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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

You Look Like Spring

I am a little late in mentioning this because officially it started yesterday, but this happens to be International Flirting Week. (It started yesterday, February 11, and goes through February 17.)

Not that I resemble any sort of expert on the matter (in fact, I am probably pretty mediocre if not downright clueless on the subject), but it dawns on me that as a nation, Americans are not in the forefront of the art and/or science of flirting. I wonder if it is a byproduct of our country's Puritan roots and industrious nature, or if we have too many microclimates that do not encourage enough outdoor lounging and siestas. Or that people are overly afraid of sexual harrassment litigation.

I know there might be pockets of flirtation in this country, but they probably exist in geographical locations where there is an influx of residents from Latin countries. There are many countries where International Flirting Week exists in the hearts and minds of people every day of the year (to very loosely quote Charles Dickens here--but he was talking about the Spirit of Christmas). Those countries do not need an International Flirting Week. But I don't think just a week would help us change our ways here.

I was actually going to tie this subject into tango in some way, but it seems to me that is not the direction I wanted to take. Tango is a serious passion for me, and for many, many others, and so the subject of flirtation doesn't jive with what my tango is for me. In fact, it plays into the common misconception that tango is all about sex.

But I didn't want to give up on the idea of International Flirting Week because it's not often that a topic like that comes your way. So instead I think I will reminisce about a favorite flirtation, which also will incorporate my newest goal of working a Beatles song into my post. If any of you care to expand on the topic of flirtation and tango, be my guest. The [dance] floor is yours.


It was May. It was Paris.

It was a very rainy early May, where the skies opened more easily to intense and sudden rainshowers than to the more expected blue skies and sun. I had learned my lesson by being caught unawares by two downpours, the kind that produced large, heavy droplets that seemed much bigger than regular American raindrops. These French raindrops got you much wetter much faster.

I started taking my raincoat and umbrella with me, even though I still insisted on wearing a skirt and heels because the attention you get is more positive that way, and since I don't live in Paris, I have to take what I can get while I'm there.

I wore a robin's egg blue raincoat, a cheerful color. I was on my way to the Musée d'Orsay, in the slight hope that I wouldn't have to wait in a very long line to get in. I had just turned the corner onto the Rue de Bac, when I heard a man's voice behind me:

"Vous ressembler de printemps." (You look like Spring.)

He liked my raincoat, I supposed. I turned around to see who was talking to me and found one of those ageless, charming Frenchmen, holding an unopened bottle of wine just purchased at the shop. He had a large husky-shepard-type dog with him.

I thanked him for the compliment in my very broken French (why five years of good grades in French class has completely failed me in conversation is very annoying). He started to speak to me and I had to be honest and tell him I didn't really speak the language, to my dismay. He spoke no English so we tried to have some sort of conversation in French.

By this time, my companion had taken my arm and we continued our walk down the street, where it sprinkled intermittently. He somehow discerned that I was on my way to the museum and he told me he would take me there himself. (Even though I couldn't put together a simple sentence, I still had a reasonable idea of what he was saying to me. I think at one point we also discussed the Pope, but I am not 100% sure on that.)

He asked what my name was, and when I told him, he started singing Hey, Jude to me, en français. (My name isn't Jude, but it's close enough so I got where he was coming from.) Since that was pretty much the only way we could communicate, we finished our walk, arm in arm with the dog trotting back and forth between us, singing Hey, Jude in French and English. (The nah nah nah's are the same in French, fyi.)

We finished the song just as we arrived at the Musée d'Orsay. My guide indicated that he knew a secret side door, where he could convince the guard to let me in so I would not have to wait in the long line (note to future visitors: get your tickets at the ticket office in advance). He confidently strolled up to one of the museum guards and in French, explained that I was the daughter of the President of the United States, and that I should receive special treatment and not have to wait in line. The guard looked at me in bewilderment, I was embarrassed (mostly at being linked in any way to The Shrub) and I'm sure you'll not be surprised that I was not admitted to the museum through the special secret door as the daughter of George Bush.

However, my guide's duty was done; he had brought me to my destination. He firmly kissed me on each cheek, and as he walked away from me, waving, he was still singing Hey, Jude.

So whenever I hear that song, I think of an early morning chanteur who sang me down a rainy morning street in Paris.

The above photo borrowed from a lovely site about vintage hairstyles called The Hair Archives. The youtube clip needs no explanation.


