Monday, July 31, 2006

Eighteenth Lesson

Last night's lesson was courtesy of the slightly portly, nasal gentleman who crushed my ribs, kept up a constant stream of (supremely unhelpful) advice, and then crowed triumphantly, "See what happens when you trust me? I've taught you ocho cortaaaaado!"

Uh, no you didn't.

When I tried to point out that my teacher had actually taken care of that, the gentleman in question shook a finger at me and said, "Ah, but this is because you TRUSTED me!"

"No I didn't," I said, a little repulsed at the idea of this guy thinking I trusted him. "I know the lead for the ocho cortado. I did what you led."

"And that's the dance!" he cried, waving his arms and grinning.

While in its most technical form this statement is true, "Doing what the man leads" is to tango as "Naked people touching" is to sex. While this element is crucial to the overall success of the venture, it hardly captures the full promise.

I should have known before he ever asked me; he sat down and chatted me up, and talked glowingly of his teacher, recalling their first meeting where the gentleman asked to be made into a great tango dancer, and the teacher replied, "I can make you a martini. I can't make you a great tango dancer."

"Just like the Buddhist legend," I said placidly, and he looked at me askance. (Smartass women have a tough time getting dances. I'm fine with this. He wants to be pressed against me for ten minutes, let him work for it.)

Still asked me to dance three times. Not three dances, three tandas. Normally this is about ten minutes. With him it was approximately 8,302 hours.

Later in the evening a tall gentleman approached me, held out a hand, and asked, "Care to dance?"

We were in an alcove a little off the main dance floor, so it was just the two of us and a wooden floor and music from another room, and I said, "Sure." (Forgot to tell him I was a beginner. No harm came of it, though, so he probably knew.)

We danced two songs. He didn't grope, mangle, overstep, or breathe funny, and when it was over I had a pleasant little buzz. Afterwards we did the introductions, and I checked more than once to make sure he and his boyfriend were planning to come again next week.

That's how you dance tango, thanks very much.


A designer had rented space at the milonga to show her stuff, and as I walked past to price a few things (I can make them better and I can make them for less) she pulled out a pair of palazzo pants.

"I saw you dancing, and these are your style," she said helpfully.

They weren't - they were chiffon and pleated, neither of which are in my vocabulary - but i was wearing gauchos, and could see where she'd made the leap, so I made a polite noise. Encouraged, she continued, "They're wonderful for a woman of your size."

Wow. Now, I'm five foot eight and a size ten. Granted, I shouldn't be wearing strapless tube dresses, but she was holding out a pair of pants that people's grandmothers wear on formal night on cruise ships.

"Excuse me?"

At my tone, she tried to backpedal. "Well, I mean - I mean, there are a lot of shapes, and of course the Argentinians are all so thin, and I mean, not all of us are tango dancers..."

I smiled politely. "I am a tango dancer," I said, "and you can put those pants back."

Why yes, I am going to the fabric store today. Why do you ask?


Actual lesson: I danced for nine hours yesterday, and by a certain point my feet hurt so much I couldn't keep my balance, so I did what anyone would do and took off my shoes. I danced barefoot for the last hour and a half, and let me tell you, nothing lengthens your backwards stride like knowing the lead has leather-soled shoes on.

Funny enough, my ocho cortados are better barefoot than with shoes.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Can you have the first lesson twice?

This week a saw a tango show with dancers from Buenos Aires, and I haven't been so depressed at a stage show since I saw Les Miserables when I was sixteen. It was, however, depressing in a good way.

Well, except the woman who did the milonga with feet so fast I couldn't follow. And the woman with the leg extension two feet past what's humanly possible. And the woman who broke her ankles so that her stilettos were flat to the floor and dragged her instep in tiny, perfect circles.

I wonder what it was like for the people in the audience who weren't dancers, or who didn't care to be that good, who just enjoyed themselves, clapping mellowly. I honestly can't imagine - "Mellow" has never really been a trait associated with me. I'm not studying tango so it can be competent. I want it to be beautiful.

Having seen this show, I have to go home and start walking with my instep to the floor. My apartment isn't big enough to walk backwards with the extension I saw, but that's why subway platforms were invented.

I wrote a really long run-on sentence here about what tango has done to me, but it should be evident what tango has done to me, and extreme run-ons are annoying.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

If You're Going to Climb a Mountain, Bring Chapstick.

