Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Animal Planet or Discovery Planet is always on during some point of the day, usually when the BF is home. A few nights ago, we caught a British guy's report on bats. One particular bat species goes into deep freeze--literally--during the winter with ears up and bat wings wrapped around them like a mini sleeping bag.

Every once in a while, these little suckers need to wake up and feed to get the blood going, and, wouldn't you know, the male bat takes the opportunity to get his little bat rocks off with some girl bat taking her winter snooze! Animal Planet generously filmed the romantic moment in infrared, such that the male, all hot at bothered, appeared red, and the female, half-asleep during the (read: his) passionate love making, still glowed mostly blue, except, of course, you know...

What does this have to do with tango? Not much, except that some milongueros can be as sneaky when trying to wheedle a dance out of you. If you're too nice, you may end up with a tango never even wanted.

I thought about the fate of the female bat during Lujos this past Sunday at Plaza Bohemia (444 Maipu). A milonguero I hadn't danced with in about a year or two used the break between songs during a tanda to invite me to dance. I had been away for three weeks, so he broke away from his dance partner to give me the perfunctory kiss. Then he said, "OK, I'll look at you for the next dance," to which I smiled and nodded. All the while his partner stood aside smiling. It's sorta cheesy that he's shopping around before the tanda has even ended, and I commend the partner for being so gracious as he acted like a heel.

Other guys have come up to my table to "chat" with me for a few minutes, then snuck in their invitation. The guy has me right there. He's been friendly, courteous, interested in what I have to say, what I've been doing, so how could I possibly refuse to dance with such a nice guy? I admit to having taken the bait more than a couple of times.

Did I really want to dance with these guys? Not really, so I guess you could have called my spins around the floor with them a "charity tanda". How could I have just let them schmooze dances out of me? The truth? I didn't want them to be mad at me, and I didn't want to be a bitch. Whaa, whaa, whaa! What a sorry excuse! Do you think any Argentine woman would have put up with that?

The problem here is Toxic Niceness. Elizabeth Hilts, author of Getting In Touch With Your Inner Bitch, asks three questions to test your level of toxicity:

1) Have you ever said "yes" when you meant "no"? (Um, yes.)
2) Have you ever wanted to give someone a piece of your mind and eaten a piece of cake instead (or even the whole cake)? (That would be another "yes", as I wipe the chocolate frosting from the side of my mouth.)
3) Have you ever apologized when it wasn't your fault? (Guilty.)

Jungle Sisters, I am a cesspool of niceness.

Hilt proposes tapping into one's Inner Bitch, "that integral, powerful part of [every woman] that is going unrecognized," the one who can smile as she's giving her firm "I don't think so" to any milonguero without feeling like a bad person. These guys may grumble, but the poor mortal milongueros will just have to learn to live with life's disappointments.

Let's summon our Inner Bitch Goddesses to make the milonga a more pleasant and guiltfree place to be.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I do so love this post. Thank you for the reminder :-)

Tina said...

I'm too nice as well :-( And i know what you mean about the charity tandas and the sneaky milongueros.

Are you back in town then? I'll look for you at Cachirulo - I'm finally against the wall now! :-) Hooray!

La Tanguera said...

I too need to get in touch with my Inner Bitch. Will be working hard at it!

Anonymous said...

This can be particularly bad when you are part of a really small tango community and not dancing in Buenos Aires. It is very hard to say no to someone, no matter how sneaky (or inconsiderate leaders) they are (i have never actually done so) when you know that you will be seeing them again and again, milonga after milonga and that any thoughts on your behavior will circulate amongst the milongueros, possibly robbing you of dances. Its a diplomatic nightmare... Any words of advise?


Anonymous said...

Ana, if our community is that small, and it's only a matter of dance quality, then smile and find something to enjoy.

But if someone is being rude, disrespectful, or hurtful, even the smallest community should not put up with bad behavior. By allowing and accepting it without any comment only encourages more of that behavior. And worse, anyone venturing in as a possible newcomer may see this behavior and decide to spend their time elsewhere, where people are nice and respectful.

Tango Goddess said...

Actually, Ana, it's difficult even in Buenos Aires because people tend to frequent the same milongas every week.

For example, I see Charity Tanda Guy twice a week. I am gracious, say "hi" and all that. When there's no one else to dance with, I´ll end up dancing with him. But this time, I've decided that it's my choice. I take the responsibility for the crap-ass tanda I choose to have. Seriously, it's usually not that bad, but I still feel like I'm throwing him a bone. Isn't that an awful way to feel toward a fellow human bat...I mean, human being? I've gotta work on that. Get some dignity, say "No" and move on with my life, because at the end of the day, the guy who can snag a dance this way is probably not really thinking about you. It's all about him.

(By the way, in BA, people notice when this kind of behavior occurs, and they watch how the women react. If she accepts, she gives another skeezeball the green light to ask her to dance. TRUST ME on this one. I had to learn the hard way.)

It's really difficult to say, "No." You don't want to hurt their feelings. Heck, I know what it´s like to be turned down. It's harsh, but you end up eventually dancing with someone else.

When I was living in D.C., which has a small tango community, there'd be people with whom I wouldn't dance who'd I'd see every week. I had some awkward moments, but, as far as I knew, no one hated on me because I didn't give anyone reason to do so. Unlike porteñan milongueros, none of the guys in the US asked why I wouldn´t dance with them. That made it easier to feel good about my decision. Here, sometimes the guy will get angry with you. You just want to die!

As for tanda robbing, I don't think guys go around talking about how a woman turned him down and advising others to not ask her to dance. I don't think guys work that way. Who'd want to admit they were just turned down? If anything, they'll blame it on you saying, "Oh, that woman... I don't know why she comes to the milongas if she doesn't want to dance." The other guys will check the woman out, and, if they're interested, will try to get her to dance anyway. Can you hear them grunting now? It's the Law of Testosterone. Very important law in the Tango Jungle.

You CAN be diplomatic. Smile and say, "No." If he comes back, smile and say, "No" again. If he has half a brain, he'll get the message and move on. If he's particularly insistent (keeps looking at you, etc--if you're in a traditional milonga setting), pretending you don't see them them always works for me.

Remember, you're there because you want to ENJOY yourself, not take care of people.

Happy dancing!