Barbara Marx Hubbard once told me privately that, as a strong and self-sufficient woman, love has never been easy. The same held true for me. While the men I had spent time with over the course of my adult life were attracted to what appeared to be a successful media woman, they were not prepared to take on the extended implications of my strength, nor of my weaknesses. I have opinions and thoughts about a myriad of topics and have never played the ‘subservient’ role well. When I offered up my thoughts on this topic or that, their faces generally either glazed over or appeared to feel threatened, often both at the same time. I suppose it’s to be expected. Who, after all, wants to talk of remote viewing, quantum healing, soul agreements or ETs over their morning croissant?
At the same time I have spent a great deal of my life, unconsciouly, as a pleaser and am uncomfortable if the people around me are not happy. So, like many women, I would prove overly accommodating to make the other person happy, which often led to feelings of having been exploited or disrespected. I have a very low tolerance for this kind of pain and would inevitably act in my own best interest and move away from the relationship. This unconscious behavior on my part robbed me of knowing the sublime feeling of trust on the deepest levels. So about twelve years ago I found a form of sublimation – Argentine Tango.
This seemingly macho, South American form of expression has rules. Men lead and women follow. Women like me either become addicted to it, or stomp off the floor after their first couple of milongas (tango gatherings), never to return. I would have guessed that I was a candidate for the latter.
With Argentine tango, there is an objective element that supersedes popularity, physical appearance, and even friendship at times. If you can do the dance well, you will have plenty of partners. If you do not, you will sit on the sidelines all night long, alone. This is in part because of the tradition that men must ask the woman to dance. In nouveau tango circles this has since changed, where women dance together and people just play, but I had entered the traditional tango scene and I had to play by the rules or quit.
By my third milonga/practica session I was ready to quit. The man I was dancing with had had no real feel for the dance nor the music and I felt as though I was being tortured through the set of three to four tangos. I would subtly try to back-lead, to no avail. He was insistent that he lead, as he well should have. At the same time, I wasn’t skilled enough to dance with the more fluid and advanced men.
I sat down after the set of dances, agitated, and realized that I could either learn a little grace and humility and learn to follow another human being’s cue, or I could walk out and never return.
I stayed. And I learned patience, humility and the beauty of surrender. I also learned about give and take and how a truly empowered man gives the woman free reign of expression. This was exemplified in the dances and performances of the mature dance couples in which all eyes were on the woman, though the man was creating the impeccable leads that allowed her to shine.
While I cannot say this is the perfect simile for intimate relationships, it gave me a glimpse into surrender from a safe distance. As I danced or practiced three to four nights a week, I became a decent follower and dance partner. As I further developed my skills, the more comfortable I felt to close my eyes and melt into the dance. I became addicted to the surrender. This was one place I could go and not have to make all of the decisions, not be responsible for anything except my own body moving with another body to the music.
There was one caveat. I could only do this with the better dancers. When a man was not sure of himself and gave either unclear, or overbearing leads, I would keep my eyes open, alert for danger. But, when a man was confident, relaxed and skilled, I would surrender completely, eyes shut, head against his cheek, one hundred percent present and in the moment to respond to his next improvised lead as the entire dance is improvised and led by the man and responded to in kind by the woman. She brings to the dance whatever she chooses to create in response to the lead in the moment.
This is not an easy journey for a mate that doesn’t dance. Because Scott knows that tango feeds my heart and soul on some level, he encourages me to continue, and, for that I am truly grateful. These are some of my best moments outside of space and time.