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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Having My Cake and Eating It, Too

I've been writing this post in my mind for over a week now. It's actually the post that I have to get through so I can move on to other things. I start it, then erase it, and then start it again. It's a topic that has been addressed eloquently in different blogs. But now here's my take.

Tango and Relationships: Is it possible to be in a relationship with someone who doesn't dance tango if you are?

In short, yes. I think it is possible. I'm not saying it's always easy, though. As you might have experienced yourself, it's really difficult to put into words why you need to dance--to someone who doesn't. Of course, we can talk amongst ourselves in our little tango world, and every word we say all makes perfect sense. But try expressing the myriad of feelings you have to someone outside that little world, and you can sound like a crazy person.

Last week seemed like a battle of wills both inside myself and with my boyfriend. I felt like I was going to have to choose between my boyfriend and tango. Not because of jealousy of a particular person or partner, but because I'm not home some nights. Or I think that's what the difficulty was last week. But whatever the trigger was, the end result was that I felt like a line was drawn in the sand. A line I drew myself, for myself. But I don't want to have to choose. I don't want to have to give up anything.

I want to have my cake and eat it, too.

It got me thinking about relationships in general, and why different kinds of relationships are vitally important. In one of my recent incarnations (in this life), I was married and I was someone's entire world, or so it seemed. It was a very tiny world. Needless to say, it was a lot of responsibility that at first I was willing to shoulder. And then a few years into it, I realized I didn't want the life I had been living. And since that world wasn't going to change, I had to leave it behind. Even though it was very hard at the time, it was the best thing I ever did for myself. I've never looked back in regret.

It took a divorce for me to learn that there is a big beautiful world out there, and lots of amazing people are in it. I resolved to try to meet as many of them as possible, and some days I feel like I've doing a pretty nice job of it. That's where tango has played a big part in expanding my world, both socially and internally. My inner life is richer and more rewarding because I dance. My outer world is filled with faces I look forward to seeing, and the anticipation of new ones that will come my way.

I guess what I was feeling last week was a flashback to my previous life. And I don't ever want to feel like that again. So I panicked for a sleepless night. (And cried the next day at work and was a total basket case.)

The resolution came from a funny place: my blog. All of the words that sound silly in conversation must make more sense in written form. My boyfriend, bless his heart, finally started reading my blog. (Where has he been?) And then, I think he understood what I've not been able to articulate out loud. Yay!

Happily, I can say that he likes my writing, too. And for some reason, he also thinks that I am the Second Coming of Anaïs Nin, which I find very amusing. So I am acting accordingly. *smile*


Ms. Malena wrote a beautiful post last week addressing the topic of tango and relationships. Her writing, and the comments that followed, made me feel less alone during my inner travails. And of course, the Sisterhood of the Spirit was my invisible safety net.


Johanna September 19, 2007 at 5:29 PM  

If it's any encouragement, tangobaby, I've been in a wonderful 10-year relationship with someone who does not dance Tango. It would appear there are not many couples like us.

It is definitely a challenge to keep it balanced, and it is definitely about compromising. When I first started dancing (before meeting my sweetie), I was out every single night. That - obviously - had to change :-) And Tango was my ENTIRE life; that too had to change.

In a perfect world, which does exist for a very blessed few, the love of your life is also your perfect dance partner - same level, non-jealous, etc.

But in the real world, the perfection we find on the dance floor rarely lives up to natural lighting. The extraordinary connections we feel on the dance floor would seem to indicate some compatability, but we forget that that experience is an extremely distilled, focused, specialized connection. Stop the music and the rest of life intrudes.

When you are ready for a relationship, you will find a way to make it work, whether he dances or not.

Eva September 19, 2007 at 6:37 PM  

Hi Tangobaby, thank you for this post. This is one of topics I felt compelled to write about as well.

