How not to treat a girl

I ended the agony after four months of a life devoid of tango. I went back to my old tango community a couple of weeks ago. To see if it was a good place to re-start. I attended the class and briefly stayed for a bit of practica. I survived. I even started to feel like I hadn’t been out all that long. I was welcomed with warm tango hugs from many nice friends. Felt good to be back…

Err, not so fast.  Today, I had an experience that reminded me why I left in the first place. More importantly, why I became the tango bitch.

First a bit of background..

Let’s call our hero SR. Many moons ago, SR had the fortune of being a regular tango partner for tango bitch while she was still finding her feet. It was fun and games until somebody started ignoring gentle feedback and repeating the very same things that made tango bitch unhappy. The unhappier she got, the bitchier she got. And, soon after, she had to gently put an end to the tango partnership.

One of the things that SR prided himself in was his self-proclaimed subtle lead. He somehow felt he was so advanced in his tango that he could just think about some move and the follower should pick up on it.. that is, if she was good enough.

Ok, yes, there are degrees of listening… yes, some leaders are much more subtle in their leading while others are quite explicit. But tango bitch has the degree of skill to detect no-lead versus subtle lead. And most importantly, she’s at a place in her tango life where she is pretty good at knowing when she’s missed a beat. And in her not-so-humble opinion, there’s a limit to how subtle *most* leaders can be while properly conveying their intention after only a couple of years under their tango belt.

So here comes the rant-worthy moment of this evening:

Tango bitch ends up having the misfortune of briefly practicing with SR when it’s time to switch partners. While practicing a particular move, he stops after a few steps and asks why tango bitch didn’t go into a cross. Caught off guard, she says:  “There was a cross?” He unexpectedly snaps back:  “Oh, you didn’t like the lead?” Poor puzzled tango bitch fears he misunderstood her tone as sarcastic. She says: “No, it’s not that I didn’t like the lead; just that.. I didn’t sense an invitation.”  (She did have to bite her tongue in order not to say “No, it’s not that I didn’t like the lead; just that there *wasn’t* a lead”)

SR is annoyed. Next he tries to be more explicit (“Must get her into that #*$! cross!”). After the third attempt, tango bitch realises this is some half-arsed hurried attempt led in double-time without much warning (and not quite in tune with the music, either). She says “oh, it’s a double-time cross… ok….” hoping to close this unpleasant discussion. He is not satisfied. He needs some kind of revenge. He mutters under his breath “Have to be heavy-handed then..”

Oh no, not THAT. Not the old ugly argument of “it’s not my lead that’s not clear; it’s just that some followers (read: tango bitch) want to be man-handled”……. Last time that topic came up was when she tried to explain to him that sometimes the leader needs to give the follower energy to be able to reverse her direction and achieve the desired effect. He didn’t get it then. He still doesn’t get it.

So much to say about this topic, but I lack the eloquence right now.  I had, by that moment, reached the limits of my patience anyway. Quite an achievement for SR to create this tension after less than a minute of dancing. So I said nothing. It was either that or I’d have to bite his head off. Of course, he would have been able to clearly read the displeasure in my face if he wasn’t basking in his moment of glory (!).

The situation just reminds me so much of that movie that I’ve been meaning to watch:  How to Lose Friends & Alienate People. I am sure SR and his kind could make a great tango version!


7 Responses to “How not to treat a girl”

  1. jantango Says:

    Let’s face it — SR is clueless when it comes to women. He shows up for tango because it’s the only chance he gets to hold a woman in his arms, have control, and complain. There’s no doubt that he is single and will never be otherwise.

    The dance is as much about learning how to take care of a woman and doing everything possible to give her pleasure on the dance floor. For SR it’s about being right.

    I was away from my favorite milonga for three weeks and finally returned last night. Every tanda was with a man who took care of me and wanted me to enjoy the dance in his embrace. That’s what we should expect from every partner. If a man doesn’t come close, he has no reason to be on the dance floor. I’m lucky to dance with milongueros in Buenos Aires.

    • I have been dancing for over 10 years, and have never stopped improving my dance. I have the skill to adjust my dance to whatever level the woman needs; and when necessary, I can and will take care of any girls who need to be taken care of (on the dance floor.)

      But at it’s best, this dance is not about the man taking care of the girl. In fact, it is the girls who want or need to be taken care of that attract predatory men. Strong women are not likely to be targeted by predators.

      The women that I choose to dance with are able and willing to take care of themselves. (I suspect that they would either be offended or amused if a man tried to take care of them.) To make the dance, they surrender to the man, but on their own terms. They do not submit, they are never docile, and they have their own “voice” to add to the dance. God help the man who accepts but does not honor the terms of their surrender.

      “I’ll dance with you if you dance with me.” is an agreement between equal partners. “I’ll take care of you when we dance, and name my price later” is not.

    • My previous reply only addressed the idea that the man should take care of the girl. About the idea that the man should do “everything possible to give her pleasure on the dance floor” I would like to add only that: it works both ways, or the woman sits.

  2. Hola Chica…. so glad you are “back”! If a man does not know how to make tango to a woman, then avoid him! May your moments with the right tangueros purge these terrible moments. Every milonga should be moments in which you forget where you are and it feels like you find yourself suddenly en los Aires Buenos en Argentina con los hombres que te adoran.

    • A little clarification, if I may. As background, I’ve been dancing tango for only a couple of years so far so I’m aware of my limitations – but I’m not a complete beginner either. I do get bothered by the “it’s all the leader’s fault” attitude that permiates tango, because sometimes it really IS the followers fault, and sometimes it’s a learning process for both partners here some humility is required on both sides.

      My example: there is a dancer at our milonga who will, at the slightest provocation, lead herself into a volcada or a wide leg-sweep adornment. When I say “slightest”, I actually mean “none”. I can, for the most part, successfully lead other women most of the time when dancing. This particular one though just *will not* read leads, to the point now where I will refuse to dance with her. It’s not my lead, or lack of it, it is entirely due to her having this mindset where volcadas and leg sweeps are signature tango moves and because she wants to be a signature tango dancer she’s gonna do them no matter what!

      Now it may well be that this SR person really was being a twit with his lead. But often, I will ask the same question of a dancer – “why didn’t you go into a cross” (or whatever)? Not because I’m being belligerent but because I would like to know what my lead felt to the woman so that I can correct it. All part of the learning process and becoming a better dancer. But on a couple of occassions I’ve had a smarmy “well your lead obviously wasn’t good enough” type reply, and I can guarantee you those women will never be asked to dance again by me. And that’s THEIR loss! Because to paraphrase the old saying, “I might be a bad dancer, but you’ve got a bad attitude – and tomorrow I’ll be better.”

      I might lead a move perfectly with five women, but fail with the sixth one. I’m not good enough to instantly know the right ‘level’ with someone I haven’t danced with before. So maybe it was my fault. Maybe her follow wasn’t good enough. We both have to adjust and learn and not perpetuate this “it’s always the fault of the leader” rubbish which helps nobody.

  3. I am amazed by how quickly some leaders are able to progress from humble uncertainty about their dancing to a tendency to blame the follower for absolutely everything. It’s their loss. Even when you are dancing with someone who is not as good as you are (which I’m guessing was not the case here), you can learn things from them. Such as, for example, how to make your lead clearer without being brutal about it. Even if it had been your fault, as a leader he should have looked for ways to be clear, but gentle.

    • Hmm yes. And he will always wonder why I have all of a sudden stopped accepting his invites. Then will start thinking that I’ve realised I’m just not up to his standards 🙂

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