Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Time To Retire Cologne From Tango?

Ah, yes, the eternal male ritual I've taken part of since I was a teenager--putting on cologne. And then putting on some more and, well, why not a little more. It was fun back as a teenager because I thought it would help increase my chances with women (that proved to be untrue, so I'm not sure where that urban myth started). It was also part of the passage into manhood. My grandfathers wore cologne, my Dad wore it and now I was wearing it.

Old habits are hard to break and that's a big reason why I kept wearing it for years. So, in the beginning I thought "of course I'll need to wear cologne to milongas--tango is such a masculine dance certainly it calls for my best cologne, right?".


Let's have the ladies speak for themselves. As a milonguera commented here a while back: "Too much cologne or aftershave is a nightmare. I know the same goes for us ladies, but we don't wear perfume on our faces. If our face is touching yours, and you have a lot of scent on your skin, it can be really overwhelming."

But give up my cologne for tango? That would be like giving up part of my manhood.

But then I got another email from a woman who said "I'm tired of coming home wearing a mix of bad (or even good) cologne. I'm pretty sensitive to odors and it can make dancing even with a good dancer extremely unpleasant. And then I smell funny for my next partner. I'm sure most guys feel the same way about women wearing too much perfume, so it definitely goes both ways. I'd much rather dance with someone with no cologne who smelled not at all, or of good old soap and shampoo! Now I'm going to take a shower to try to wash off tonight's batch of scents!"

All of which reminded me of a class I took at La Pista recently where I rotated to a lovely woman. She had some nice perfume on (not a lot) and when we took each other into our close embrace I started sneezing. The teacher (Oscar Mandagaran) happened to be walking by us checking on how the move was going and my partner joked to Oscar that I was allergic to her. I started laughing and told Oscar I was sure it was something else (I've never had allergies). I took her back into a close embrace and immediately started sneezing again! We resolved to tango in an open embrace.

And there we have it. I'm sold. Cologne, perfume, eau de toilette, eau de cologne...call it what you will, they don't have a place in tango.

So, it is with deep regret that I hereby swear off wearing cologne to milongas. I will continue to wear it proudly and manly to dinners, dates, and parties. But when it comes to milongas, will anyone else join me in going cologne-free?

Next time you go to a milonga, leave the cologne & just go eau de tango.


Anonymous said...

I don't know, Mark. While I deplore a Niagara Falls of aroma, I do really enjoy a gentle waft of olfactory adornment. The reason we smell from each other's perfumes has to do not only with how much we apply, but also with where we apply it. I'm with your friend though: nothing on the face - especially the cheek you press against mine.

For men, placing a little dab of cologne (on the "pulse points" only, which are the back of the neck, base of the throat, and wrists), will produce the desired effect: these places get very warm, volatizing the scent molecules.

The same goes for women, who should stop applying perfume like it was a body suit. It is this car-wash application that causes all the aromatic "cross contamination" and sneezing.

ModernTanguera said...

When it comes to my own preferences, I agree with Johanna. I don't mind a little cologne on my leaders, and sometimes (although not always) I will put a very lightly scented perfume on my pulse points.

But others with more sensitivity to smells and perfumes might prefer nothing at all beyond the just-showered scents. Which is fine with me, too.

Cologne or not, all I want is a leader who smells clean (or doesn't smell at all!).

Anonymous said...

Yes, MT. I much prefer a strong cologne than strong "personal" smells, any day.

In fact, I NEVER prefer ripe, personal smells....

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I find both ripe BO and strong cologne at close quarters nauseating, and have never smelled the cologne yet which covers up BO--you just get a rancid blend.

My nose is more often than not very near my partner's neck or throat in close embrace, so that dab would have to be pretty microscopic to avoid being offensive. At that range, you can't hide or avoid any smells, good or bad--you have a captive audience.

Besides, I don't like going from one partner to another "scent marked!" And I have a male friend who has complained bitterly to me that highly scented tangueras give him a headache, and he will sit out a rotation in a workshop rather than dance with them.

But perhaps there aren't that many tanguero/as so sensitive to odors and it is worth risking offending a few when most find supplemental scents attractive? How common is this complaint?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: the key is "highly scented". Whether from men or from women, whether bottled or produced in nature's factory, too much is, well, too much.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely, Johanna. Of course, one person's "olfactory adornment" might be another's too "highly scented," and a pleasant scent at arm's length can be overwhelming in close embrace.

Anonymous said...

OK, a really strong cologne might be bad, but I like it when my partner smells of something! I recognise and remember how people smell (they smell good by the way), it’s part of what dancing with that person is like. You can always tell which men have eaten the free mints at the door…Perhaps the men I've danced with have hit that fine balance between over-whelming scent and completely absent smell?

Mark Andersen said...

Thanks, Anonymous. Since I wrote this post I've had people tell me the same thing at milongas. I think the key is that if a guy's wearing cologne at a milonga that it be light & not too much.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Johanna. I much prefer "olfactory adornment" then "personal smell". My former partner who likes to shower/bath using perfumed soap and shampoo from brand name products (not a cheap ones). So, he always smells good (lightly). So, cologne is not necessary. A good scented soap and shampoo works wonder. So, I am doing the same now.