Nancy Learns the Tango

And other forays and jaunts—on and off the dance floor

Category: Uncategorized

Dancing Into My Third Act

As I dance myself right out of one decade and into the next, I often marvel that I have the chutzpah and the cheek at almost 60 years old to be Argentine-tangoing the night away, night after night. Laughing from one embrace to another, I double-step or traspié from my current act and into my next—in heels, of course.

As I grow older, and accept the unwavering gifts of menopause, I make a mental note to replace the term “anti-aging”with the more age-positive phrase, “growing into my own skin.” Positivity notwithstanding, getting out the door for a night on the dance floor does take more care and consideration than it once did.

There are many micro-decisions to be made before I leave home.

I deliberate from toe to head, starting from the ground up, with my never- fail, mood-elevating tango shoes. Do I wear the understated, yet sophisticated red suede T-straps with the Louis heel that hearkens back to the Golden Age of Tango? Or do I buckle up the strappy, glittery-gold peep-toe beauties with the leather rosette? Is my pedicure passable enough to wear my fabulous gold shoes?

Then my attention turns upwards. What to wear? Is that ensemble too revealing? Not revealing enough? Does that dress make me look fat? Who’s looking anyway?

There’s the fact of my thickening middle, and what outfit to choose in order mitigate—or contain this swell new development. On the plus side, a little extra padding when wrapped in an intimate embrace can provide another point of contact, and a comfy place to lean. While I welcome a little girth between my partner and me, on the dance floor, I’d prefer it not be mine.

Another tanguera once gave me a pivotal piece of advice on the question of what to wear. “Nancy” she said, “I have just one word for you.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Spanx,” she said.

It was sage advice that continues to shape my views.

Then to top it off, there’s the issue of my misbehaving eyebrows. I’d never really considered them until they’d begun to leave. Now with my eyes lacking punctuation, I sketch them back into place with a pencil made for the use—restoring my eyebrows to their same old used-to-be. And even though I always use a waterproof product, I’m still concerned that some night, when wrapped in a close embrace, my right eyebrow might rub off on my partner’s right cheek!

As I make these and other small, non-invasive efforts to pull myself back from the brink of middle age and beyond, I realize that I’m succumbing to society’s expectations to look my tango shoe size (European size 38)— and not my age.

But I’m often reminded that the third act can be a disappearing one, with the slight everyday indignities of not being noticed. Or sometimes worse: being looked right through, as if I no longer exist. As I leave my 50s, this has been happening more often than not.

Like the time I was willfully ignored on the PATH Train, while commuting from New York to Hoboken, protecting my shattered wrist that was in a sling on one arm, while balancing bundles on the other. No one even glanced up from their devices, let alone offered me a seat.

Then there was the night at a milonga—a tango social—when a tanguero made a beeline for the young woman I was conversing with and whisked her onto the dance floor without even so much as a goodbye—from either one of them.

Whether it’s the loss of civility or the onset of invisibility, either way, it’s downright maddening.

Even when I’m minding my own business, perfectly content in this year’s skin, even then, a small off-the-cuff, not-meant-to-offend comment can shake me out of my blithe spirit. Last August, on a beautiful late summer’s eve, I had the pleasure of dancing with my good friend Michael. We met at a milonga that’s staged at the very end of New York City’s Christopher Street Pier, which extends into the Hudson River. He and I “grew up” in tango together. We’d stepped and miss-stepped our way from beginner to advanced classes, almost every night of the week, for years. Michael is one of the best, and most graceful tangueros I know, and dancing with him can be a high point of my evening.

As the music began and I nestled into his embrace, he gleefully told me that a woman he’d met recently at the Albuquerque Tango Festival, whom he loved dancing with, was coming to meet him that night. He could barely contain himself.

“She’s one of my top five,” he said.

Did he forget that there was a woman in his arms, dancing with him?

