suggested that I sit down sometime to just listen to tango. Doing so, he said, will open up new possibilities for my dancing. I find listening to tango (studying or learning the differences b/t the orchestras) rather tedious, to tell you the truth. Don't get me wrong. I love the music when I'm sitting in a milonga or when I'm dancing, but I don't automatically search for tango music on my iPod to keep me company while I'm working. I'm a Gwen Stefani-Ella Fitzgerald-Beyonce-Prince-Cake-Broadway tunes kind of gal off la pista. I know I'm committing some kind of tango mortal sin by admitting all this, because what's tango without the music???

Ever multi-tasking, I decided to have breakfast the other day at Kentucky, a confiteria-restaurant-bar located on the frenetic corner of Godoy Cruz and Santa Fe, knowing that they'd be playing danceable tango hits for our desayunando pleasure, the same tangos you hear at your favorite milongas. Try to stop yourself from grabbing your partner and dancing!

This place boasts "La Mejor Pizza de Palermo since 1942". Their pizza has satisfied my cravings for take-out pizza on many occasions, since it's just down the street from our lair, but they also have a decent breakfast promo: $4.50 for cafe con leche and 3 medialunas; $3.50 for cafe and 1 medialuna.

I managed to pick the clunker of the 6 medialunas I was sharing with my macho that morning. A little on the hard side. The rest were doughy and rather dense. However, taking a cue from one of my wacky male psychology colleagues who says, "There are no bad breasts" (a nod to Melanie Klein), I declare that there are no bad medialunas. After all, how bad can buttery bread topped with sugar be? I used to like their medialunas a lot, but after eating the ones at Nucha, which are flaky and buttery and more expensive, Kentucky's come in at a very faaaaaar away second place.

Pizza, as I said, is pretty decent. I'm a fan of the napolitana with chunks of garlic, perfect for scaring off those pesky guys who invite you to dance by walking up to you and asking directly. They also serve the standard Argentine fast-food fare: minutas, empanadas, sandwiches.

Ambiance is noisy, but, if they decide to turn up the tango, it's a very pleasant breakfast experience. Plus, you can check out old black and white pictures of Argentine stars, immortalized with their sideburns and feathered hair on Kentucky's wall. For you smokers out there, they have a glass-enclosed room especially for you, one of the few confiterias out there that have managed to keep and add more nicotine-addict clients.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


Milongueras and milongeros are great character studies. After a few years of living here, getting to know some of them, and hearing stories from and about them, I've tried to distilled all the descriptions and stories into a few profiles for your reading pleasure.
WHY are there so many old fart milongueros and no old fart milongueras? Many of the old milongueros started dancing when they were little, in the patios and kitchens of their childhood homes. They grow up to meet THE gal of their dreams who is, at the time, young, beautiful, and a light on her feet. They frequent milongas together until they start having kids. The woman grows older. So does the man. The woman gains weight and grows a paunch. So does the man. One night, they go back to the milonga. He dances. She doesn't. Just a fluke, she thinks. She goes back, and it happens again. She sits there night after night until she decides not to go anymore. She's humiliated. Who wants to dance with a 70 or 80 year old woman?

No one. Who would want to when there are hot 30, 40, or 50 year old professional women in tight pants and stretchy tops?

The man starts going to the milonga alone, because, though he is old, wrinkly, balding, and slightly overweight, he is sought-after by these younger women for his dance, his 50-40 year history with it. He relives his younger days every night at the milonga. The thrill of the chase. And, if he dances well, he will score because a women will fall in love with his dance.

This woman, one of many in the milonga who hold advanced degrees or have their own practices or businesses, has her own source of income. She is independent, cultured, savvy, and, yet, she falls for the old milonguero or the younger dancer because of his dance, the way he holds her, what emotions he transmits to her.

In general (there are, of course, exceptions), there is a marked difference in the socio-economic levels between the men and women at the milonga. Local and foreign women tend to be more educated and more economically independent. The men...not so much. Many of them live off the women they sleep with. It's so very TANGO, so very MILONGUERO, and so very ugly and, unfortunately, acceptable. Living off a woman makes you "vivo" (smart, crafty, wiley). I've heard stories of smart women falling in love with a milongueros, only to be short a few thousand dollars and a boyfriend after a few months of wonderful tandas. Who is to blame? I have heard women say that it is the woman's fault. She should have never given a milonguero money, they say.

There exists, of course, the female counterpart to the old miloguero, except she is a bit younger and more than likely lives off the tango giving tango lessons. She puts "todo la carne en el asador" (all the meat on the grill) while she's dancing, seduces him, and ends up having her lifestyle subsidized by the man.

There are also milongueras, those hot women in their mid-40s or early 50's who dance well and financially independent, who are on the prowl for a young muffin o' studliness. Is she looking for love or a lay? Hell, why not both? Like the old milonguero lusting after the young woman, she, too, has a fantasy of "ponerse de novia con ese pibe" (to become the girlfriend of the young man), or to at least, "echarse un polvo" (to have an orgasm). Some women even frequent "pibe paradises" such as La Viruta, where the dance level seriously blows, but where she can seduce a younger man with her dancing and her readiness to throw down.

Then there are people like me, both foreigners and locals, who aren't really milongueras or milongueros because we don't get entangled in the tango intrigue, though our passion for the dance is the same. We enjoy and love the tango and the milonga for what it is: a hobby, a sublime diversion, a metaphor for life, but NOT a life.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


You met him. His dancing made you swoon. You made him laugh, and he loved your embrace. And soon, you started doing a little mattress dancing. Against all milonga odds, both of you are STILL together. How do you do it?

I've asked several long-term, happily hooked-up couples recently their secret to keeping love alive in the milonga, a "den of scum and villainy" (any original Star Wars fans out there?) where, it just so happens, your little honeybun met you!

One rather flirty man, coupled still after 25 years, stated that whatever happens in the milonga STAYS in the milonga. His wife enjoys watching him dance with women who dance well and vice versa. He enjoys dancing because he can enjoy a fantasy for a few minutes with one of his favorite partners, but he makes it clear that things stay completely platonic, that there are boundaries he doesn't cross.

Another happily comprometido (hooked-up, involved) man explained that the milonga holds the same temptation as any other ambiance. True, I said, but any other ambiance wouldn't include my being in someone's embrace. Plus, I don't recall ever pressing my cheek and breasts against my male co-workers for 10-12 minutes. This is NOT like the real world, which makes the milonga all the more alluring. However, I agree that the temptation and opportunities exist everywhere you go. (On a few occasions, men have tried to pick me up in church, the most un-milonga place one could imagine.) The point is, "What do you do with this sexual tension?"