Early on I was told I need a backpack, because toting everything I needed was going to give me a bad back. "Sure," I said, "someday." It was just an extra pair of shoes, right? I could tote a pair of shoes.

This morning I realized that I have the following in my bag:

- face wash that doubles as shower gel
- moisturizer (one face, one body)
- makeup bag (concealer, powder, blush, eyeshadow, gloss)
- face wipes
- antiperspirant
- perfume (not real perfume, I'm allergic, but the fake Body Shop stuff)
- two pairs of underwear
- two pairs of socks
- an extra shirt
- extra gaucho pants
- tango shoes
- practice shoes
- a tango dress (it takes up the same space as the socks, which is frightening)
- three pairs of earrings
- notebook and pen
- keys, phone, wallet, camera, and ipod shoved into a tiny pocket in the front.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Seventeenth Lesson

I led for the first time today.

It's too soon - my (more-experienced) tango acquaintances were rightly horrified when they saw me - but it was a beginner class and it seemed endless and I didn't feel like being shoved around by any more guys, so when it came time to rotate I turned to the other woman sitting out and said, "If you don't mind if I lead, we could go."

To her credit, she hardly hesitated. "Sure," she said, and rested her hands on my shoulders.

She was a head shorter than I was, and twice I knocked her toes taking a step forward, but it was simple enough (I walked forward, she walked backwards), and we made do.

On the next leader switch, I moved without thinking and found myself in front of another girl.

"Cool!" she chirped, and up came her hands.

This time, I tried a side step - and lo and behold, she went!

The teacher called out to switch partners, and I found myself in front of Partner #3, who looked at me like I'd sprouted another head, but slapped her hands on my arms and off we went.

When the people in front of us came to a stumbling halt, I found out completely by accident that she could do a very good rockstep.

The intermediate class was very interesting, and by "interesting" I mean "so unbearable that I abandoned my leader to practice embellishments in the corner with the other women who had no partners". There is apparently a way to kick around one's own leg with one's opposite foot. Think about it a moment and it makes sense; side step, wrap the foot quickly to the back, quickly to the front. There is also apparently a way to kick around one's own leg with the opposite foot within a single beat. That's a step and two kicks in two beats. You can laugh. I did. And then I almost fell over.

Note to self: Pratice in heels. You can no longer afford the luxury of sock-practice.

The classes were the most dancing I did all night. A few of my previous partners approached me after the milonga and mentioned they hadn't seen me dancing, to which I replied in a way I hope was friendly and not baffled, "Well, you didn't ask."

They both seemed sheepish about it, and rightly so. I can't very well stomp around demanding that people dance with me. Ask me or don't. "I didn't see you dancing" means you chose not to ask me. No wonder you're single! Aie!

However, I had a wonderful time anyway, because tango is fucking beautiful, and if the dancers are good then it's better to be sitting and watching than in their way, so you can learn.

I got chills at the end of the tangos and at the beginning of the milongas (except one that gives me the creeps for some reason), and I realized I was happy to sit at the table and listen, watching the shadows of the couples as they turned like the ballerinas in a jewel box, slow circles close together.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

One for the Resume

A story that doesn't start out related to tango, but ends up there. (Don't they all? Damn tango.) At 15 I got a job as a busboy in a restaurant. Shortly after, I was made a cashier. At 16 I waited tables for three weeks until a guy pinched me in front of his wife and I caused a bit of a scene. I quit, was wooed back immediately, and then it was back to the take-out counter for another two years.

I have made more hummus platters, arranged more pizza toppings, constructed more salads, and sliced more cake than I will ever be able to count. When I left the restaurant, I decided that food service was absolutely out of the question in any future jobs I might have.

I have, of course, been responsible for food service in all subsequent jobs I have had, whether that was part of the job description (event planner) or not (trivia question writer). Some things actually do stay with you through your life. Please let one of those things be tango, because if I forget tango and remember how to toss a pizza crust I am going to be so mad at someone, seriously.

If I had known early jobs were so important to future endeavors, I would have paid more attention to the bookkeeping than to the arrangement of toppings. On the other hand, some people will not eat pizza if all toppings are not evenly distributed, and it's good to be aware of things like that so you can spot those people as you walk through life. Someday I might meet the President, and I will be able to shake her hand and say, "Madam, I can assure you that each serving of carrots has exactly sixteen pieces," and she will nod and smile politely because I'm probably not supposed to be there and just wandered in off the street looking for directions.

