Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is It Harder For Women To Ask Men To Dance?

A month ago I was certain it was easier for women to ask men to dance. I always assumed this to be the case because I thought every man would accept.

Well, it turns out that's not quite true. To my surprise, a number of my female friends have convinced me that it's usually harder for women to ask men to dance.

Why? Well, there are at least two big reasons.

1. For starters, most people (men and women) believe it's the man's role to ask women. I know plenty of women that ask men to dance, but I also know plenty that never have and never will ask a man to dance. Sometimes this is the woman's personal philosophy, sometimes this is based on the culture the woman is from. For example, I've only known a few Argentinean women that ask men to dance. Clearly, the norm in Bs As is for the men to ask women to tango. Here in San Francisco, it's not uncommon for women to ask men, but normally it's men asking women.

2. The other reason is that, as another generalization, getting rejected when asking someone to tango is harder for most women than it is for most men.

Why is this? In a word, practice.

The first girl I ever asked to dance was when I went to my first church dance when I was thirteen years old. (Bonus quiz points: who thought he was the world's greatest dancer to Aerosmith's "Walk This Way", but in fact was among history's worst? Me!! I'd pay a lot of money for a video of me "dancing" at that first dance, but I'd pay twice that amount to keep that video off of YouTube). But I digress because a lot has changed since my first church dances. Back in the day (1) my best friend (Dave) and I would brag to each other about all these really awesome girls we'd danced with, (2) the girls were almost always better at dancing than us guys, and (3) the "nos" were difficult to hear.

OK, so maybe there isn't much that has really changed. Actually, only two things come to mind: (1) my Mom doesn't drive me to my dances anymore and (2) instead of having heard only a couple of "nos" as a thirteen year-old, most guys (myself included) have heard countless "nos" over the years. That might sound like a negative at first, but, in fact, it's a positive because we got used to it over time and each "no" rolls off our backs a little faster. It's this practice that most women don't get growing up, which is why it's harder for most women.

Take my female friend who had never asked a guy to dance until she started to tango. She's only asked about ten men to dance in her lifetime. The first nine said yes and the last one said no. And that one "no" really stung (the first one always does), so much so that she hasn't asked another guy since.

That's the unfortunate news. For such women that want to continue verbally asking men to tango (don't give up, Ladies!), all I can do is encourage you to pull yourself up by your Comme Il Faut straps and ask again. Trust me, the 2nd rejection doesn't sting like the first, and by your 300th you'll barely notice it anymore.

But for women that don't want to verbally ask a man to dance, there are a lot of things you can do at milongas to invite a man to dance.

And that's my tango post for tomorrow...


Anonymous said...

I have done it both ways, Mark. I used to ask men to dance but have decided that I prefer to be asked. It is in keeping with my personal philosophy regarding the "traditional" male/female roles in Tango. It makes me feel more desired, even though it may "cost" me some dances.

My only exception is with good friends. I will smile at my pals and get my musical hugs. On demand :-)

Mark Andersen said...

That's helpful to know, Johanna. Not that I've ever seen you at a milonga, but my guess is you have a ton of friends & that your challenge at milongas isn't finding a partner, but finding time to take a break.

I have a lot of female friends that have your philosophy, too. Some actually have never asked & never will ask a man to dance, as is their prerogative.

Most of them are happy at milongas & that's all that matters. So, I'm trying to encourage those women that don't feel like they're tangoing enough to try asking men to dance. Some won't do that, clearly. But I hope some will.

At most milongas I ask women almost all the time (and am happy doing so). But most evenings at least one woman will ask me to dance and that's fun, too. I've never turned down an invitation to dance. The only times I'm not eager to dance is when I'm tired (i.e., coming off 5 tandas in a row) & I just need a break. That's when I usually leave the room for some water or start avoiding eye contact, which I never like doing.

David said...

One partner very recently told me that she had never asked a man to dance. Then I pointed out to her that she asked me for the last dance we had by catching my eye, smiling and inclining her head slightly towards the dance floor. She hadn't even realised that she had asked or that she does it quite a lot.

It'll be interesting to see if she changes that behaviour now...

TangoSpam said...

Hi Mark,

When I lived in San Francisco I always asked men to dance. I know how hard it is sometimes for me to get up the courage to ask a woman to dance. Sometimes men said yes, sometimes they said no. More often than not the no was because they were afraid to dance with me, not because they did not want to. Maybe that was what happened to your friend.

Most of the women I knew, did not ask men to dance because they they thought they were "too good". I found (and I don't know if this has changed or not because it has been 4 years since I lived in the Bay Area) that many women had an attitude. Others felt it was the man's job to do the asking.

Now that I live here in Buenos Aires I have no choice. I have to wait to be ask. Really that is no problem because I dance as much as I want to here. But still, it would be nice to be able to go up to a man and just ask him.

SOOOO San Francisco Sisters, you have it good, take advantage of it. Ask those guys who are just standing around to dance.



la_novia_del_mar said...

I have never asked a man to dance because I think I am a beginner and I don't have this "right". Ok, maybe a cabaceo from time to time... But I think you should know the person very well to invite him directly or to be very confident in yourself.

Mario said...

It's not easy to lead a dance wholeheartedly with verve. There's a BIG difference to the lead when the man is so moved by the music that he leaps to his feet and looks for a partner to get on the floor as quickly as possible.
When asked by the woman, there could be dozens of reasons why the dance will not be that good..not the 'right' music, etc. etc. etc.
I feel that the lead should do the asking because he has the responsibility to bring a good dance to the floor.

Anonymous said...

I haven't asked and will not (not going to say never) ask man to dance.