"You just play stupid," he replied. It's natural that one's instinctual, base animal nature should awaken (schwing!) when one is in the arms of someone attractive, smells good, dresses really nicely, dances like a dream, and...excuse me...let me take a quick cold shower...but after the song is over, so is the magic.

Part of what makes the milonga so attractive is that one can enjoy the fantasy without sacrificing reality. The trick is not having this space collapse into either side. Trying to prolong the fantasy by taking it off the dance floor is a dangerous proposition, as oftentimes, under florescent lights or in the daylight, your dance god may turn out to be from hell.

Every couple has its own implicit or explicit rules. Even couples who swap partners have boundaries, (not that I write from personal experience). For example, if one partner starts to feel uncomfortable, the deal is off. Rules, limits, boundaries: these help to provide a container for the relationship. They help the partners feel respected and relatively emotionally safe.

Even tango couples who have broken up have rules. Sometimes they split up their usual milongas. You take Canning on Sundays. I take El Beso on Tuesdays. It prevents any awkwardness one may feel while watching one's ex "trabajando" (literally, working, or on the prowl) at the milonga.

Some couples prefer to sit and dance together for the whole milonga. In this case, it would be a definite faux pas to look at the man for a dance. However, should you notice that both partners dance with other people , you can feel free to look at the man.

The TG and her male consort have established their own tango rules. We have the option of dancing with whomever we wish, however 1) no dancing with anyone for more than one tanda, except for each other; and 2) we can request an embargo on dances with a particular tango partner. Let me clarify that we are both rabid about our independence, but, the notion of independence within the context of a committed relationship needs to be a little more flexible. After all, you are supposed to be sharing a life with someone.

These rules we have established don't make either of us feel trapped or controlled. Quite the contrary, they prevent milonga drama from occurring and allows us the freedom to enjoy the milonga and the tango fantasy without having to "controlar" what the other person is doing with someone else. He knows I'm not trying to pick up every Tomás, Ricardo, or...uh...Harry whom I embrace, so he can fully enjoy being with his partners, and vice versa.

He likes to say that he enjoys dancing with other women, but, at the end of the night, he is picked up and taken home by the one he likes the most. In short, the tango and the milonga keep the flames o' desire a-burnin'. We get to seduce each other again.
Restaurant: Te Mataré, Ramirez
Address: Paraguay 4062/Primera Junta 702 (San Isidro)
Tel: 4831-9156/4747-8618 (San Isidro)

When my darlin' BF was courting me (read: trying to get into my knickers), he wined and dined me after the milonga at proper restaurants for proper ladies of proper breeding, you know, places with the low lighting, tasteful background music, excellent wine lists, good reviews. Once we, ahem, moved on to "dessert" and the "cheese platter" and the "coffee", he started taking me to places like Te Mataré, Ramirez, "an exquisite banquet for the imagination, for hedonism and the exigent palates," where you can suck "lomo" (beef) juice off your partner's fingers as you watch a few actors perform erotic scenes (fully clothed, of course).

This restaurant is a haven for dirty minds. The decor murmurs "elegant bordello" with very dim lighting, sperm-shaped salt shakers on the tables, and suggestive photos on the wall. If you just can't keep your hands off your little tango alfajorcito, you can indulge in a little foreplay with footplay under the table, thoughtfully covered with an oversized tablecloth for discretion and privacy.

Reading the menu is meant to be an erotic experience, as well. From start to finish, the dishes are sure to get you hot and bothered. Just check out the name of this entrada (appetizer): Me Entrego Sumiso al Asalto de tus Pechos (I humbly submit myself to the assault of your breasts.) aka risotto-filled, erect chipirones" (squid or calamare, I think). This appetizer was a little on the small and salty side. For my principal (main course), I ordered the "Pecaminoso colita de cuadril" (sinful cut of meat - still can't get my cuts of meat down in Spanish) a punto (pink), but it came well done, I mean, dead, and slightly charred, to my disappoinment and to my boyfriend's taste. He ended up eating my leftovers. The little eggrolls on the side were cold and just sad. He chose "creamy and voluptuous" risotto nestled in an edible bowl, which he said was "pretty good". No other comment besides that, so I'm guessing that it was average. I have to say that I was rather disappointed with the food this visit. Things didn't weren't as succulent or tasty. Perhaps we'll just have to come here for dessert, wine, and a little canoodling under the table.

We didn't stick around for the show this time around, but we saw one of their productions last year in the San Isidro location, I must tip my hat to the actors who have to do this gig, because what I saw was over-the-top. It was more blatant sex, than sexy. More sensational, than sensual. A lot of groaning and talk about "culos" (asses). I guess the owners forgot about the brain being the biggest sex organ because there was no subtlety, no suggestion, which, for me, is the sexiest part of sex. In a media censorship class I had for my undergrad degree, we watched a close-up of two hands slowly unpeeling an orange. My classmates and I were embarrassed to admit that this clip was a lot hotter than watching the well-endowed John Holmes grunting and grinding his way to porn superstardom (Sigh! I loved that class.). It's all in the presentation. So, although the food was decent in the San Isidro location, I didn't leave with that satisfied, spent, light-me-up-a-ciggie feeling I should have had if the show had done its job. Then again, I guess that's up to you to remedy when you go home with your sweetie, you naughty girl.

Atmosphere: SSSSSexy and SSSSSSensual. Some of the shows can be rather "fuerte" for some tastes, almost bordering on audio-porn, so call ahead to find out what's on stage.

Service: Average

Total damage: Dinner for two with wine and water: 171 peso, and me love you long time. Kind of pricey. If you are a card carrying socio of La Nacion newspaper, you can get 20% off your tab at this restaurant. Check out La Nacion's website for details on other restaurants and businesses with this offer.

Overall: Perfect for awakening horniness, but not for sating hunger. I'd be up for trying this again for dessert after a milonga.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Looking for a milonga that's long on local color and character and short on pretention? I'd recommend going to the Centro Cultural Tato Bores located on Soler between Vidt and Salguero on the 3rd Friday of every month. There's no exchange of currency at the door, no coat check, no dueño showing you to your seat. In fact, there's also no wood floor, no champagne, and you have to get the soft drinks and empanadas your own damn self, but that just adds to the "casera" (homemade) charm. Given its location in auditorium/cafeteria of a local elementary school, and taped signs on the wall instructing kids to raise their hand if they want something, the milonga has that casual "community center" feel that I've always loved. All that's missing is the processed-cheese-cafeteria food smell.