So it'll be more like, "Madam, I can assure you that each serving of carrots has exactly sixteen pieces. Speaking of sixteen pieces, there's a Vermeer exhibit at the National Gallery; would you happen to know the way? I mean, since you're local."

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sixteenth Lesson

Tonight my teacher takes me in the embrace, and there's a small pause. I immediately begin to analyze what I could be doing wrong - it's a long list, so I'm still going through it all when I hear:

"Planchadora...did you practice last night?"

Every night.

I sit on the floor, shoulders touching the wall, and stretch my legs without losing contact in my shoulder blades. I walk backwards for half an hour at a time, toes pointed until the last possible second. I practice the cross until my ankles need ice. I walk subway platforms in a perfect straight line. I practice ochos in the pantry at the office. I hold my elbows higher than my shoulders and stay there until my arms are numb.

I have no aptitude for tango whatsoever. I had imagined tango to be precise, but focused - the drill that bores cleanly through a brick wall to the other side. Instead, tango is the hammer; I hit the bricks endlessly, knowing that if I ever stop I will never see what's on the other side of the wall. I have no idea how long it will take to break through.

I don't care.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Fifteenth Lesson.

My ocho cortados are a disgrace. When I figure out that's what I need to do, I pull into the world's widest cross, where the ankles (which are supposed to be touching) are about four inches apart and I'm already desperately shifting my weight backwards.

This could not be a more dire situation, dancewise. First of all, I only understand the lead about 20% of the time; the rest of the time I look like a tap dancer trying to work it all out, which would be funny except I look bad, and that makes the leader look like an asshole.

I'm still tense in the shoulders, shockingly.

Last night some guy who was maybe 75 years old kept asking women to dance and then literally dragging them around, making them do the splits underneath him and throw their legs around his (substantial) waist. He was wearing a white suit that made him look like Colonel Sanders. Asshole.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fourteenth Lesson

So, I thought the worst feeling in tango was not being able to do something.

Turns out, the worst feeling in tango is knowing exactly how to do something and waiting for some asshole to figure it out himself because he refuses to accept "suggestions" or the instructor's help.

"You pivot, then take a side step, then pivot me, I think," I say, trying to stay calm as the guy digs his nails into my hand and steers me like I'm a lawnmower.

"I am," he says through grit teeth. (Not sure why he's locked his jaw; I'm pivoting on the ball of my foot in shoes with no traction, so I'm basically a Lazy Susan. You can grab my hands and run in a circle around me and I'll just turn and turn until I get sick of you and punch you in the face, because you shouldn't run in circles around people. It's rude.)

He is not. He is taking a front step, pivoting, then trying to pivot me into some imaginary space, where I run into trouble because there's no actual phyical space on the floor, and so I end up pivoting back in on myself.

I have to tune out all the stuff he's doing, so I concentrate on my posture.

("You have tense shoulders," says my teacher, and I watch this guy jerking me around and think, No shit.)

We change partners, thankfully, and the new guy admits he's lost.

"Okay," I say, "I think it's this," and I demonstrate. It's correct, and we manage to make a pretty good go of the move until he realizes he can't figure out a way to step out and close, and so I end up pivoting for fifteen minutes until he can ask the teacher how to escape.

I dance all night at the milonga (7pm-2am, I can't even calculate the hours, too depressing), and of all the guys I partnered in class he's the only one who doesn't ask me to dance. Once he passes me, his expression halfway between shame and pique, and pulls up the girl next to me.

I crack up.

Dear Sir: Not my fucking fault I'm a better lead than you.

p.s. You used that move when you danced with her. You're welcome.

And people wonder why women learn to lead.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Know Thyself.

I have been staying in a gorgeous apartment; gorgeous because it consists of a futon and 400 square feet of wood floor. Doesn't make me any better at turning my feet out, but it's sure a lot easier to pivot on bare floor than it is to pivot around my couch, tv, bookcases, and sewing machine. There are no mirrors, so I can't check posture except by looking at my shadow and guessing.

(Men in Tights flashback!

"Blinkin, what are you doing up there?"

"...guessing? I...guess no one's coming?")

I'm also warming up to tango music. The first time I heard tango I thought an accordion and a piano had sex for six hours and taped it, and it didn't really register as good music. However, I like Armenian liturgical, post-electronica, David Bowie, Dario Marianelli, and Depeche Mode, so if weird music was going to worm its way into a heart, mind was clearly primed. Damn you, Bowie!

