Sunday, September 12, 2010

The place of society in tango

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the imaginary boundaries between this obsessive hobby and life outside of it. A tanguera once told me that tango was just: a milonguero whose day job is driving limos is very popular in milongas solely because of his dancing, regardless of social status or income. On the other hand, this other guy who drives his Maserati to the milongas is received rather indifferently, other than maybe some organizers who might be eying sponsorship. Of course, this is nothing new. Many legendary milongueros of Buenos Aires had menial day jobs (not that there is anything wrong with that... just that hanging out with them is traditionally perceived as being something to be discouraged in some cultures), and sometimes didn't show up to the milongas because they couldn't afford the cover fee. I don't entirely agree with the claim that tango is just, but that is not the point of this post. The point is that this would imply the ideal scenario where your life outside the milonga is separate from life in the milonga, and this is unfortunately not the case.

Some brief background information: the undisclosed country I live in at the moment (for reasons also undisclosed... mainly because I don't even know) is characterized by retarded degrees of social conservatism, which, among other things, entails a strong sense of community held by traditional family values. This aspect of the culture is relevant for several reasons. The first reason is that even now, such close contact dance is considered taboo. As such, people generally don't like to make their hobby known except to close friends. The converse is not necessarily true: people sometimes seem to be way too interested in others' daily lives outside of tango. This is particularly true for the older crowd - people in their 40s and 50s. As I mentioned, this country is socially conservative in a very retarded way, so there is the whole issue about respect to older people, and in return they feel the need to be the fatherly figure to give you unsolicited advice about life, relationships, career, and whatever topic some booze can bring up in them. Um, just because you're old enough to be my father doesn't mean I'll listen to your advice... I mean, I love my father, but I often don't listen to his advice; what makes you think I'll listen to yours? Don't even bother...

Something that 2 dudes old enough to be my father told me at post-milonga drinking session stuck out, however... They told me I should be respectful to another older guy who frequents milongas, because of nothing but his social status. Apparently, he's a graduate of the most prestigious university of the nation and got a PhD at Princeton. Woo hoo! Who gives a shit? Apparently a society that values who you know and where you went to school more than who you are does. That's fine - these things won't change overnight. But don't impose them in milongas. Needless to say, I won't follow their advice and suddenly be an ass-kisser because he's "kind of a big deal" in society. Thankfully, social status ceased being of such importance in the milonga scene. Although said person seems to be quite powerful in society and is the Chairman of some tango association, most tangueras with enough experience to be picky will reject his dance invitations.

So what's the order of things? I have been told that people ask me about my personal life because they want to be close friends with me. I think it should be the other way around, especially with people you meet in tango - you first establish a low key kind of non-invasive friendship before you have the privilege of asking me about my job, my income, or my sex life. Instead of telling them straight out that it's none of their business, I tell them I work for a gang, that I live off of money I steal from orphanages, and that I'm banging his wife. Yes, not very subtle... but I hope it's a good enough hint to people to back off and concentrate at enjoying the milonga for the music and the dance, not bullshit about others. I realize I've completely deviated from what I was intending this post to be about, but I needed to get this off my chest.

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