Just as I was slipping into the profound interconnection that tango can be, I suddenly felt like I’d become invisible, and I disappeared, along with my self-worth. My posture slumped, and my axis (that imaginary, vertical line where we tango dancers find our equilibrium) spun out of orbit. For the rest of the evening, I felt off balance, doubting my dancing ability as I stepped on, tripped over, and automatically apologized to every partner for my every missed step.

In that moment, I told him that I was happy he’d found at least five women he enjoyed dancing with, but for the rest of our tanda (dance set)—and perhaps the rest of the evening—I’d wonder where I ranked on his roster. Did I make it to first page of his spreadsheet? The second? I suggested that he might not want to say this to other women, particularly when he had his arms around them. Annoyed, he said, “Get out of your head, Nancy.” I hadn’t been in my head until he’d made that comment. He eventually apologized, noting that five was a fluid number—and then told me that he loved dancing with me.

He also asked me not to write about our exchange.

Well, how could I not write about it? So, I emailed to give him fair warning and a chance to respond, which he did. “I remain disappointed that my comment had that impact on you,” he wrote. “Saying that I liked dancing with someone who is not you doesn’t reflect in any way my joy of dancing with you. Further, I have never danced with any other Nancy Green. I never directly compared you to anyone, or anyone to you.” He finished with “I think we have different perspectives here.”

Even though we’re dancing cheek to cheek—I guess we don’t always see eye to eye.

The tango is, after all, a polyamorous dance. But as I hop from embrace to embrace, changing partners every 12 to 15 minutes, out of respect for the one I’m with, I never talk about other men that I’ve enjoyed dancing with—even if those men are in my top five.

But there are the times when my whole “vanishing-woman” argument is totally blown out of the water. Like the time at another summer outdoor milonga on the Hudson, some 90 blocks uptown from the Christopher Street Pier on the Upper West Side.

Just when I thought my desirousness had lost the plot and that without proper attention, my sensuality was on the verge of fossilization, along came Hashim, a captivating Parisian tanguero. Olive-skinned and athletically framed, he wore a ripped T-shirt that was tattered in such an unstudied way that I like to believe it was genuinely threadbare—and not a conceit to fashion. I’d spied him across the dance floor with his wild unrestrained black curls—and full beard to go with, haloed by the setting sun. I caught his eye, the way we women do in tango to make our desire to dance known. He smiled and cocked his head by way of an invitation. He walked toward me, held out his hand, and escorted me onto the dance floor. What followed was perhaps the most unexpected and erotic experiences I’ve had in heels—while dancing.

For the next 15 minutes, I was carried away by his ardent, confident lead, his keen sense of musicality, and the rise and fall of his playful moves. I lost myself in his hair, his sweat, and his strong embrace.

At times I had to remind myself to breathe. You can’t fake a tango.

As Hashim and I circled the dance floor, I opened my eyes and saw Dante, my tango teacher, watching from the sidelines. He smiled at me. It was the kind of grin that said, Nancy, let this put an end to your grumbling about not dancing with the best, or hottest leads. And then, he winked. Well-done girl.

Although experiences like these make putting in the effort to go out and have some fun really worth it, they are more the exception, and the gauze of being unnoticed is becoming more the rule.

If you do a search on women becoming invisible in their 50s and 60s, you’ll find a whole host of blogs, opinion pieces, news stories, first-person tell-all memoir posts, sociological studies—and reactions.

Some women are furious. Some are in despair. Some are in denial. Others say that fading into the background is a choice, not inevitability, and they see their invisibility as a super power.

Some of the more reflective essays I read posited that aging and feeling loss of attractiveness or sex appeal, whether we’ve traded in that currency or not—hits us where we feel most vulnerable. Because our society obsessively places all its value on youth and appearance, and seems to disparage the wisdom and experience of maturity, as I grow older, it only revs me up to get more of both!

The unexpected and freeing consequence of this partial invisibility is that I’ve become somewhat fearless, and I care far less about what others think than I did when I was younger. As I grapple with and buck up against the social pressures to look a certain way, I’ve eased up, and have forgiven myself for looking like I’ve lived this long. And though I chose to not have children, and I’m past the point of being able to do so, my usefulness according to much of society has diminished. And yet somehow, I’ve lived—and am living— a good life, and make other worthy contributions. While I’m on leave from the tiresome and disappointing job of attracting a mate, and I’m on a break from the tyranny of keeping a flat tummy—it sure has freed up a lot of time!

