Men often complain about not understanding women. No wonder. It is indeed complicated to be one.
Having a strong sense of nurturing others, taking into account their needs and worrying about hurting their feelings can sometimes turn into hurting one’s own sense of wellbeing.
Let me give you an example.
Sometimes you, a kind lady, gets invited to dance by a man who literally hurts you while dancing with you. It is unintentional, of course. Perhaps his left arm is strangely positioned and twisting your wrist. Or he is squeezing you too tightly against his chest. Or, even worse, bending over you so that while you are keeping up the contact point in your chest, your lower back suffers horribly. Or he keeps bumping his knees against yours.
You don’t like it, but you suffer through it. You keep telling yourself that it is not his fault really, that he simply doesn’t know better.
So you gather up the courage and mention it to him, very kindly and politely, after the first song of the tanda. He takes it well, apologizes, tries very hard to change it - but within 10 seconds, his attention is elsewhere and you are back in the original painful position.
Now you have three choices. You can either remind him again. That will certainly kill the pleasure of the rest of tanda: he will feel criticized and will shut down; you will feel bad about hurting his feelings, and basically the attention of both of you will only be at the point of discomfort. Then again, your attention was already with the pain from the start on, so you are simply taking care of yourself there.
Your second choice is to remain quiet. You realize there is not much you can do. He is unable to fix his posture, at least not so quickly. So you quietly suffer through the rest of the dance. Of course you try to adjust into the least painful position, but it is painful nonetheless. You remain on good terms with him, you feel good about yourself by not breaking your mask of kindness, and you don’t cause any social scene.
Because that is exactly what your third option is. To thank your partner after the following song, even if tanda is not yet over. He will be embarrassed and you will be the target of accusing looks from the other dancers. Some people might even come up to you and tell you that such things are not permitted in social tango.
They are right. Social dancing does carry certain responsibility towards the community. I am a strong defender of a considerate ronda where every couple stays in their lane, mindful of the couple ahead of them and the one behind them. Everybody should respectfully enter the dancefloor and even if sitting down next to the dancefloor, make sure their legs or chairs do not block the way of the dancers. Needless to say, if I have to reject somebody, I prefer doing it in a very private way, so that his or her feelings don’t get publicly hurt.
But at a certain point I come to the “Vegan meets Mosquito” point. A close friend of mine, who has been vegan for decades and very careful about not hurting any other living beings on the planet, once very cleverly said that she sometimes has to kill mosquitos. It surprised me, at first, but then she explained. It is a demonstration of loving herself more than loving the mosquito.
That is exactly why sometimes we, followers, have to say yes to ourselves by saying no to others. It is not pleasant, but we have every right to show respect to our bodies and to not agree to unnecessary pain.
There could be a side benefit to it, too. In a tango scene where the majority of lovely dancers are female, the scarce men do not have to try very hard to improve. Perhaps they do not even realize there is something still left to fix in their dancing. After a couple of years of studying, they dropped the classes and by having enough willing followers to dance with them at the milongas, they probably have no motivation to continue improving. If nobody tells or shows them that they are hurtful, they might not even realize it. I do admit this is only my speculation. There are very likely many reasons why somebody stops learning. But that’s another story altogether.
I'm Hannah A. Tomšič from Ljubljana, Slovenia. I'm in love with both leading and following in tango. It is wonderful to explore tango indefinitely and to help others learn. Please, join my quest. Ask a question, tell me your story, make me see another perspective. We are all here to learn from each other.