I have scrabbled for all the tango I can get my hands on, and a few songs have emerged as being particular favorites, but I still love finding non-tango songs that have the beat I want. You'd never hear them at a milonga, but when you have to work on extension, sometimes only Moby will do - "Porcelain" is great for practicing extension while keeping a beat. Benny Benassi's "Love is Going to Save Us" will beat you into the ground, but does wonders for the speed of my milonga box step. (I'm still TILTING, though! Why? Is this polka? What the hell?)

Bowie's "Looking for Satellites" is one of my favorite songs of all time even though the lyrics are word salad and the music hits sonic overload near the end and stays there for two minutes, and I must have danced to that six times. After which, I hasten to add, I stopped practicing, because it was getting late and I am a considerate housesitter and didn't want to be banging around at 10pm.

There are some songs I love that are much sadder, but I'm not anxious to share those, and besides, my technique is pathetic enough. (Rim shot!)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Thirteenth Lesson

A night of technique.

Why do I tilt? What am I, the fucking Titanic? Shoulders even.

Ass out does not mean gut out. Suck that in. No one wants to see that.

In fact, people want to see about 20 pounds less of that. Get started.

Why are you changing feet? There is NO excuse for that. It's unforgivable. You stay on the foot you're put on, and if he wants to hang out there all night you hang out. You have practice shoes on, they're comfy. Take a break. File your nails. Catch up on that newspaper article you meant to read. Just do it without moving from the foot he put you on.

Change your weight WITHOUT TILTING . What the hell is the matter with you.

Shoulders back.

No, more.



Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Someone Else's Lesson

I wondered when my innate bastard would emerge. Turns out, wasn't long.

Last weekend I go to a milonga with a free class. The instructor pulls a girl out to demo with him. I know her; dancing for two years. She's about 6 feet tall, legs like a spider. She also keeps messing up the demo; he's trying to do a move the wrong way, to show the danger of shifting weight at the wrong moment, but she keeps correcting herself (a tango no-no) and doing the proper step. He has to coach her to follow him. Awkwaaaaard.

Later that evening, she sees me, waves, and sits gingerly next to me; her tiny black dress rides up so far I can see her underpants.

"Well," she says, stretching her long neck and patting her bun, "what did you think of the class?"

"It was good."

"I demonstrated with the teacher," she says, with the tone of an Academy Award acceptance speech.

"Oh, did you?"

For a moment she freezes, but reovers quickly and smiles with girlish glee. "Oh my god! He says I'm all talent and no technique!"

I think about how I've spent the last week walking on my arches, pulling my feet to get the tendons ready for stilettos, sitting against walls to align my shoulders, pivoting around the poles in the subway cars.

"Wow," I say sincerely. "That sucks. I'm sorry."

She looks over, clearly not expecting that answer, and after a moment of gaping she stands up and leaves.

It occurs to me at this point that she took the comment as a compliment. I have no response to this, either, so it's best she left.

Later that night, I heard her relating the anecdote to her partner, a five-year veteran, as they step off the floor after a tanda.

"So he says, 'You're all talent and no technique!'"

"Oh," he says, consoling, "I'm sure he didn't mean it."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Twelfth Lesson

Spent Sunday night at a milonga without taking a lesson first - new for me - and ended up talking more than I danced. (Did have five or so great partners, though, so it was quality over quantity. Works for me.)

What I was told:

1. Only lonely people, or people who are planning to be lonely soon, come to tango. When a married couple walks in the door of a tango class, it's a harbinger of divorce. (I haven't seen this happen, but apparently it's widespread.)

2. Never fall in love with someone on the tango scene; it will inevitably get messy and people will smirk at you behind your back.

3. You will inevitably fall in love anyway.

What I think:

1. I don't think I'm particularly lonely, but I do see the appeal of a subculture. It's just Trekkies with nicer shoes. I am apparently going to get a nickname if I stay very long. I am duly excited.

2. This is excellent advice.

3. Yep.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Eleventh Lesson

I am attempting to learn milonga. It's a faster version of the standard tango; fewer fancy steps are used, but the "simple" steps that are used have to be executed like gunshots.

After one lesson, these are my notes.