Red Shoes February 13, 2008 at 8:10 AM  

No expert? Well, you charm the heck out of me, anyway. ;)

tangobaby February 13, 2008 at 11:51 AM  

I need more practice with you. When is our next get-together? (not climbing on anything, though. I only have one good ankle left.)


Anonymous February 13, 2008 at 4:09 PM  

International Flirting Week! Oh, I love to flirt! And I'm in the perfect place for it! ;-)

Nothing like France though...

That's a wonderful story!

tangobaby February 13, 2008 at 5:36 PM  

Dear Tina,

We have just put you in charge of the Buenos Aires Delegation for International Flirting Week, so we will expect a report on your activities very soon.

Good luck with your mission, and happy flirting! Girls at home are depending on you.


miss tango February 14, 2008 at 9:35 AM  

What a lovely story! Makes me want a baby blue raincoat.

tangobaby February 14, 2008 at 1:54 PM  

Dear Miss Tango,

I think all ladies should have a pretty rain coat...it's just that you'll have to wait until August to wear it! It's probably going to be a while until it rains where you are.


Inspirosity February 15, 2008 at 9:39 PM  

Great post. You're so right about the art of flirting not existing anymore in the States. I love living in Buenos Aires. Talk about make a girl feel good.

I've been reading Osho's "Sex Matters" lately. You'd love the book. He claims that religions have poisoned us to sex (which of course isn't the same as flirting but is what flirting is about). Seems like our puritanical roots have made sex a sin and in so doing have made sex all many people can think about. As such, people aren't actually able to love. Go figure.

Your flirt there in Paris that ends with a kiss on the cheek wouldn't likely happen in the States. Seduction, flirting, and love have all gone by the way side. What we're left with is obsession over sex minus lots of the most fun parts.

tangobaby February 19, 2008 at 10:56 AM  

Hi Inspirosity,

Thanks for visiting my blog, and I apologize for the tardy reply!

I appreciate your insight, and I think you're totally right about seduction and flirting and the lack therof in the US. I'll definitely check out your reading suggestion, too. That book does sound like something up my alley.

I don't think we realize how much we stifle in ourselves here and we don't know what we're missing until we go outside this big country and see how other people interact.

Andrew Dancer February 21, 2008 at 5:09 PM  

About flirting in the USA and tango... I always notice how spoiled we are here. We get things so easily. While flirting may be a means to an end (ie. starting a relationship) it really is more about the journey than arriving at the destination. Flirting involves a major ego boost to both participants. The flirters must feel good about themselves in order to be bold enough to start the game; and the flirtees must feel good about themselves for being the target of another's attraction, admiration or affection. The whole process breaks down when either party is too goal oriented (as is an American trait) and feels that results should be as speedily delivered as a drive-in burger. If you view flirtation as an endeavor that is best enjoyed without an eye on the future ....only the glory of the moment, then you will be able to make the connection to the thrill of two strangers dancing Argentine tango. A close embrace is a cousin to a kiss on the cheek. A wink of an eye is a sacada from a distance.

tangobaby February 21, 2008 at 6:50 PM  

Hi Andrew,

Thank you for visiting my blog and for your wonderful comment.

I have no problem with the playfulness and enjoyment of all aspects of tango, especially the nuances. It's the separation from tango life and "real" life that is jarring and I wish that some of that playfulness, flirting, what-have-you carried over into our society more often.

In other countries, playful flirtation is part of the culture. I find the ego-boosting energy very easy to come by in a milonga, but it's very unusual in my day-to-day life. I find it outside this country and it's very special.

Andrew Dancer February 21, 2008 at 7:45 PM  

I occasionally teach beginner tango. The first step that I teach is a step called "mood" ...and tango mood includes flirtation.

tangobaby February 21, 2008 at 8:08 PM  

That's wonderful, Andrew. I'm glad your students get to learn more than just the basic 8-count. We all know that connection and interaction count a lot more than patterns and steps, in the long run!

Relyn Lawson May 30, 2008 at 8:25 PM  

Oh, oh, oh! I love this post. I love all your beautiful stories. When I get to Paris, I may ask to borrow your magical baby blue raincoat. Sung to by a Frenchman. Only you.

Happy flirting.

tangobaby June 3, 2008 at 12:08 PM  

Hi Relyn,

I'm so glad you liked my story (all true, too!) and I think we're going to have to stage an intervention for you soon and get you over to Paris.

There's a very good chance this guy could have been crazy, but I couldn't tell, so I'm just going to go with the charming, instead.