Before you turn up your nose thinking that you're too much of a slickster tango dancer to set any part of your 3-inch heel-clad foot through the doors of a slightly delapidated elementary school to dance with dressed-down no-namers, I'd say that this is a great opportunity to let your hair down, take off your control-top pantyhose, and witness tango maybe at its purest: in the community, with normal people of all ages who love the dance, and who aren't so concerned about making an impression.

Of course, being populated with dancers who aren't so concerned about making an impression does lend itself to some wildly varying "niveles de baile" (dance levels), mostly leaning toward the average, below average, and just-starting-out. However, I have never had so much fun, nor felt so comfortable and so relaxed at a milonga, maybe because the codes seemed more flexible here; or maybe because IT DIDN'T FEEL LIKE WORK, as in "working" the outfit and the hair, "working" the room with the eye contact. In fact, I would have been perfectly happy to chill out and watch, as I sat all bundled up in my bulky sweater, pants, and winter coat, but, hey, a milonga is a milongo, and I had my tango shoes on. One man, a friend of mine, asked me directly. Then my boyfriend invited another guy we had just met, who was sitting at our 8-top round table with his wife/partner, to dance with me. The rest of the time was spent getting to know people at the table, a rare occurence in a regular milonga.

Néstor La Vitola and Mónica Paz, both teachers here, suggested arriving between 9:00 and 9:15 p.m. to get a seat at one of the 9 or 10 tables. By 9:30, the place is usually packed to the gills.

This milonga is part of a the governement-sponsored and subsidized project called ProgramaCultural en Barrios, and is just one of the many cultural activities offered by the Ministerio de Cultura around town. This locale offers classes in everything from percussion to theater games to screenwriting, many of which are free-a-licious, always a bonus for a thrifty milonguera who needs to save her stash for aguas con gas at the milonga and another pair of shoes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

CHATTIN' UP...Néstor La Vitola, Milonguero and Tango Teacher (and overall nice guy)

You've probably seen a tall, bald guy in El Beso's "Lujos" on Thursday nights or Saturday nights at Cachirulo on Saturday nights, but he would not have made much of an impression just sitting there, usually with his arms crossed across his chest, and watching the dancers as he takes sips from his glass of soda. He does not dance very often because "I only dance with the people I like dancing with," and, it turns out, there are only a handful who rate a tanda with him. After working in his regular job and then teaching tango a few nights a week, he prefers to choose partners who make dancing a pleasure rather than a chore. I'd wager, though, that he would make many a tangueras' night if he took a few more spins on the floor. The man dances like buttah, providing an all-too-brief respite from the real world, AND he's a gentleman! Bonus!

Recently, I took advantage of my budding friendship with Néstor, or "el gordo pelado" (the bald, chubby guy) as my BF calls him affectionately, by bribing him with FREE pizza and blog notoriety in exchange for some of his thoughts on the tango. Free food and a chance to talk about tango for a bit? I had him in the bag.

I asked him first about the abrazo (the embrace). What exactly is a "lindo abrazo"? Women hear it from guys all the time. Guys exchange notes on who has one and who doesn't. Néstor likens a good abrazo to what one experiences when hugging a good friend; it is an affectionate "entrega del cuerpo al otro" (the delivering over or surrendering of one's body to another). This gesture may come in many forms in tango, whether slung across his shoulder, wrapped across his back and placed firmly on or near where a woman's bra-overhang would be located, or in the middle of his back, laying gently upon his spine. Wherever the arm goes, it's all good, as long as he feels the woman giving herself over to him as her partner and the music, and as long as she is on her "eje" or axis, the imaginary line that stretches from the metatarsus through the top of the head.

The tango, he continues, is the melding of two bodies into one, "a little work of art." In general, he dances for pleasure, to the orchestras he likes, and with sole intention of enjoying himself as part of a tango couple. The need to "mostrarse" (put oneself on display or show oneself) is minimal, his dancing inspired from what springs from the inside, rather than influenced by what may or may not look good on the outside. His tango, from "afuera" (on or from the outside) appears deceptively simple, but his partners FEEL peace, excitement, warmth, protection, caring. It's delicious, intoxicating, and one notices oneself forgetting everything in his embrace. Given his connection with the music, he describes humbly his dancing as just doing what he does, without regard for steps or technique. In fact, if one asked him about a step he performed recently, he wouldn't be able to tell you, because he creates steps in the moment and forgets them.

He remembers tango being present everywhere and in everything when he was growing up. Hailing from "humble roots", he recalls sneaking into theaters or confiterias (cafés) with his friends to watch and listen to orchestras play by asking people leaving for cigarettes or for the night for their contraseñas, the entrance tickets allowing audience members to come and go as they please. Saturday nights were spent listening to a tango show on the radio with his family. His parents also met through the tango, and when he was 13, he joined his parents in their local milonga. These memories helped cultivate and inform his unique interpretation of the tango and the dance. He says, "One receives the feeling of the music. These are related to life experiences."

Years ago, an Argentine in D.C. say to me that a foreigner could never dance the tango. The tango, he said, is a lightpost, a barrio, all the specifics and the shadows of memories of a culture and family that are porteñan. I never forgot what this man said, mostly because being told, "You can't" forces me to do everything in my power to prove his or her assertion wrong. So, I asked Nestor, "Do we feel the music the same way? I am not an Argentine, and I did not live the same experiences as you." He answered, "It depends on each person's story." He paused and added, "You're very close to capturing that feeling."

I couldn't help but feel like Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs, looking like an elegantly-dressed rube in not-so-cheap Comme Il Faut shoes. "Quid pro quo, Dr. Lechter!"

Nothing. No more explanation. I guessed that "capturing" this feeling depends on living my experiences and creating more memories. "You fly back to tango class now, Claaaarice. Fly, fly,, fly, fly..."

There are many things one can feel from a women when dancing with her, he notes. However, while many extranjeros (foreigners) dance well technically, "I don't feel anything from them." They perform "pasos vacios" (empty steps), and one "cannot feel alone [dancing tango]. The feeling [generated] by the music is the most important aspect of the tango." Asked for his "orquestras preferidas" (favorite orchestras), he answered, "I like the more melodical orchestras; Calo, Di Sarli, Puliese. I find them inspirational and exciting." My personal faves, too.

Now, the dirt: In general, Néstor dances only for the pleasure of dancing and RARELY eroticizes the dance. Yeah, but, come on, now. Does he ever use the tango to get lucky? He answers frankly, "If I like her, I will use it to seduce her." "Oooooh," I thought, "slickster milonguero secrets!" If my BF, a self-professed "machito" (macho man - howls of laughter from me) calls his friend "muy seductor," I HAD to find out his secrets of milonguero seduction. "I may," he divulged, "use a closer embrace. I may play with her hands a little bit, perhaps touch her neck, but I will only do this if I'm getting a vibe from her." Whatta guy!