I have to have a more welcoming embrace, keep my head up, never shift my weight on my own, walk right-left-right no matter what's going on, know what the leader is going to do but ignore his embellishments, tilt my wrist towards the leader, curve my back, stick my ass out, breathe after a quick-quick-slow combo, walk on my whole fot (80% ball/20% heel), pivot faster, pivot less, step only on the beat except when the leader is dictating the beat to me, at which point I am supposed to ignore the music and only follow that, keep my feet out of her way without leaning in to her, keep my toes pointed, keep my feet rolled in with my heels to the sky and my instep to the ground, keep my upper body facing the leader and dissociated with my hips (which should be able to swivel 90 degrees without my upper body moving), and relax.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Tenth Lesson

Unfortunate tango lessons.

1) You cannot wear a circle skirt. Two ochos and the world knows what color underpants you're wearing.

2) You have practice shoes for a reason. Wear them. Putting on heels at7pm and expecting to be able to dance at 11:30 is just insanity.

3) Speaking of which, if you're going to keep dancing four and a half hours a night you might just want to give up on the heels entirely.

4) Yes, I know they're hot shoes. That doesn't matter.

5) When your friends ask if you're meeting anyone nice, they mean young, good-looking men, not the 60something with whom you dance divinely. Tango attractiveness is a different animal.

6) No one can make you feel like a bad dancer without your permission, unless you trip them, in which case you are clearly a bad dancer and should be flogged.

7) On the other hand, should the man say"Let's try this incredibly fast milonga, hang on!" preceding said tripping, the outburst is considered an extenuating circumstance in Dance Court.

8) I am beginning private lessons this week. I can hardly sleep nights.

9) I love writing again. It's now my mistress and not my wife. The thrill is back!

10) Stupid, stupid shoes.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Ninth Lesson

Tonight, someone told me this:

"Before this, I had many problems. I quit all my problems and learned tango. Now I have one problem."

If there's a better description of tango, I don't know about it.

Eighth Lesson

"She is now in the vile embrace of the Apollo of the evening. Her head rests upon his shoulder, her face is upturned to his, her bare arm is almost around his neck, her partly nude swelling breast heaves tumultuously against his, face to face they whirl on, his limbs interwoven with hers, his strong right arm around her yielding form, he presses her to him until every curve in the contour of her body thrills with the amorous contact. Her eyes look into his, but she sees nothing; the soft music fills the room, but she hears it not; he bends her body to and fro, but she knows it not; his hot breath, tainted with strong drink, is on her hair and cheek, his lips almost touch her forehead, yet she does not shrink; his eyes, gleaming with a fierce, intolerable lust, gloat over her, yet she does not quail. She is filled with the rapture of sin in its intensity; her spirit is inflamed with passion and lust is gratified in thought. With a last low wail the music ceases, and the dance for the night is ended, but not the evil work of the night."

T. A. Faulkner, The Ballroom to Hell, 1892, via boingboing

There's something very optimistic about this description of a dance hall. It makes me feel as though I should be practicing this and not so much the steps. Debauchery takes dedication, people!

Paicas came with me to the eighth lesson, which was taught by a very dedicated dancer who drilled us in the importance of the embrace and of timing, rather than having us practice the basic over and over. For his partner he used the wiry redhead who DJs the milonga; there's not a soft corner about her anywhere, and I can't think of her as anything but Vasquez. (What? I loved Aliens. And if anyone I know can haul an anti-aircraft gun over her shoulder and survive a bug invasion, it's this woman. Trust me.)

Paicas falls in love with her, which I feel is a good sign.

We're told to sit out the intermediate lesson, as it's a damn tricky business, and Paicas and I sit at a table and eat bread and butter and exchange amazed observations.

"Is she chewing gum?"

"I love the way that older woman lets her foot float. It's such a great line."

"I really think that girl is chewing gum."

"No, she's thirty - oh, that girl. Oh my God, what's she doing with gum?"

"Dude, the tango does not involve blowing bubbles."

"Tell that to Popper."

Halfway through the class Vasquez looks over at the teacher, makes a very Vasquez face, and shoots herself with her finger.

I have wondered what people who grew up with tango think of the rest of us stomping around. Now I know.

She only dances with women, and she always leads. She eats pasta over a Powerbook, picks her teeth with her nails, and conducts her favorite songs from the DJ booth. I really could not love her more. I hope desperately that she's the future of tango, because that is an awesome future.

