So this year while blissfully flitting around the pool in Indonesia ("Resolution 1: Travel more") the first week of January, I worked on my New Year's Resolutions list. Most people make one, but I like to make a list, so I can cross a few off during the year and feel good about myself for the rest of it. Basically.
As I discussed with my girlfriends what my goals for 2010 would be, I announced "Learn to tango!" I realized, swimming around, complimentary tropical drink in hand, tempting sunstroke, that as soon as I returned, the tango class I had signed up for would begin. So I retroactively put "Learn to tango" on the resolutions list.
To be honest, I didn't have much of a sense of what tango would be like. It looks like a dramatic, passionate dance from what I've seen (which, granted, is 90% "Dancing With the Stars"). My reasons for taking it on weren't that I was inviting drama into my life (although passion, please note, you're welcome anytime). It was because although I have been a dancer my whole life, the forms of dance I have gravitated to were all individual or company dance. Nothing duetty. I did the normal suburban American kid dance classes (jazz, ballet, tap, oh my!) and when I was old enough to choose I went for hip hop. There was no hand holding and certainly no following anyone else's lead. I choreographed, I was the boss.
I decided that for 2010 I wanted to learn to let someone *else* handle the decisionmaking. In this way, tango was perfect for me. You get into your hold and then follow the male lead as they turn you this way or that, directing you with their torso and the slightest of gestures.
Now, I'm only about a month into the class, going once a week, but I have already learned so much. Yeah, of course I"ve learned the dance stuff- frame, balance, and my favorite new move, aka "clean your shoe on his leg" (yes, this is what they call that seductive footsie move when you are in a beginner class). Here's what I've learned -- so far.
1) Much like the Transformers, there's more than meets the eye. I'm taking my class at UCSD, so I expected a high percentage of nerdage. I'm not gonna say I was disappointed BUT I will tell you that the nerdy, sweet, unsuspecting guy could very well be the best dancer in class. And the macho looking men who you'd think would be the best dancers are (in my experience) just bossy dancers. Um, I'm paying the instructor, not you, so no need to tutor me Mr. He's Been in Class Two Weeks Longer Than Me. My dance partner the first week Li Ming, a quiet guy, led me with great posture and noted that "when we dance together it's like a ballet!" At first I laughed, but then I realized he was kinda right.
2) Everyone wants to be a professional tango dancer. Self-explanatory. There are a few people in the class who are there because they're intent on becoming professional tango dancers. Keep in mind we're taking what is basically a community class. I just thought that was notable. I mean, I've gone my whole life without meeting a single person whose aspirations involved professional tangoage, but now it's very de rigeur.
3) Tango dance students are the worst dressers. Possibly on the planet. I'm showing some restraint here, but let's just say that the first week's class involved a girl in a pair of hot pink cotton gaucho pants that looked like they were made for someone 7 feet tall. And I thought of forgiving them... until they caught wind and lifted to reveal...black clogs.
4) My teacher came to class the first week in two different shoes. I don't mean she changed shoes the way Diana Ross, ahem, Beyonce, changes costumes at an award show. I mean she had one shoe on her left foot and a completely different one on her right.
5) The tango mirrors male-female relationships. I'd go into this more, but Gloria Steinem's on the other line, so I'm going to choose my words carefully and revisit this one.
6) Tango is the only place where men can wear shoes with a slight heel and look ok. Oh wait, no they don't. I'm sure you're a great dancer, tango-shod guy who I danced with the first week, but your footwear also makes me feel slightly like I'm dancing with another woman.
7) People's interest in tango is inversely proportional to their interest in brushing their teeth.
8) Tango people suck at math. NO they really do. I thought they were all science people, but now I'm sensing the liberal arts because whenever the teachers tell us to pair off there is mass confusion. I don't mean for a second, I mean there is confusion where the teachers have to stop class and line us up... in TWO LINES. You would never in a million years think you were dealing with a group of functioning, professional adults. Which is fine, because I'm always game for mild entertainment. It's like kickball-team-selection-mayhem all over again.
For many weeks there has been a serious man shortage. It's like WWII all over again (I imagine, not having lived through the era myself). However, with every week the deficit is being addressed, and in last week's class, we were only one guy short.
Time after time I found myself dancing alone (and by alone I mean not even my teacher would stay to pity dance with me before rushing off to check form). I figured that's no big deal for one dance, and that when the song changed to a new one, I'd rotate into a new partner, as per the format of the class. However, everyone would move around, partner up, and I was STILL DANCING ALONE. This happened for an hour straight. At one point I even walked up to a couple and said "Hate to break you guys up!" because everyone else was rotating and this was clearly a college couple not ready to part. So they looked down and then to the wall until I walked away.