Néstor is available for individual lessons or group classes with Mónica Paz, a beautiful and statuesque Argentine tango dancer and teacher with years of experience in her own right and legs just about as long as I am tall. Both also provide lessons solo, so contact them directly for information. You can find out more about Néstor and Mónica on their cool website:

Sunday, July 15, 2007

CHATTIN' UP...Hector of Cachirulo on Milonga Seating Strategy

444 Maipu. Saturday night at Cachirulo, one of the best nights of tango in Buenos Aires. The tables are about 3/4 empty when we arrive at 6:30 p.m., our usual time, and there are a few couples taking advantage of the free space on the dance floor. The red curtain opens and closes, regulars and tourists, couples and singles come through and wait as Norma, the benevolent "anfitriona" (female host) exchanges the entrance ticket for a raffle ticket. Up for grabs in a few hours is the usual bottle of champagne. We don't stick around for that, as 9:00 p.m. is dinnertime for both of us (and goddess help the person that comes between me and my hungry stomach). Still, we manage to pack in our tangos, milongas, and valses with our usual clientele in a short amount of time. We're efficient that way.

Hector, always elegant in a suit and tie, his few strands of gray hair in place, greets us with arms outstretched, and he tells my partner to sit in his usual seat in the primera fila. Then he takes me by the hand and leads me to my seat in the primera fila, a few seats to the left of center. I had a seat right smack in the middle of the row for a long while, but, because the smoke from my neighbor was killing me, I requested a seat next to the non-smoking ladies a little farther down the row. Thankfully, it hasn't affected my dancing at all, as I'm still sought out. Now that the non-smoking ban is in effect, a move back to my original seat could be in the works, but then I would miss talking to my neighbors, which is part of the fun, so I may just stay where I am. Whichever spot I choose, though, that spot will be my regular seat. I will be able to count on that seat having my name written all over it even BEFORE I arrive. It's MINE, MY PRECIOUS...

I asked Hector about his organizational strategy, if, indeed, he had a strategy, as the seating arrangement causes a lot of consternation among many dancers, both Argentine and non-Argentine. A few Saturdays ago, I witnessed a tall blond woman, who was obviously not a local or Argentine, tell Hector that she didn't want to sit in the back. She wanted a seat in the primera fila, anywhere up front where she could be seen. Another woman I know would not pay the entrance fee unless she knew where she was going to be seated first. What gives, Hectorcito? Give a lady a good seat, will ya?

Oh, if it were only that simple, dear grasshopper...

Listen, he said, the primeras filas are reserved for A) those local regulars, who keep the food on the table YEAR-ROUND, and not for tourists who come in for a few weeks or months at a time; and B) those local regulars and regular foreign visitors who dance well. Those who fall in the second category include two fabulous Italian women who come here for 2-3 month dance stints, who come faithfully every Saturday during their stays, and who are very popular with the gentlemen.

He admits that that there are local regulars in these coveted seats who don't dance as well as some of the tourists, but they are at his milonga every Saturday night, don't cause any fuss, and are also popular with the milongueros. Then he pointed out another regular visitor from Italy, fresh off the plane and sitting one row back from the front row of seats. He said, "That woman dances very well, but I had to put her there because the women who usually sit in the front row will get angry and not come back if I give away their chairs." When those who have permanent seats leave, like my partner and I, Hector has them already reserved for those who come in with the second wave of dancers between 9:30-10:30-ish.

But what about the extranjeros/as who live here and who are STILL given crappy "ubicaciones" (locations, or, in this context, seats)? Well, that has more to do with the quality of their dancing than anything else. Frankly, they may just not make the grade. I use myself as an example. I used to get so frustrated with the seating politics. I was an OK dancer, AND I was young and pretty cute, for chrissake. That had to count for something. However, I found that I had to earn my spot by working on my dance, which was humbling. And they watched me improve, and with that improvement came my seat.

And they are probably watching you, too. I see Norma watching people's feet all the time at Cachirulo. It's sort of unnerving when you catch her doing it, but I understand now why she does it. Hector goes to El Beso on Thursday nights, not only for the ambiance, but also to watch the dancers, many of whom will be going to his milonga.

As I said in one of my first messages, it's about the bottom line. Popular male and female dancers draw more male and female dancers which, therefore, brings home the bacon. Mmmm...I love to hear that bacon sizzlin' myself, so one can hardly blame him.

The worst thing a woman can do when she is given a seat that's not to her liking is to get pissed off. At the very least, ask calmly and and respectfully, if there is any way the host would consider giving you a better seat. If he or she will not relent, then accept what is given to you, or leave (This second option will probably do more harm than good, by the way.) If you accept what is given to you week after week, month after month, and you take classes to improve your technique, and, still, the dancing gods do not bestow upon you the place which you feel you deserve and/or a night filled with wonderful tandas, then perhaps you should consider that this particular milonga is not for you. Perhaps the level of dancing is just too high for you at the moment, and you need to reconsider other milongas where the dance level will allow you to dance and have a good time...which is the whole point of coming here in the first place, right? Why be miserable?

Think about Darwin's survival of the fittest. The baddest-ass animal is going to get the first and the biggest bite. Cachirulo is a place where good dancers from all over the world, who care about the dance and not just steps, go to dance with good dancers who care about the same thing. This milonga is VERY difficult to break into for the average-to-below-than-average dancer who comes into town once a year and who is relatively unknown. It is even more difficult for the aforementioned dancer to break in if he or she is unattractive. BUT it would be a VERY good opportunity for a dancer to sit and watch the dancers, which is an education and a pleasure in itself. I learned a lot this way: feet placement, abrazo (embrace) styles, embellishments.

Please keep in mind that the seating arrangement you see at Cachirulo will probably be different from the arrangement at Canning, or El Beso, or La Viruta (Thanks, Elizabeth.). Each dueno (pronounced duenyo...can't figure out how to get the little doohickie that goes over "n") has his or her own criteria. So, as the Good Book says, the first will be last, the last will be first depending upon the milonga.

And that, my friends, is the law of a jungle called Cachirulo.

Friday, July 13, 2007


OK, so if it seems like I'm all over the place on this issue, it's because I'm struggling to understand the influence of THIS culture upon my body and my person, and I will probably grapple with these issues for a long while.

This is such a pressing issue for me for several reasons:

As a practicing psychotherapist, I have seen and continue to see women with body image distortions all the time, whether culturally-based or originating in childhood abuse, for example. I am driven to read and continue to deepen my understanding of why these distortions are so prevalent. Men have body distortions, too, but I think women have more at stake. Women are so identified with the body - childbearing, menstruation, breasts - but, I believe, from my tiny experience in Buenos Aires, women are so much more identified with the body HERE, or maybe I've just become super sensitive to how women are perceived. Good god, just turn on local TV and flip through Gente or some other celebrity-watching magazine, and you'll see what I mean.

