I enter into my favorite Sunday milonga. The staff of the organizer greets me. They wave me off to my table. As I walk there I greet the various people I know. It is a holiday weekend so there are many people who are not here. I note that there are many tourists here. You can see it in the floorcraft.
When I get to my table my chair is taken. I look at the next table. Sometimes I sit there as well. I always have a front seat. For over a year the two Barbies and I have been the "Esquina de Las Rubias." If they are there I sit one seat over. If they are not, I sit one seat the other way. Only today there is no seat. I try to say something to the two foreign women, but both of them snipe at me. I go to talk to one of the staff.
In this milonga I usually dance with the same people. Maybe it is that way in most of the milongas. Almost all of them note the amount of tourists. This was always a barrio milonga with few tourists. People do not like to see it change.
I tell the staff person I have no seat. That there are women in my seat, and where am I to sit. The issue with the tables is sensitive. Regulars have their tables. He comes to see what the problem is. Essentially he sat the two foreign women behind and they decided to move up. He asks one of the women to move back and she tells him no she will not. He leaves.
I am upset. I do not want to sit behind this woman. When you have your place the men know where to find you. The woman turns around and says to me "I am sorry you have to look at my back." I am shocked. Does she think this is the issue? I say to her, "I don't care about your back." I try to explain the reserved tables to her. She says the chairs were empty when she came so they sat there." The woman who is sitting next to me always sits in back cannot believe the attitude even if she doesn't understand the English. I translate. Probably I would not be so mad if this woman were not so unbelievably arrogant.
The Organizer now comes and explains to her the situation. The woman does not speak Spanish. I translate nicely and explain to her again that these tables are all reserved every week for regulars. That her seat is my seat. That she and her friend were seated behind because the front seats are reserved. She tells the organizer she needs to put names on the seats and in her opinon they were empty. The organizer is shocked. Not just by what was said to her, but in the obviously nasty and condescending tone. They refused to move.
When the organizer left I said the to woman, "You know, you make me embarrassed to be from the USA. You are a prime example of why the locals do not like foreigners. You come here and you have no respect. " This overweight sausage stuffed into her tango clothes looks at me and tells me that the Argentines need to learn how to do things better. They should put names on the chairs instead of on their sheets of paper. She completely misses the point. I am furious. She and her horsey looking friend have been nothing but rude. I tell her I hope she learns to dance during her stay along with learning some manners. That shuts her up and she turns around.
The organizer comes back and moves me to another table. I am in front. I say hello to the woman at the table. She is Argentine but lives in Italy. She is one of those Ex-Pat Argentines that becomes Argentine when she comes to visit, otherwise she hates Argentina. I know those types. All they do is complain about Argentina and Argentines, but when they come back to Argentina, it is a different story, especially they talk to a foreigner. Only at this juncture I am more Argentine than she is. She left 30 years ago.
She asks me if I went to the coronation of Christina. I tell her no. I did not go. I don't like crowds. She goes on and on about how great this government is. I ask her how she would know this, she doesn't live here. She doesn't experience the inflation. I tell her how the inflation is killing people. She thinks I live in dollars. I set her straight on that one. I tell her if things are so great how come we have 45% more villas (slums). I love this answer, "Oh those are people from Bolivia or Paraguay or Peru." I say to her, so they don't count as poor people?" "What about the drugs?" I ask her. "The insecurity?" She tries to change the subject and talk about the U.S. I tell her I don't care about the U.S. because I live here. "No me escuchaste? Vivo aca 8 años."
I dance. I dance with my friends. I get relief from this Italian disaster I am sitting with. Why am I having this kind of night? Couldn't it have rained? I go back to the table. The Italian disaster is not dancing but she wants to know if I learned to dance tango here. I tell her my story encapsulated. I really do not want to talk to her. She tries to tell me that since I am from the US I didn't learn to dance the real tango. OK fine me and my fake tango are dancing almost every tanda and she the Italian Disaster who is Argentine and learned to dance the real tango is sitting through every tanda. Muchas gracias. Shut up.
After dancing tango in Buenos Aires for 11 years you see things differently. Milongas are where I go to see my friends and hear the music. The people I call my friends are not people I see outside of the milonga. They are people I have known for years. I don't feel the need to dance 12 hours a day or to talk about tango incessantly. Tango still holds a very special place for me. I cannot live without it. Yet, there is more in my life now.
When I first started dancing the men would ask me where I was going to dance. Now they ask me how my clothing business is going. If I am going on vacation. Of course there are always the pirpopos, but I like them. They come in a different spirit. I don't have to wonder if I will dance. I do. I wait for the music I like and a man I want to dance with. I am not frenetic about dancing every tanda or dissecting my dances. I know my tango.
It was 11 years ago I first came to Buenos Aires to dance tango. Things were so different then. There were fewer tourists. Tango was not as popular in the world. There were maybe 4 shoe stores and 2 places to buy music. The milongas had strict codes. Men had to wear a jacket. Women dressed up.
On weekends men wore suits, women wore beautiful dresses. Everyone was elegant. If you were not dressed well, you were not allowed to enter. I look at the floor today. Jeans, shirts hanging out. Women wearing clothes meant for their pre-teen daughters. Not just the tourists but the Argentines as well. The elegance is gone.
The dancers. When I came 11 years ago, I was astounded to see everyone move in the line of dance and to the music. It was wonderful to just sit and watch the dancers in Ideal, Lo de Celia, El Arranque, Niño Bien, and other places. Elegant, smooth, and to the music. Maybe not everyone was a stellar dancer, but there were many. People learned to walk before they learned anything else. Tango was and is a caminata. I look out at the dance floor. It looks like dodge cars. I know, I got stepped on and kicked, and had an elbow in my head of all places out there.
The Italian Disaster brings me back to reality. We are watching two young couples in an exhibition. They dance nicely, but they are boring. The same step over and over. She says to me "It is nice to see young people dance." I tell her they are boring. She tells me they are young. I tell her being young has nothing to do with it. I remember the first time I saw Geraldine. She was 23. She was amazing. Being a young dancer does not mean you have to be boring.
During the cortina they play Frank Sinatra. The Italian Disaster starts to wax poetic over how this is "my" music. "Not really." I tell her. She acts shocked. "How can this not be your music?" She demands. I look her in the eye. "The same way if you ask 1000 Argentines about tango, they will tell you that was the music of their abuelos. Frank Sinatra was the music of my parents." She gets it. I like Frank Sinatra, but please, I am not going to sit and listen to him.
The nasty tourist and her horse face friend leave. They were not dancing. I guess sitting in my chair cursed them. They were not blond. Everyone who sits in those chairs on Sunday are blond. Don't they know, blonds have more fun?
I need new shoes. All of my shoes are wearing out. Leo has a new pair for me but she is perfecting them. I need, need, need. I need a new bank account full of money. I need to sell more of my clothes so I can buy more tango shoes. Unfortunately life does not always work this way.
I think back again to my first trip 11 years ago. Who would have thought a trip to experience tango in Buenos Aires would have had the profound effect on my life it did. Impresionante.