HOW THE LAWS OF THE TANGO JUNGLE BIT ME ON THE ASS
In the animal kingdom, male lions and wolves attack older, more podrido (rotten, or way past the expiration date) members of the pack to make room for the younger, more virile machos. It's nature's rather cruel way of cleansing the population and assuring the propagation of the species. It isn't just; there is no justice in the jungle, or the prairie or wherever wolves and lions call their home. It's just that darn circle of life Elton sang about.
Things weren't boding well for the TG when she spotted even more white hairs sprouting out of her head while fixing the coiff for the usual Saturday night at Cachirulo. I snipped off as many as I could find, an impossible task when the BF was yelling at me to finish up with the girl prep and get on the elevator. I sucked in the gut, lifted up the un-corraled girls (the chicas deserve a break now and then), did a final lipstick check, and shimmied into the elevator in a new dress I bought earlier that day from one of the Plaza Serrano vendors.
We arrived at Maipu, and Hector and Norma gave me the perfunctory kiss and "Todo bien?". Hector took me by the hand and led me toward the center, then swung left and pointed to my seat. WehehAAAIT a sec...Todo was most definitely NOT bien. This was the second time in a row he put me way down left of center, and I seemed to be moving farther down stage left.
As I sat out the first tanda, I took a surreptitious look around. There were some women to my right, near the corner, and some on the other side of the row. The 10-12 seats in the center--the sweet spot--was still conspicuously empty, but there were numerous, annoying little pink stickies taped to the wall with names on them above most of those chairs for some fortunate women.
I knew my dancing hadn't recently taken a nose-dive, and I dance most of the tandas during our short 2 hours at the milonga. Was I already being weeded out as an undesirable hembra? Dag, 40 is looming just over the horizon, but I still have 2 years and 2 1/2 months to go before I come face to face with it. What gives?
I knew the basic laws of the jungle, and had accepted that my relationship status was a liability. But, add my short, social relationship with Hector, and I am suddenly chopped livah? What about X? She's in a relationship, doesn't dance as much as I do, AND she's older. And what about Y? She's nearing 50, hardly ever dances, except with handsome, young Italians (and, OK, she has an enviable apple-shaped ass shaped by years of butt exercises), and she's smack dab in the middle?
Yes, I was whining.
The BF dared laugh at the Tango Goddess' plight. Lucky for him, I didn't strike him down with a thunder bolt (but he was taking me to exchange a purse at the mall, so I had mercy on him. He's so fantastico.). I wasn't anywhere near podrida, he explained gently, it's just that the other women are "worth more than you." Gee, obviously, he'd never heard of "a spoon full of sugar", but he added quickly that many of them have already a long history--meaning 10-20 years--with Hector and the milonga, and/or many of them are "available". He continued, "Why, X told me that Y has slept with half of the milongueros already and is always on the prowl for younger men. You know X. She's my reliable fuente of milonga gossip." As with most of the pantheon of jealous, insecure, and tempermental gods and goddess, this downlow was strangely soothing to the TG.
However, that didn't take the sting out of seeing the PTYs (as in "I want to love you/(PYT)/Pretty Young Thing") snagging dances easily with one of my favorite dancers. When they or any younger foreigners are in the house and wearing miniskirts, I just need to go home with my tail tucked between my legs to lick my wounds and have some chocolate. I become almost invisible, except to my most die-hard fans.
Then I remembered how it was when I was young(er), newer, and feeling, you know, very fresh in the miniskirt that I'm seriously considering retiring because of the cellulite situation. I was one of them once upon a time, and most women at the milonga looked at ME with suspicion and disdain. I had evolved into a permanent member of the milonga community. Hector can put me anywhere he wants, and, as long as they know I'm at the milonga, people will want to dance with me. They might not seek me out with as much testosterone-driven panting, but I still dance. So, I'm not on the marquee. Does it really matter?
Whether or not you get the best seat in the house is NOT irrelevant. In fact, it is still crucial to one's experience of the milonga, but there will always be someone coming from behind who is fitter, younger, and cuter than your tired, 37-going-on-40 or 50 or 60 year old ass. It's not just; there is no justice in the tango jungle. There are only machos and hembras simmering in a hot and sweaty soup of hormones and pheremones, embraces and meaningful looks, with each one vying to be king or queen of the jungle.
At the end of my night at the milonga, I left alone to catch a cab to go home, my BF having gone to dinner with some friends. As I stood at the corner, a middle aged man, who seemed to be missing a few jugadores (players, as in soccer), sidled up to me and noticed I was wearing tango shoes. "Would you dance with me if I came to the milonga?" he asked. "Of course!", I replied laughing. On the other side of me, an elderly woman supporting herself with her husband's help and her cane chimed in enthusiastically, "Oh, you dance tango? How wonderful! You're so pretty." She smiled so broadly at me and studied my face so intently that I could feel myself blush. I wished them a good evening before crossing, and, as I watched them still slowly making their way across Corrientes in my taxi, a tango began to play on the radio.
We are different from the animals. We can rise above the soup, even as we're stuck in our not-so-desirable seats. We can enjoy the dance whenever and how much we do so. We can offer ourselves to and embrace our favorite partners for those few precious minutes of pleasure. We can.
"Oh, you dance tango? How wonderful!"
How wonderful, indeed.