My beef is not with the idea of having surgery; rather, it is with reasons WHY people go so willingly and with great enthusiasm under the knife. What is the ideal one tries to live up to? Our own ideal? But what exactly influences our image or images of the ideal? Most people want to look like someone else (yes, I'll have Julia's lips, Jennifer's hair, etc.) which may explain the reason why many people with plastic surgery end up looking the same to me.

BUT, if it makes one look and feel better, people say (including me), why the heck not? Everyone should have the freedom should do what they want with their bodies. True. I really DO believe this, though it may not sound like it. I have even been planning my future boob lift, doing a test-run in front of the bathroom mirror by shifting upward the skin above my breasts and gazing upon temporarily perky boobage. Then I think, geez louise, breasts are SUPPOSED to make their slow journey toward our knees as time goes by. But then I see Nacha Guevara in a local production of "The Graduate" with 25 year old boobs on her 60-ish year old body, and it makes me go hmmmm.... Something else that makes me go hmmmm is a Southeast Asian woman dying her hair blond and getting blue contacts (I have seen it. Life in L.A.), but WHY pick blond hair and blue eyes? Perhaps to seem more exotic than her normal Southeast Asian self by turning herself into a Eurasian? Freedom of choice? Do we really have a choice? If you CAN do it and WANT to do it, they why not? Would a white Argentine go have nose surgery to have a flatter, more "indigeno", nose like mine? If not, WHY not? I really don't know the answers, but I'm asking the questions...and I think the questions are just as complex and loaded as are the answers.

I also struggle with my own exoticism here. It's a label that the Argentines have given me. EXOTIC...not necessarily pretty or beautiful, but exotic. What does that mean? Exotic new plant species found on a recently discovered, uninhabited island? Like one of those women in a Gaugin painting? Beautiful, yet silently hanging on a wall? Exotic like one of those wierd colored dogs their creating in Japan? To me, this word smacks of different, other, "them" and not "us", a curiosity, a novelty-again something to be observed.

Then there's my shape. Well, I have short legs, an average sized bosom and don't really have a small waist, but here I am in pilates in mad pursuit of one. I consider myself an intelligent, discerning individual, not prone to give into cultural pressures, but I have inadvertently and inevitably, so it seems, been sucked in. What I do in response, once I snap out of my urge to fit in, is to open my closet to look at my crazy collection of vintage clothing from thrift shop days in the U.S. and tell my hairstylist to cut my hair really short. I become, once again, unabashedly, different, but in an organic way, in a manner which originates in me and not the culture. And then I feel great, whip up some peanut butter cookies, and go dance.

All of this has sort of made me re-evaluate and explore my own idea of femininity and what it means to be a woman. North Americans, for example, are not feminine, from the comments I have collected from Argentine men. We are too opinionated, too ready go after what we want, too independent, and too eager to EAT. I have heard from more than one Argentine woman that she doesn't eat at all or she eats very little, and they say it with pride. When I say I love to eat, they look at me like I have 3 heads. You mean, you don't have a salad for lunch?! What do you mean you eat those little cookie things that come with your coffee?!

Here's an interesting anecdote I heard from a North American male friend/tourist in Buenos Aires: He goes to the gym to work out and comments to an Argentine friend who is also working out there that the women are so slim in this country. The Argentine says it's because they don't eat, but, unfortunately, they're always in a bad mood. My friend asks which would he rather have: a slim woman who doesn't eat and is in a bad mood, or someone in a good mood, eats, and is not slim. Well, hands down the answer was a slim woman who doesn't eat and is in a bad mood.

I guess it's different for me, having lived here for a little over 2 years straight. In general, I don't hear all this from women who come here for tango fixes for weeks or several months, but, living here, moving around in the culture and listening to Argentines, I definitely think that the collective psyche, if you want to call it that, has more of an opportunity to impress powerful images and beliefs upon you. Perhaps I was more immune to it in the States because of my social group, a bunch of iconoclastic, outside-the-box thinkers, so these were non-issues for me. But move a person to a place where one just starting to form a social group, or, as a friend of mine put it, looking for one's tribe, where even WORDS have gender and gender roles are more clearly delineated (with tango, it becomes a little messier, and I'll be writing about this in the future), and I think one becomes a little bit more sensitive to this type of bombardment.

This is now THE END of Weight and the Milonguera, thankyouverymuch, but feel free to continue commenting.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Did I say something in my last blog entry about taking care of oneself? OK, OK, I completely let myself go this holiday weekend (July 9=Dia de Independencia) enduring the Patagonian winter weather in Bariloche, Argentina. Didn't dance tango at all, but froze my ass off and compensated for all the calories my body burned struggling to keep warm by relishing some killer hot chocolate at the confiteria in Del Turista, one of the biggest producers of chocolate in the area. LOVED IT!

And tomorrow...I pay...and the next day...and the next day....

Thanks so much to all who commented on my last blog entry on weight, and still others who commented about men and the milonga and about my strange obsession with cleanliness. It's so nice to know someone out there is reading my musings! I feel the love...

I just started reading Susan Bordo's collection of essays on the body, culture, and feminism called "Unbearable Weight," the perfect book for living in beauty and youth-obsessed Buenos Aires and for our theme on weight and the milonguera. Reading it has given me more food for thought.

I was involved in the theater and the art modeling world for a bit while I was still in the States. In both venues, as an actor and nude figure model, I was to be looked at. The audience or class saw every my dimpled thighs, my protruding belly when I was PMSing or not, my slightly sagging 30-something breasts, but never once did I feel as on display and objectified as I do here in Buenos Aires and, specifically, in the milongas. Isn't it strange that I should feel more self-conscious dancing with clothes on than contorting my naked body on the model stand? I can't even think about putting on a bikini here without grabbing a sarong to wrap around myself. At the pool, I try to figure out the best way to untie my sarong and get into the pool 2 feet away without exposing my belly. What is the deal?!?!? I have become a neurotic Argentine.

This transformation happened slowly. At 5 foot 3 and 1/2, I used to weigh a healthy 123 when I arrived 2 years ago. I worked out but didn't kill myself at the gym, ate healthily, but people still described me as "gordita" or slightly plump or fleshy. I never heard this from my theater friends or from artists back home. I just heard that I was beautiful, and I believed them. I even FELT beautiful, empowered, womanly.

