Monday, March 31, 2008

Doing the Heartbreak Tango

It is too true - tango is the vertical expression of the horizontal obsession.

The connection that is sometimes found is so precious, so tangible you can sometimes not only feel it in your bones, but taste it on your lips, melting into your tongue. The foundation of how a person dances is how they are in bed... or on the couch, the kitchen counter and elsewheres. But that's another story for another day.

Today is a story of tango heartbreak, of two beautiful people who found each other. I will call the follow Lorena and the lead James. Lorena and James fit together in a dance like two bookends, holding up the foundation of tango with their connection. They sizzled. And when the tandas and milongas were over, they'd meet up to find that they had more in common than just their dancing bones. Basically boy meets girl via tango, falls in love and move in together.

And then things started to fall apart, too slowly. As far as love goes, most people know the intrinsic one - the absorbed and too focused one. The one that is not strong enough to stand the sharing of bodies and minds with too many people beyond oneself. How does a regular person stand to see the one they love share a similar connection with someone else, even if it's for 15, 20, 30 minutes? It's like watching the one you love, fall in love with someone else, over and over. It's upsetting for some, it's painful for others and for some whose passions run deep, the insanity of jealousy eats at the very core until it spoils everything.

The fights started happening. Lorena didn't like that James would dance more than one tanda with a woman and definitely not more than two. James hated seeing her close her eyes in bliss in some other man's arms. They tried to work it out, make compromises and assuage each other's egos. But the very core of jealousy is too green, too selfish and the taste of jealousy replaced the sweetness upon their lips.

Et alors, James moved out. He now spends his time avoiding Lorena's eyes, to stare anywhere but the dance floor where her eyes are closed, her body melting into the dance... and another man's arms. And Lorena's eyes wear the colour of sadness, of what could have been if only, staring unblinking into the beautiful pose of her ex-boyfriend moving gracefully about the floor with some beautiful woman's arms wrapped around him. And they cannot avoid each other - they live in the same times, reside in the same community obsessed with tango, share the same tango friends, the same tango events they each host.

James and Lorena's story is not uncommon. I've seen it from Madrid to Amsterdam, from NYC to the Bay Area. And the longest, saddest part is that unless one of them leaves, the closure never comes. Every tango becomes heartbreaking, every milonga is tinged with memories of the person only meters away. And not to mention the awkwardness, for themselves, their friends and anyone who might trip along the way.

This is a situation I've always avoided - but very unfortunately, it takes two to tango. Just because I don't get jealous, doesn't mean my lead doesn't either. I can recall the jealous outbursts, the bad vibes, the seething undertones that may or may not go unvoiced because I connected too well with someone else, the dance too sexual. I've never been jealous - I used to laugh about not minding about sharing. But I do remember being upset that an ex danced only one tanda with me. We did the mature thing, we talked about it. And I felt better, having rationalised that I can dance with him any time I wanted anywhere else.

And what all the hugs and kisses, the embraces and caracias? Not many can handle such, seeing your significant other so well loved by all. I've always rationalised to myself, that regardless of what happens on the dance floor or off, I'm the one he chooses to be with, the one he takes home at night, the one he chooses to maintain the connection with long after the last tanda. But then again, I've been very fortunate in my loves. The breakups have always been amicable, rational, logical. It also helps that I've never been dumped so the ego isn't bruised. That and I don't have to put up with seeing them at every milonga, every class and every festival. Though really, it takes a certain type of person, of mental abilities to be rational and ignore one's significant other's tango crushes.... because as long as you're in tango, there will be tango crushes. What works is knowing that you're love is much more precious than a few tango crushes.

Be careful who you love... and where you love.


Mark Andersen said...

You've out done yourself with this one, Sappho. I'm kind of overwhelmed by the melancholy, but true quality of this story. Wow, you've never been dumped! I'm not sure if I envy or pity you for that. I have no desire to ever be dumped again, but it was one of the best learning experiences of my life. When I've been the "dumper" I, too, felt rational & logical. But when I've been the "dumpee", I found the experience completely irrational & illogical.

Sappho Kuzan said...

Hey now, just because I haven't been dumped doesn't mean I haven't been heartbroken. I just happen to know when to leave a relationship before it becomes ugly. And that is a heartbreak in and of itself. Never being dumped doesn't mean I don't know the irrational punishment of rejection. In the end, it's all the pain in the ass. And then some. Sigh.

Alex said...

Great post Sappho!

Mark Andersen said...

I'm sorry, Sappho, for my poor choice of words in my comment ("envy or pity"). I'm sure you've been through heartbreak. Who hasn't it? It was a stupid of me to imply otherwise, so please accept my apologies.

Let me take another stab at this because you're right that there is an irrational punishment of rejection tied up in all this. When I was living in Prague I got dumped (rightly so). But out of the ashes of that relationship came a lot of good. The biggest thing I learned was to never take a girlfriend for granted & I haven't since that day.

Anonymous said...

Does this all mean that to keep happiness, your "true love" should not be from the tango world? That tango is too intimate to mix with affairs of the heart and keep jealousy at bay?

Sappho Kuzan said...

No it doesn't mean your true love cannot be from the tango world... not at all.

What matters should you ever date someone from the tango world is to NOT get jealous, to keep an open mind, to focus on the good and ignore your significant other's tango crushes.

It's not easy, but there are married tango couples and they do make it work.

Mark Andersern said...

That's true, Sappho. It is interesting, though, that from the tango couples I've seen it reminds me of couples that also work together. It either works extremely well or very badly--it almost seems like there's no middle ground.