I am back to dancing. Every week. Dancing is a part of my life, it always has been. I miss dancing salsa. Maybe one day. For now, it is tango. It is always tango. That will never change. After all, I live in Buenos Aires, and there is no better place in the world to dance tango - if you know where to go.
I am standing in line to pay at my favorite milonga. The woman taking the money asks me how I am. "OK, I wish that I had more work," I say to her. "Yes," she agrees, "It is slow for us too. There are not that many tourists coming like before." Before I can answer, the woman behind me starts to complain "I hate the foreigners," she says, "I am glad that they are not here. They create too many problems. She rants on about how they dance, how they go after the men, and much more. I turn around. She had to know it was me in front of her. The hair is a dead giveaway.
I say nothing. I just look at her. She is a little embarrassed, but not much. "No, no, not you." she says. "You are one of us. I meant the tourists. You know what I mean. You have been here long enough to know." "Yes," I think to myself, "I know." I remember when this same woman was very hostile to me. When she smirked when I danced. When she made her comments so I could hear them."
I go into the salon and walk to my table. There are not many people here yet. It is still early. I have to get here before 7:00 to make sure I not only have the same table, but the same chair. It sounds ridiculous when you think about it. Once I sat two chairs away at the table on the other side where I normally sit, and the men, in their infinite wisdom, didn't realize I was there. Sad but true. Having your own space gives you cachet as well as everyone knowing where to find you.
The milongas are not full like before. It is not cheap for us to go dance. The entrance is 120 pesos, something to drink is at least 40. If you need to take a taxi home, you have spent 300 pesos. Considering the cost of everything else, dancing tango is a luxury.
More people come to dance. Everyone nods hello to one and other. A smile from someone who is dancing or one that is sent by you. You need to pay attention. This is the pre-cabeceo. (Cabeceo is the silent way people are invited to dance-with their eyes) The more timid or unsure feel fortified by a smile or a wink.
I am not dancing yet. The men I like to dance with have not arrived. I prefer to talk to the people near my table than to dance. An Argentine woman on her way to the bathroom stops at my table to admonish me. This woman dances with anyone who will ask her. I think if the toilet brush invited her, she would run to dance with it. It's not a bad thing to dance a lot, but you need to be selective. She sticks her nose up in the air and says "You aren't dancing. Do you understand that this is a place to dance? You need to look at the men and smile. You need to cross your legs and look at them." I have to keep myself from laughing. I have told this woman 100 times I am not a tourist, but she doesn't believe it.
I laugh and say to her "I am not dancing because I don't want to dance, not because I don't have any opportunities." She is shocked by this. She doesn't know how to take it. She tries again, "Why would you come here and not want to dance? That is a little strange, don't you think?" "No," I tell her. "There is no one here that I want to dance with." She is about to say something nasty, I can tell. She has that I-am-going-to-put-you-in-your-place-look, nose in the air, lips pursed, arms folded. "You" she points her finger at me, "need to learn how the milongas are here." I smile, "Really? I have been dancing 17 years in the milongas here. What I learned is, there are two types of people who do not dance. Those who can....and those who cannot." I hesitate and look her in the eye, "Then there is everyone else." Her jaw drops and she goes to the bathroom to change. Guess she won't be saying hello to me next week.