Over the past few years, while nobody was looking, I’ve been more creative, more curious and more engaged in the world than I’ve ever been.

I’m a designer for the tabletop and textile industries, and with all this reclaimed time, I’ve created some of the most beautiful and innovative artwork I’ve ever produced. While I still make a slight effort to accommodate my client’s requests, as it turns out, designing what I love and what I damn well please has achieved both. I’ve presented them with collections that they didn’t know they needed—until they saw them.

As a young woman, I was afraid of my own voice, and I’d sooner quietly leave a party, or an uncomfortable situation rather than speak up and be seen or heard. Now, as I’m about to enter my sixties, I feel that I can’t afford not to speak up. Or out. A good friend who is a bit older than me used to say, “If you’re not having a mid-life crisis, you’re not paying attention.” I’ve now updated that statement, adjusting it to reflect our administration’s zeal in their decimation of social, economic and environmental justice: if you’re not enraged, you’re not paying attention. Well, I have been paying attention, and I am enraged, engaged and speaking up.

Back on the tango dance floor, remaining self-assured and visible in this mostly men-asking-women-to-dance pursuit can be a balancing act. While women’s rights are being legislated out of existence, and the daily purge and perp-walk of outed male sexual predators marches to an ever-quicker beat—you might wonder how in the hell a lead-follow dance could, or even should survive. The tango exists and thrives because we are in agreement to either lead or follow. Without these defined roles, there would be no dance. Tango has its own constitution, with strict codes of etiquette that are in place to ensure everyone’s safety—and keep to us on our toes. Because of these respected rules of engagement on how men and women should interact, I know that when I go out for the night on the dance floor, I can expect an evening of fun, civil, and consensual dancing.

As I rehearse daily for my next chapter, I do what it takes to remain vibrant, involved—and upright. So I dance, I laugh, I create, I read, I write, I ask questions, I listen, I learn new things, I spin, I hike, I march, I protest, I show up, I love my friends, I call my representatives—and I call my mother.

In the end, I’m visible where—and with whom—it matters the most.

©Nancy Green 2018

 

 

Friends In High Places

“Nancy, do you wear panty liners when you hike?” Fran asked.

It was the day before we were to begin a three-week Himalayan-trek in Bhutan—The Land of the Thunder Dragon. Hashmat Singh, our guide, and a group of 13 fellow-trekkers were meeting for the first time at the buffet lunch hosted by our hotel.

Fran’s query, though more like an interrogation, reminded me of the question, when did you stop masturbating? But without the entrapment. I looked up from my plate of steaming noodles, smiled in lieu of answering, and hoped that none of my soon-to-be trekking companions had even heard her.

So began my 15-thousand-foot and above, friendship with Francine Gordon.

She was a 57 year-old, retired Phys Ed teacher from Jericho, Long Island. She was loud, emotional, inappropriate, meddlesome, and curious. And I loved her for it—eventually. She had the kind of smile that took over her entire face and she wore her heart on the sleeve of her Patagonia base layer. Though what eventually cemented our friendship, and what drew us together, began more out of survival, than sociability.

We were a few days into our trek to the base of the 24,000-foot peak, Chomolhari. Fran and I were among the slowest and often the last hikers except for Kipchu, the sweep. He was easy to find wearing a traditional mid-calf, white cuffed, plaid, kimono-like Gho—with knee socks and hiking boots poking out from underneath. And to top it off, he carried a full spectrum, rainbow-paneled umbrella to signal the end of the line—even if it wasn’t raining.

That day, we found ourselves alone, with the temperature dropping, and the sun beginning to set behind a far-as-the-eye-can-see massive boulder field. With no real discernable trail, save for a muddy yak print now and then, we plodded on hoping to see the other hikers ahead of us or Kipchu’s cheery umbrella—popping up over the gray granite landscape, behind us. We saw none of these human trail markers.