Currently at 115, milonga people tell me that I'm "mas linda" now that I've lost weight, but I feel that have become a slave to the scale, a slave to 1/2 portions of everything, a slave to the damn mirror. Eating one medialuna has become like committing some mortal sin which must have its corresponding penance at the gym. Having dessert after a meal is to be restricted to only special occasions. Honestly, I'm the same size, but, as I wrote in my last entry, I rearranged the furniture a bit thanks to thrice weekly pilates sessions and 1/2 portions. Do I like myself with my new bod? To tell you the truth, yes. Working on my core, which one of you mentioned, I have now begun to see tiny, microscopic rips in my abdominal area. My thighs are really strong now, and I have better posture. It's rather nice. It's an accomplishment. So, yes, I do like myself and my new bod, which is a good thing. Do I like myself better? Not necessarily, as my new proportions have now forced upon me the responsibility and pressure of maintaining all this, which I accept, but, honest to god, sometimes I wonder if its worth it and why the hell I'm doing this (besides the obvious health aspects and the trickle-down benefits for my dancing).

I believe part of it is my wanting to fit into my new country, which is especially difficult for me since a) I look nothing like your typical North American person - aka - any of the Friends castmembers (I am Asian of the Filipino variety. Do they know where the Philippines is? No. As far as they know and care, it might as well be a small country attached at the hip to China. And how many people of color have appeared on Friends?); and b) I don't look portenan. So, if I am not identified with North America or the Philippines or Argentina, then with which cultural group do they identify me? I'm sort of the odd-ball person that says she's North American, but really she's got slanted eyes, so we'll just call her Chinese or Japanese or Korean. They're all in the same part of the world anyway.

Filipinos have a different body type. We are, in general, shortish and roundish. I happen to like my short, roundish brown body. I find it sensual, but compare me to a thin portenan, and I might as well be called overweight. I also refuse to grow my hair, which, to the dismay of my hair stylist, I have cut every 3 weeks within an inch of its life. He tells me every month that I need to little wisps on my neck, but I find them incredibly annoying because they grow out within a few days of being cut. According to him, my haircut, sliced and diced and sometimes standing on end, does not reflect the Argentine idea of femininity here, which is basically long. But these women end up looking the same to me. Their bodies look the same; their hair looks the same; their clothes look the same. No one stands out. To me, I don't see beauty; I see generica...except for maybe Moira Casan and Susana Gimenez, whom I see as examples of a new species of humanoid - part flesh, part botox, part silicon - both Argentine celebrities and obvious "hinchas" (fans) of the surgical knife.

Perhaps, I have been trained to see "beautiful" and "sexy" in another way. I love form, in all its shapes and sizes. Alberto Giacometti's pencil-thin figurative sculptures are quite striking and hauntingly beautiful, but I love the roundness of Botero's painted figures. Watch me in Crate and Barrel, and I gravitate toward roundish vases. I find round absolutely beautiful, and I don't think round necessarily means un-fit. I have overheard Argentine men say, "Oh, she's not pretty, but at least she's thin." Thin. Does thin mean healthy? Not necessarily. Thin means, well, thin with no noticable pockets or ripples of fat. Does thin make for a better dancer? Not necessarily. A thin woman who is not in physical condition can drag a man down just as much as an overweight woman can. Worse, a thin woman can feel absolutely weightless, in the negative sense that there's nothing there, no substance, no body. And what's tango without body?

I think Geraldine, a fabulous tango dancer whose last name escapes me, has a banging body. Not thin by any stretch of the imagination, but exuberantly curvy. (Thanks to the reader who mentioned her name in her comment!). But, while watching her dance one night a few years ago, an old milonguero and master teacher told me, "Baila bien, pero, ojo, no es flaca" (She dances well, but notice she isn't skinny). Wouldn't it have sufficed to have mentioned that she dances well? Why throw in the "flaca" business?

And look at our beautiful older actresses: Helen Mirren (Good god, she looked hot at the Academy Awards. She has got it ALL going on.), Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep. These are positively radiant, physically beautiful, and NOT FLACA! And the best part is that they're not trying to squeeze themselves into tiny Spandex or Lycra strangely-cut contraptions like some of the milongueras do here. What is THAT all about? I'm not saying that a 50 year old shouldn't rock a minidress, but not one that makes one look like she is trying to recapture the glory days of her youth. It becomes something sad, even tragic.

As I said in my last entry, each person should whip their body into its best shape, not the shape dictated by milongueros, or magazine ads, or cultures. I am, while still roundish and shortish, close to excellent shape for my body-type.
Sure, I have my trouble spots, but throw on a sleek black dress and some cute dance shoes, and I am good to go. I think sexy radiates from the confidence in knowing one's body enough to accentuate the positives and gloss over the slightly- less-than-positive. It comes from an ability to accept one's physical limitations, working with what one has right now, and being able to carry everything onto the dance floor of life with dignity and integrity.

Monday, July 02, 2007

WEIGHT AND THE MILONGUERA: The Good, The Bad, and The Fugly

OK, so did I have problems with my weight before I came to Buenos Aires? No. Did I have a problem with body image before deciding to live here? No more than the usual neuroses women have. Fast forward a few medialunas, plates o' pasta and "damn, people, don't Argentine women have hips?" later, and you've got yourself a weight and body obsession. How I long for the days when "Rubenesque" and cellulite were in style and accepted, when it was a GOOD thing for women to be, as Missy Elliot says, "big bone-ded". It meant you ATE. It meant you had money in the bank to feed yourself and your family.

So, is the Tango Goddess going to go off on a socio-economic rant? No, I'm talking about weight, people. I'm talking about poundage, kilitos, as Argentines say. It's pretty well-known that Argentine women are obsessed with their weight and how they look in general, which is cool. It's nice to take pride in oneself. The TG, herself, likes to groom, but, damn, those oversized sweats and flan look good sometimes.

I, thankfully, do not have a weight problem, but, you know, it takes effort now to maintain my weight now that I'm getting older. Like most women, I battle with those stubborn 2-3 pounds that give me that (loveable) muffin top when I wear my jeans. However, deciding to live in a society that is SO self-conscious (and I have lived LA and the DC area, so I KNOW self-consciousness), has turned my battle into a war (must be all the damn therapists here talking about making the unconscious conscious).

Now, what does weight have to do with the milonga? With tango? EVERYTHING, I have discovered. First of all, everyone--both men and women--are looking, studying, observing you the moment you walk into the milonga. They are looking at what you wear. Is your stomach hanging out? Are you busting out of your Lycra/Spandex dress? Got a new butt-lift? The milonga is a sensual world, and that means you are on display. You are to be looked at. And, hey, let's be're doing some looking yourself, aren'tcha?