"No," she sobs, "all will not be well; nothing will ever be well with me again," and she returns to the room which she has left a few hours before as a bright and happy girl, now broken hearted and on the verge of despair, with a blot upon her young life which nothing on earth can efface...Days grow to months, and now added sorrow fills her cup of grief to overflowing. She is to become a mother, and the poor girl cries out in bitter anguish: "My God, what shall I do, must I commit murder. Oh, that I had never entered a ball-room."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


In my ninth lesson, my friend Paicas came with me (and had a wonderful time, I am happy to report). I will write up the lesson soon, but there's something I wanted to put down separately so it wouldn't get tangled in the lesson itself.

While we were at the milonga, we ran into two girls I had seen at previous practicas, and we were all chatting when a gentleman approached our table. He asked me to dance, danced a set with me, and then returned to the table and, one by one, asked everyone at the table to dance.

We were all beginners to varying degrees, and it can't have been the sort of oblivion one hopes to find in a perfect tango partner, but having asked one, he asked everyone. I most vividly remember Paicas, having caught the tango bug but good, leaning into him with an ecstatic smile on her face as he guided her through a new step.

I'm a card-carrying, I'll-open-my-own-door-thanks feminist that expects only common-decency manners. For instance, if someone is carrying something heavy with two hands, then you should open the door for them, age and gender notwithstanding. It just makes sense. They can't open it, can they? No! They have something in their hands! Makes sense, right? My male friends are intelligent, offbeat people who crack up if you make an Asimov joke or if you say "balls". (Come on, you laughed, too. "Balls" is funny. You don't have to be ashamed.) They also have a particular breed of manners that manages to denote respect rather than patronization.

At the milonga, two of the girls were stunned at the gentleman's display of manners, and when I found myself thinking, "That's what any guy would do," I realized that I am blessed with the company of gentlemen, which is a rare thing in the real world, and something I have taken for granted when I approach the dance floor.

My friends who haven't been to a milonga ask me a lot of questions that boil down to, "Isn't it a bunch of old perverts?"

(I always point to myself and say, "Just this one," because OH HAAAY.)

The answer, by and large, is No.

There is a code of ettiquette that rules a tango floor that, at times, is more intricate than the dance itself. Besides the line of dance, and the moves that may only be performed by one gender (for a man to perform a lustrada* on a woman is such a faux pas that I have yet to discover the consequences), there are rules entirely off the floor.

As a beginner there are worlds I don't know yet, but everything I have seen so far indicates that the man wants the dance to look good. If the hot young girl makes the dance look good, so much the better, but if the white-haired lady in the corner makes the dance look good, then she'll be dancing all night.

There also seems to be a huge amount of teachers' patience among dancers. I have never seen any woman refuse a dance nor any man withdraw an offer to dance upon finding out that it was someone's first/fifth/tenth lesson. This is put into perspective when you ask the nosy (and, for me, irressistible) question, "How long have you been dancing?"

"Five years," he says carelessly, or, "Ten years," or, "Twenty-two years," and off you go into a basic, because he will not embarrass you by asking you to do what's beyond you, and he would rather walk a basic with you and have you look good than try a fancy move and risk making a fool of his partner. This feels like dancing.

I've also had several of the opposite, who, upon ascertaining that you know a certain step, will try another and another until they have reached the ceiling of your knowledge and then proceed to fling you around while insisting you trust them. This feels like dating.

Interestingly, a tanguero's reputation is built on the esteem of women; if a man is a boring dancer but polite to the women he dances with, he will almost always find a partner when he goes looking for one. A man who is inconsiderate will find himself cold-shouldered by the women, whose defense against the question is to politely pretend not to have seen him. (By the way, this is exactly as hysterical as it sounds, especially as some of the older inconsiderate partners are a little deaf. There's nothing like trying to ignore a guy who gave you bruises on your shins as he yells "CARE FOR ANOTHER DANCE?" at your hairline.)

I keep wanting to boil this down into a pithy phrase, but all I can think is that all my guy friends should take up the tango, because in a world that praises crude guys there's a place where a gentleman is rewarded.

With old perverts. OH HAY!

* Lustrada is when someone "shines their shoe" against a man's pant leg; it's acceptable for a man to shine his own shoe, and it's more typical for a woman to shine the top of her shoe along the man's pant leg. It is never performed by the man to the woman. Never. Seriously, no.