I recently started seeing someone who doesn't dance tango either. I was concerned that my tango time would be compromised or I might be distracted or might eventually loose touch with my one true passion. I made it abundantly clear that tango means more to me than just a dance. Tango is my chi, the air I breath and the very thing that keeps my heart and mind in balance. I also encourage him to read my blog. I believe it really helped him to understand why I MUST go and dance. He now sees that tango is part reason why he was so attracted to me in the first place. He sees the twinkle in my eyes, the glow on my face and the exhilaration in my voice when I speak of tango. Perhaps out of curiosity, he suggested that he should start taking lessons. I am a bit torn about that because I am afraid I won't have the patience to help him through the learning process, as I have already gone through this with my ex. Has your boyfriend ever expressed interest in taking up tango or gone with you to a milonga to watch you dance?

Johanna September 19, 2007 at 10:34 PM  

Eva, I'm not sure if that last question was meant for tangobaby or me, but my sweetie did try for a while. Unfortunately, his heart wasn't in it - he was just doing it for me. Him coming just to watch was simply not an option :-)

Bringing a non-tango partner into your tango life is also one of those tough decisions. We become very possessive about "our" tango, and that would definitely have to change if they join the fun.

la nuit blanche September 20, 2007 at 1:41 AM  

same here. i can't imagine bringing a boyfriend to a milonga... i would feel too uncomfortable with him watching me. because he would be the one person for whom i want to look beautiful, and what if he sees me trip over my own stilettos? no, no, no...

anyway, i think it's good to have one area that belongs completely to one's own. he will look back on this period in your lives, and say, "i miss missing you."

tangobaby, you deserve to have cakes, and lots of it. and eat it with lots of icing. and strawberries on the side.

oh là, les petits oiseux...

Eva September 20, 2007 at 7:01 AM  

TangoBaby, I do hope you find that happy medium with your two loves. I believe your heart will find a way. (BTW, I had such a craving for icing and cake after I saw that movie.)

Johanna & Nuit, I do feel a certain amount of possessiveness with tango and I am hesistant to allow him into that world. But I do feel at some point, he should see it for himself but I certainly wouldn't take him to the milonga with me on a regular basis. ; )

tangobaby September 20, 2007 at 10:25 AM  

Dear Johanna,

Everything you've said here is so wise and so true. Your experience and advice for people like Eva, Nuit and myself is precious. I'm sure it wasn't easy for you to make those compromises at first, but it was obviously worth it.

I'm so glad that you've found such a generous and wonderful partner. Ten years together, wow--congratulations! I'm so happy for you both.

tangobaby September 20, 2007 at 10:37 AM  

Dear Eva,

My boyfriend doesn't have the passion for dance that I do, although I think he appreciates it. He has gone with me to Forever Tango and to Nora's Tango Week. He likes the performances. But that has never translated into wanting to do it himself. Dancing (any kind) is just not his thing. Last week he did come over to the milonga in Golden Gate Park and he saw me dance. I think he was surprised and impressed. That also helped his understanding to see me dance and that I wasn't a total amateur, either. That these years of classes and dances have accounted for something.

Luckily though, we have many other things in life that we enjoy and share. It's just finding time for all of those things that can be hard. I'm now trying to have a consistent dance calendar so he knows when I will be out and also when I will be strictly home for special time with him.

I think if your boyfriend decides he wants to learn tango, he should try to be independent about it. I don't think you should feel obligated to teach and train him. That's what teachers and private lessons are for. Don't strain your relationship that way. If he really wants to pursue it, then he should do it because he wants to.

I'm glad your boyfriend is reading your blog because it really is wonderful and it lets him see this other world that is so important to you. I wish you both all the best. Remember, we're all here to support you.

tangobaby September 20, 2007 at 1:01 PM  


I agree, it's so important to have something that is just for you. I didn't learn that from my mother. I had to learn it on my own and it took a long time. If you are always attached to someone (mate, child, colleague) there's never a time for you to collect your thoughts and be with yourself. I'm glad we're realizing that relatively early in life. I remember reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin in college, and it scared me. I was so afraid of ending up like that.

I think I will have little cake for you in your honor. Perhaps today!