Along with the emphasis on the visual, the milonga also emphasizes the kinesthetic. How do you move? How do you feel? You are overweight? You will most likely not be invited to dance if the milongueros do not know you and your dance. You have a body that is "cylindrical," meaning you don't have a waist? Dancing with you will be called a "mudanza" (moving a house). You're feeling puffy from the water weight before your period? Been eating too much asado? Your partner will feel it, too. You don't have energy to support your own weight because you don't work out? Your partner will be hating life supporting your weight during the tanda. I have heard these lines used by milongueros to describe women in the milonga, including me! I once told my dance teacher that I was about to get my period, and he groaned and said, "It's going to be a very difficult lesson." They notice when you've lost or gained a few kilos, and they have no qualms about telling you. It's harsh, man, and I absolutely hate it. Why can't we appreciate inner beauty? Haven't they seen those Dove "real beauty" campaigns?

Unfortunately, in life, it's all about the outer package, and no one can avoid making automatic rash judgements based on the sensual. Sure, you get to know someone and then realize what a fantastic individual that person is, but how much time does one spend in deep conversation on the dance floor? In one of my many arguments with milongueros about this weight theme, one will inevitably bring up the fact that I, too, have my wierd prejudices. For example, I absolutely cannot stand guys with doughy-sweaty palms. It's just gross. It's like sticking your hand in, well, skanky, sweaty dough. I also have a thing about really thin guys. I mean, what do I hold on to? Yes, it is a fact that the woman should not rely on the man completely to sustain her, but, still, I like to hang on to a little meat. It gives me a sense of containment and security (calling Dr. Freud).

Tango is, indeed, a very physical dance. There is very little between you and your partner's flesh. You feel his body. You feel his bones or belly, the 5 o-clock shadow he didn't bother to shave, his hands, his chest, and, yes, sometimes, his trouser snake. When he puts his arm around you, he feels every inch of you. That little bra overhang, the pleasant squishiness of your waist, the softness or roughness of your hand, the silicone breast implants you got 8 years ago that have hardened to cement, your weight. EVERYTHING.

That weight has an effect on his dancing which, in turn, has an effect on the dance you share with him, which, in turn, has an effect on you. I am not proposing everyone should be walking around like Kate Moss clones, god forbid. I am suggesting, however, that women take more responsibility for 1) their own dance and 2) their own bodies. Do yourself a favor and whip your body into it's best shape for yourself and for the sake of your own dance, your own life. Dancers train because it makes their dance better. Their muscles are supple. They have more stamina. They radiate energy and good health. And, yeah, sometimes, they lose weight. Sometimes, like me, they just redistribute their weight, rearrange the furniture a little bit. Skim off a little belly here; add a little booty there.

Dancers don't depend on their partners to make them dance, but dance WITH their partners, adding their own unique signature to the tanda they share. Tango has EVERYTHING to do with the physical and sensual, with how one takes care of and carries oneself. And THAT is beautiful, baby.

Friday, June 29, 2007

TANGO BURN-OUT: Sometimes A Goddess Just Has to Chill

Thursday night is our usual tango night at El Beso. I get gussied up for a few whirls around on the dance floor and then dinner. Last night, I just wasn't feeling the urge to go through the whole production process...and it IS a production. After all, the Goddess is a GodDESS. Why, even Aphrodite had to bathe and perfume herself before she went on the hunt for an unsuspecting mortal lover. I'm not on the prowl, as I am happily hooked-up, but, still, I don't want to look like I've just rolled off the pilates mat all smelly and hair askew.

I wonder what the deal is with these occasional breaks I need to take. Sometimes, the milonga scene is just too much too take. After all the beautification, (which, hell, doesn't take THAT long, and, usually, I really enjoy the primping and preening), I feel as if I have to go to work. I mean, I never liked the whole pick-up bar scene anyway, and when I went dancing, it was usually with a bunch of girls I ended up dancing with the whole night. In the milonga, I have to sit and wait, follow the codes to get a dance invite, not be too eager or look like I'm too bored, look good, AND dance well. Then there's the gossiping, the pettiness, and cattiness that get on my last raw nerve. Sometimes, it's just too much work and bad ju-ju, and I'd much rather spend my time in my jammies watching King of The Hill...which I do every so often.

It is VITAL for people to have a life outside of the milonga, or you will wither away until you look like one of those old, hard-core milongueros who have nothing BUT the milonga. And, really, how interesting are they outside of the milonga? Have you spoken to one lately? They're not really that much more interesting during the milongas. Take a Spanish class; work out; take a non-tango dance class; travel outside of Buenos Aires; check out some museums; take in some theatre; meet non-tango people for cultural exchange talks over coffee. There is so much more to life than the milonga. Just check out the BA Herald or any one of the number of on-line BA resources. I knew that if I wanted to survive here and feel like a normal person, I would have to find other things to do with my time than dance. I'm glad I did.

Going to the milonga is a bi-weekly ritual my partner and I enjoy, but I also relish occasional breaks from the scene. After a week or so away from the milonga, absence makes my heart grow fonder, and I usually can't wait to go back. That's a nice feeling to have after 10 years of dancing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

MILONGA CODES LEARNED THE HARD WAY: A Tango Demi-goddess' Initiation into Full Goddess-hood

First off, let me explain the Tango Goddess' absence. She was fretting about her final dissertation draft, which is, thankfully, over and done with, and had been traveling and doing all that graduation and post-doctoral meltdown/depression stuff. She has now climbed down from her perch off Olympus momentarily to bid you all a hearty, "Welcome back!" Have you missed her? Have you? Have you? Place a pair of new leopard-patterned leather dance shoes in the offering box there at the entrance, and she will bestow upon you at least one tanda with the man you want to dance with tonight. She goes through a lot of shoes. (Surely, the goddess must have ancient links to that archipelago called the Philippines...)

I thought that I would jumpstart this blog once again with something that I wish someone had clued me into. Aside from all the usual dance-related codes one needs to learn, such as the cabeceo, a savvy non-Argentine tango afficionada needs to have one of those electronic translator contraptions to figure out what these milongueros are REALLY saying and, more importantly, what one saying back to them. The Tango Goddess is not only stunningly beautiful (and oh-so-humble); she is kind and gracious to all those mere mortal men with whom she chooses to dance. This bewitching combo has gotten her into quite a number of very sour pickles! Thankfully, the first gerkin has a happy it concerns her mere-mortal partner on and off the dance floor.

