Tuesday, June 09, 2009


A few weeks ago, El Hombre was miffed when a friend of ours, who had just arrived at the milonga, walked by him without so much as a wave as Hector of Cachirulo was escorting him to his seat. To add insult to perceived injury, this friend stopped to greet another man seated beside him who called out his name to shake hands and give the perfunctory kiss before scurrying off to catch up with Hector.

Knowing our friend, he probably didn't want to keep Hector waiting for him as he made his social rounds. However, it bothered my Earthly Consort enough to cross the great man-woman milonga divide during a tanda to talk to me about it. My Mortal Partner said, “I think it’s because he’s shy, but you need to tell him that this could have negative consequences for him. People could get really angry off at him and refuse to talk to him ever again.”

Sheesh! Are people that sensitive? Apparently so. And the message is clear when you shun someone at the milonga: I don’t want to have anything to do with you. The consequence to you, the shunner-soon-to-be-shunee, will also be crystal clear: I don’t want to have anything to do with you, either.

I have been on the receiving and given end of the brush off. Take
Exhibit A: Señor A, an Argentine and tango milonguero aficionado, and I had a short-lived fling back in the day when I was still living Stateside, and, when I moved to Buenos Aires, we would see each other at milongas when he was in town. Though “broken-up,” we still mixed business and non-horizontal, tango pleasure. However, when our business relationship went awry (read: tipped to his advantage), I made certain that I got things quietly back on course (read: even). No words were exchanged. I did not create any drama, but he knew I had discretely righted a wrong by taking back what rightfully belonged to me. Still, I saw no need in avoiding each other. We were adults after all.

Shortly after I had retrieved my personal property, I saw Señor A at the milonga. He walked toward my table, and, like a dork, I smiled at him, thinking he would say, "Hello." If you’ve been to a milonga in BsAs, you’d know how people are packed at tables like sardines. Unless you were totally blind and/or clueless, you wouldn’t be able to miss the person sitting on either side of the person you were greeting. Though I smiled at him, he greeted only the person beside me, and walked toward his seat.

Oh, no, he didn’t.

Girl, oh, yes, he did. Hm-mm. (Insert here image of angry black woman with pursed lips, elaborately decorated long nails with hand on hip, and head moving in circle.)

I was aghast. We had shared spit, after all, and the romance didn’t end badly. Plus, I wasn’t going rip him a new one on the dance floor for trying to bilk me out of my personal property. Well, maybe just yank his chain a little, but, since I absolutely hate confrontation, I would have guised it as jest. After thinking about it, I decided that it wasn’t worth trying to salvage a friendship that didn’t really exist to begin with, so I went along with it. We don't acknowledge each other's presence anymore, though I noticed that he stares at me sometimes when I dance.

Exhibit B: Señora B is a porteña in her late 50’s who used to share a table with me, used to run into me and my partner at gym classes in the park, and even once offered to give me a lift close to home after a milonga. I thought we were pseudo-tango friends. Then we were not. I would continue greeting her, but she stopped reciprocating.

It got me thinking...This brush off coincided with making my relationship with my partner official, meaning everyone in the milongas knew I was here to stay. It made me wonder: So, it's OK for a foreign gal to have a brief fling with regular in the milonga, but if she decides to stay and have a committed, happy relationship with a regular, well, then, that’s just not acceptable. I would have called myself paranoid if I hadn't experienced the change in ‘tude around the same time with other milongueras with whom we broke bread on numerous occasions. W. T. F.?!

But I digress.

So, whereas I still greet Señora B's friend who sits beside her every Saturday night, I don’t make an effort to greet Señora B anymore. Good goddess, the woman won't even look at me in the eyes anymore. But, as I asked myself after Señor A publically dissed me, I asked myself how much energy I was willing to invest in someone who, in the end, did not really think highly of me to begin with?

My partner, on the other hand, won't be havin' that 'tude. If someone snubs him, he will look them in the eye, grab their arm or hand, and greet them. They can either: a) look like a jackass in front of everyone when they diss my partner, or b) play nice and give it up for The Man. It's not that he wants to reconcile and be all BFF with them; he just refuses to let an insult go unvenganzad. I, on the other hand, just couldn't be bothered with all that Michael Corleone venganza. I can live with the mutual dissing. It's unfortunate, but, in the end, not unpleasant. We cease to exist for each other, and, I'm fine with that.

However, dissing another person can affect your standing in the milonga, especially if you are new and trying to establish yourself as a dancer. Do as the politicians do. Smile, wave, say, “hello”, hold babies for foto opps. It gets you votes, my fellow jungle people (this goes for the guys, too). At the very least, even if they don't dance with you, they’ll register your presence.


Tina said...

Great post!

Oh yeah, it's soooooo sensitive the whole greeting and not greeting thing in the milonga. It gets exhausting greeting everyone, making sure you don't miss anyone. Sometimes I can't physically get over but I try to at least make eye contact, smile, blow a kiss, say "hola" and all that.

I once had a girl dis me at a milonga after greeting me every week. Coincidentally my now ex and I had decided to go public with our relationship (as in, show up together, etc). So... there ya have it. :-)

On another note, now that I've been in the States for a couple of months, I'm so used to making sure I greet everybody that I am now experiencing the shock of how people just don't bother to greet anybody at all here, saying hello or goodbye. I still go out of my way though. Might as well set a good example. :-)

Anonymous said...

Your description is so dead-on, TJ. I am far too sensitive to handle all of that drama. But I'll go back because for me tango is like an abusive husband. I know he loves me when he's not beating me.

(Yes, just a wee bit sensitive...)

Tango Goddess said...

StillLife, sometimes love just hurts so good... ;-)

Tina, yup, I hear ya on the now-ex. It's just bizarre. It gets a little stressfull trying to make sure you get to everyone. If I don't get to them when I arrive or leave, I try to catch their eye as their dancing. At least I'm sitting down!

Michelle said...

I started Tango Lessons at la Catedral but the best place was the Academia Nacional del Tango. Next to Cafe Tortoni. Very cheap and very good professors.

tangocherie said...

Right on, yes, the same thing happened to me when Ruben and I became a public committed couple about 4 years ago. I immediately lost lots of folks who I used to think were my friends--men and women. Es la vida milonguera!