People always say that women possess an unimaginable tolerance towards pain. I shouldn’t generalize, because there are many shades of women and many kinds of pain, but it is true that women often do not even realize that we have any choice.
I wrote about the possible pain or discomfort that can result from dancing with an uncomfortable partner. I even gave you a few alternatives on how to react if you get caught in such a situation. The tricky part of that described situation is that you have at least three different sets of needs at play. You may want to remain kind to another human being who simply does not know better, while at the same time you want to take care of your body and to not blow any chances of being a part of the tango community, which means respecting their unwritten rules.
But there is the fourth set of needs which plays a strong role, even if women are unaware of it. It is called self-respect. We, women, were rarely explicitly taught that respecting ourselves is a strong virtue. It has not been in the interest of the patriarchal society with strong Catholic roots to fortify the exploited half of the population. It has not been in its interest to have human beings who come to this world with a strong natural feel for right and wrong, to then think with their own minds and listen to their hearts, instead of the word of the one that is higher up in the hierarchy.
So, instead of being trained to listen to our own voice, we were continuously told we need to look pretty and to act helpless and to sacrifice our needs in order to please others. Of course, the generations of our mothers and grandmothers have come a long way already and today women have many choices of being and of acting, but I cannot help to notice that certain traits subconsciously persist.
Our need for self-respect has been mutilated into the need for approval from the rest of the world. We would look into the mirror and not see someone who lives in accordance with her own inner compass, but someone who needs a new anti-wrinkle eye cream, more discipline at facial yoga, another diet because the waistline is no longer the one of the pre-childbearing girl’s body and so on.
I always say that tango is a microcosmos of life. Perhaps I say that only because of my total immersion into it, but I do see a lot of parallels.
Imagine yourself getting prepared for a special milonga. You dress up beautifully and put on your gorgeous and ridiculously expensive new needle-thin high heels in anticipation of being a popular dancer that evening. Bottomline, your fate for that night would depend on the mood of the target leaders and on the amount of competition from the younger, sexier and more beautiful women.
How does putting your destiny into the hands of the approval of men that evening feel? Empowering? Gratifying? Perhaps, if you were lucky and you got to dance with your desired dance partners and received the outer confirmation that you are still beautiful and desired. Or could it be demotivating? Even excruciatingly hurting, if you would spend the majority of the night sitting down, waiting for your Knights in Shining Armour, only to realize that they prefer to dance with far less experienced dancers, only because their skirts are shorter and their backs more exposed?
The first scenario, where -fortunately enough- you were popular, does not affect your self-respect in any lasting way: it does please the part of you that is hungry for being recognized and accepted, but at the same time, it is a ticking time-bomb. The looks are never lasting. The mood of the leaders is variable and you cannot control it. Neither can you control who else will show up at the next milonga for you to feel as well as that night.
But the second scenario, where you spent a lot of time sitting down, being unnoticed and not receiving invitations, can be very damaging to the self-respect, especially if you confuse your self-worth with the amount of recognition you get from others.
You are not what you wear. We were all told as little girls that one must suffer to be beautiful. Perhaps you have been hearing it often enough to actually believe it, but in fact, this is not the truth. The most beautiful people are the ones who shine from the inside out.
So if for the next milonga you bring a second pair of shoes along, to make your feet feel more comfortable after they get tired of looking beautiful, then by all means change. Or if you start feeling a low mood because of the rejections, stringed one after another, then either go home right away or find another objective for that evening.
What other objective could it be? You could try and meet people in a new way. Perhaps you could share a glass of wine with a person who looks they need a friend (and there are plenty of those at every milonga). You never know, it could turn into a deep conversation and the beginning of a new friendship.
Or you could make an acquaintance with someone you do not yet know and make their stay at the milonga more comfortable, perhaps introducing them to some of the regular visitors. Connecting people is a simple act of kindness.
Sometimes having a funny girl-to-girl talk outbeats dancing. Gossiping is such fun. You could always pretend to be a real saint and focus on finding greatness in other people.
Or you could help the organizers in some small, unnoticeable ways. Perhaps the snacks and drinks table requires tidying up or the chairs around the dancefloor could use some lining up. Often we can find wet floor under the washbasin in the restrooms and that is very unpleasant for the quality dancing shoes, so picking a few paper towels and drying it up does everyone a big favour.
Or you could even start leading, if it appeals to you and you know how to do it.
So you have a choice, lots of choices. As long as it comes from you and not the outside, any choice is a good choice.
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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.