It was her last night in Buenos Aires. She didn't know if she would ever see this man again. She used all her divine powers to get him to stay, but, no, being a mere-mortal, he had to go eat and then sleep. She was near mad with desire (and a few hours away from a very long bout of the flu), so she told him she would accompany him downstairs. She battled with herself (and tried to get her balance with the rail...she was also about to start her period...oh, joy): This was it. She either had to do something about what she felt, or find some Roman Catholic restraint and risk asking herself for the rest of her immortal life, "What if? What if?" So, she did what any red-blooded North American would do. She took the bull by the horns. In other words, once she and her prospective beloved reached the bottom of the stairs, she took a deep breath, grabbed him, and planted a big wet one on him. Then, she asked him if he wanted to go out for coffee.

Now, to most people from North America, this would seem like a sweet scene right out of a 50's comedy (edit for tongue, of course) with hero and heroine walking hand-in-hand in the middle of the empty street at night to the 24 hour diner on the next block. Roll closing credits. A kiss for us is, indeed, still a kiss, and does not necessarily imply, in moment of said kiss, other parts of the either party's anatomy. A kiss is an event in and of itself. Retold to Argentines in Buenos Aires, however, a kiss implies sex. Not only did I initiate tonsil hockey with the man, I also invited him for *gasp* coffee!

I was a bad, bad girl. I was a brazen hussy. I was asking for it. (Look, why waste time? I had less than 24 hours until my plane took off for the United States. The clock was a-tickin'. ) "No," you say. "Stop!" The Tango Goddess wasn't asking for it. She was planting the seed for "IT", but IT still needed time to grow and be fertilized and watered and all that stuff that the Tango Goddess is really bad at. If the kiss was not enough to seal the deal for the mere mortal, the very forward invitation to coffee was.

Coffee, it seems, has a different connotation within the milonga. Multiple choice: A man asks a woman for coffee in the milonga because a) he wants to get to know her better over a cortado in a public confiteria, or b) he wants to get to know her in the biblical sense, preferably in the privacy of his or her own home. The answer, as I have been told over and over again by men and women alike after my mere-mortal partner and I have regaled this episode, is B...always, always B. I had sex on my yankee brain, and I was gonna get me a little action before I was leaving the country.

So, recap and Lesson I: self-initiated kiss + self-initiated invitation to coffee = horny North American ready to party. Don't let this happen to you if you don't want it to happen to you. If you should receive an invition "para tomar un cafecito", remember that coffee (usually) = sex and that "men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way" (unless, course, you and he have already boinked and have done away with the sexual tension...but when is it done away with, really? Or if one of you is gay). This is never so true as in the milonga.

My next sweet mini gerkin has to do with the subtleties of the Spanish language and my attempt to translate American sentiment into castellano, which is impossible to do. You know, you watch a show like The Sopranos or King of the Hill with Spanish subtitles and the translators completely miss the point of what the characters are saying. It's just painful to read sometimes. Imagine how wacky you sound sometimes when you're trying to speak another language that you can't yet think in.

I made the mistake of telling one of my favorite dance clients that I hadn't seen him in the milonga in ages and that I hope he hadn't forgotten about me. I also told him that he now had a debt of 3 tandas. In my mind, I meant exactly what I wrote. There were no hidden sexual come-ons at all. If I had to translate it further, I would say that I meant, "Hey, haven't seen ya in ages. Put me on your dance card. Since I don't dance with ANYONE for more than one tanda (which he knew, of course), I expect that we'll have a dance for the next 3 weeks (which really could have gone without saying because every time we see each other at a milonga, we look at each other to dance a fast milonga)."

This guy blew "Don't forget about me" all out of proportion, and ended up writing something to me about how exciting it is to dance with me, and how, if it weren't for the obvious immense respect he has for my relationship with my romantic partner, he would dance all night with me, etc, blah, blah, blah, all of which I took as normal milonguero bullcrap and promptly forgot. Somehow, his live-in girlfriend finds out about our e-mail exchange, and now she's pissed off at me. The sad thing is that he likes this drama because his OTHER girlfriend (and yes, my dears, many of them do have official wives and official girlfriends, as well as some unofficial ones) tucked away in some barrio. Many of them are forbidden to dance where they dance.) feels even more sorry for him now that his official girlfriend has gone off her rocker again with her jealousy. When I commented to him, half-jokingly/half-mockingly, "My goodness. So many women fighting for you," he answered, "La verdad...que si (The truth is...yes)." I haven't danced with him since that comment, as it finaly dawned on me that he is a sad little man stirring up a little drama for himself to make himself feel important. It's just boring to watch. I'm willing to strike him off my dance card.

A little note about poligamy here. Many men, and I'm assuming some women, too, have a little somethin'-somethin' on the side there to spice up whatever they have going on "on the record". The sad thing is that they are often looking for number 3. That's fine and dandy if everyone were on the same page and in agreement, but, sadly, it is often not the case. The Tango Goddess has had her fare share of liaisons, and she can tell you from experience that the drama eventually takes its toll.

Look, the things that should throw up the red flags with men at the milonga are the same things that should make you suspicious of men off the dance floor: If a man tells you he has his milongas and you have yours, it means he's on the prowl. If he does not give you his home number, he's married or living with someone. If he only wants to meet you on certain days and times, once again, he is comprometido and already has a woman and chilluns. Oh, but he really loves you? He thinks you're the most beautiful thing in the world? His wife and he don't make love anymore? His girlfriend is a harpy, and they're going to break up at any moment? Lies, lies, lies. Believe them at your own peril.

Lesson II? Watch what you say and do, even if it sounds innocent to you. Men can easily take amiability as flirtation and will push your good will and good manners as far as they can go, preferrably right into the sack. These guys have fantastic imaginations.

Lesson III? You are most likely one of the many mares in the stable, and there are many stalls available. Do you want to be another mare?

Gerkin Tres - Well, this is just a general note about how much it sucks to be relatively young, slightly above-average looking, a decent dancer, friendly and dating an Argentine who dances. You lose prospective female friends. I have had women who were really open and friendly in the beginning to me turn ice cold once they discovered I was dating one of their own. How dare I! HOW DARE I. It's downright mind-boggling and, gosh darnit, it hurts my feelings. And when they do ask questions, I always feel like they're fishing around for my motive in staying with my partner. Money? Power? Sex? All of the above? I feel them studying me, waiting for me to make a complete fool of myself so they can sneer. The fact is, though, I've no problem making a fool of myself because I carry it off very well. Fallen in front of people? Done that. Made an alcoholic spectacle of myself away from the milonga? Uh-huh. Danced really sluttily with cheesoid, grabby men? Yup. Is my head still high? You betcha. I've figured this much out: People will always gossip. If they're gossiping about you, it's because you're life is far more interesting than theirs.

Lesson IV: Women will talk if you're attractive and if you pose a threat to them. By Jove, let 'em talk.

Toodles, my loves! TG