Suffice it to say that for the rest of the night, I just tried to look very very busy while everyone stayed paired off.
I'm not even going to go to expand on the analogies for this one. Suffice it to say next week I'll be bringing a friend.
Author's note: Like life, which has equal parts happy and sad, so will this blog post. Buyer beware!
It's been a tough week boys and girls. I wanted to start this post with a wisecrack, but I honestly don't have one. Do me a favor and take a moment and think of anyone in your life you feel you've neglected (well, the people who weren't asking for it). Call them. Write them. Spend time with them. That's what I'm taking away from this week, where two people I cared about passed away. Suddenly one day they're not there any more. It's that simple and that complex all at once.
One was an older gentleman who I grew up living next door to in the summers. A true thespian, booming voice and laugh, very grandfatherly and kind to me year after year, even when I shamed him for being a Notre Dame fan. I had just emailed him (on Facebook, of all things) a few weeks ago, but didn't hear back, and yesterday got the note from his daughter that he had passed. With age I suppose we come to understand that elderly people can't be here forever, as much as we wish they could.
But the kick in the face this week was when I realized how much I take for granted that the young ones will be around too. We really do think we're invincible. The second friend who passed this week was young... younger than me, actually. Strong, healthy, always smiling, sharp as anything. And absolutely devoted to my friend, his new wife, in the most genuine way. I can't get my mind around it, to tell you the truth. The words of that phone call are ringing in my head, and have been for almost a week now. Some part of me probably thinks if I say it enough or write it enough it will sink in. But it isn't.
THE SAD PART: CALL TO ACTION
So before you read anything further, before we return to our regularly scheduled program, make your calls, return the emails, do it all. I have a new rule: if someone comes into my mind, I'm going to make the time. I've been doing that for a few weeks now - if I have the impulse to contact someone, I just do it, to see where it takes me. So far this week my Impulse PeopleConnect Movement (tm) has brought me news of an elementary school friend who is now pregnant with twins as well as tales of how crappy my Sprint phone service is from a guy who has been trying to call me all week. (Direct quote from my friend/attorney: "We should sue Sprint for interfering with your love life with bad service! Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress!")
THE HAPPIER PART:
In other news, my sister and I went out to dinner with some girlfriends tonight and somehow the conversation turned to punishment. Actually, scratch the "somehow". It came up because our friend is a mediator and she had to mediate the case of a parent who couldn't find acceptable punishment for their kid (an abusive drug dealer). The parent refused to put the boy in his room because doing so "would be sensory deprivation." My sister replied: "Um, isn't that the POINT?!"
And so the conversation evolved to how we were punished as children. Susie and I were discussing our parent's default, which was that we had to go sit in the downstairs hallway bathroom, lights off, until it was time to come out and apologize for whatever that day's transgression was.
Pretty basic stuff, right?
But the conversation had the benefit of Susie's insanely good memory. Before I knew it, we were not discussing the punishments but rather the ambiance of said bathroom. The fact that it was mirrored on many sides, so you were locked in to face yourself (or rather the concept that yourself was reflected all around you, but you couldn't see this, because it was dark. And also because you were a borderline "small person" and probably couldn't see over the counter until you were a teen.)
We talked about the drawer and Susie listed the items from memory: bandaids, "one pencil". She apparently used to open the bandaids and try to close them again, but they'd never close quite right (this explains a lot because I vaguely recall going to get bandaids and wondering why they were half-peeled). She remembered the lacy brass garbage can and the metallic wallpaper.
So that's Susie's memory.
Do you know what mine is?...
It's of a CALCULATOR. My one memory in that bathroom involves sitting on the toilet in the dark doing math.
I remember the old calculator, I remember the glow in the dark red display. I remember my sheer joy typing in numbers (my dinner companions tonight asked what type of math I was doing. Answer: It was basic addition and also trying to see what words I could spell upside down.)
Whether I took the calculator with me or whether I had stashed it there remains up for discussion. I wasn't supposed to have anything in there with me, so now I'm troubled with the question of whether I went and sat in there in the dark voluntarily to do math, which is all sorts of sad. Or did I take the calculator in there during my punishment and my parents *let* it slide because, well, if your kid is that much of a loser, you might as well cut your losses?
* * *
Tonight's laughter about the Bathroom Chronicles and everything else we discussed felt like breath was coming back to me for the first time all week. My mom always says "Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think." You do the math.