Fran stopped frequently to rest, and was becoming anxious at the possibility of being lost. I was more confident in navigating the barely detectable path, and between the two of us, I chose to be the rock of our paired down expedition as we pin-balled our way through vast rocky field. That was the moment that Fran and I became lifelong friends.

In the distance, if we squinted, we could catch the glint of a blue tarp. It’s the unmistakable, industrial, United Nations blue that says developing country, or emergency shelter. It’s also the blue of our camp’s dining tent that held the promise of a cup of hot tea and a biscuit. But this was one of many false summits of the day, and as we got closer we realized that the blue was the tarp of a nomadic yak herders home.

The bouldered terrain eventually gave way to a meadow that was more pasture than rock. I guess the yak herder’s tent and the grassy paddock should have been a pretty good clue as to what happened next, yet we were still startled—no terror-stricken, to see a herd of shaggy, snorting, bell-clanging yaks barreling towards us—shepherded by a teenager carrying a stick! At home, I was weekend-hiker and the only four-legged creatures I’d come across were smiling golden Labrador retrievers. I had no training for this sort of thing. I mean what does one do when one is about to be trampled by thousands of pounds of beef on hoof? Luckily, there were a few scattered boulders about, and we ducked behind one of them as we waited for the stampede to pass, and the dust to settle.

It was dark by the time we got to the end of the pasture, and finally we could see the blue glow of our dining tent. Hashmat and some of the other trekkers came running toward us lit by flashlights and headlamps. They escorted us, as we dragged ourselves into camp. Fran and I were welcomed by resounding clapping, and cheers and the tireless, cook-staff plied us with cups of hot, steaming tea—and biscuits.

Fran and I continue our lively friendship to this day, and we often recount our Bhutanese adventure and some of our other Himalayan escapades—at sea level.

 

 

© Nancy Green 2018

 

Fran’s love of the Himalaya led her to create Nepal Program For Progress. It’s a non-profit that provides educational opportunities for children in remote regions of Nepal. And she’s there now as I write this!

 

It Takes Way More Than Two

Last Tango in Chelsea. A tribute to Triangulo: New York City’s only studio dedicated to the Argentine tango—closes. For now. We await its transformation to a new location.

I’ve never been much of a party girl. Or if I had been, I have no memory of it. I hated bars. And a barstool doesn’t have any back support. I failed substance abuse, and the only altered state I could manage was a sugar induced one. But intoxication took on a whole new dimension, and all my head-spinning attempts at inebriation vanished the moment I took my first steps of the Argentine tango.

It was on pure whim, some amount of guts, a free Monday night, and close proximity to the PATH Train that first led me to Triangulo. As soon as I walked into this dance studio, I knew I’d entered another realm. The room was warm and inviting and evoked another century, with its burgundy colored walls, its gold accents, and crowned with a collection of ornate, mismatched chandeliers. And all of this against the backdrop of the lavish, Bruegel-like mural of tango dancers—in full swing. Dancers that I’d eventually come to learn were real people —the luminaries of tango past and present.

So with one foot in, I signed up for my first beginner-class package, and followed the well-worn path of tangueras before me—the dancing odyssey of intelligent women—who were once level headed.

Though after my first class of stepping on, and being stepped on, I wondered why in the hell I’d want to obey, and follow any man around a dance floor, engaging in something that set women back decades—backwards and in heels.

But, it only took until the second class to understand that my role was as important as his. For without me, there’d be no dance. And if I ever got past the awkward, jostling beginner stage, and avoided shoulder dislocation from over-enthusiastic leads, I might actually learn.

So one class per week became two, and two became three, and in no time I’d developed a pretty healthy tango habit. I became a willing participant in the twelve steps of tango addiction. I danced almost every night of the week. I planned my life around classes and milongas. I made excuses for, and bowed out of social events that interfered with my tango schedule. And if this were even possible, I found seven nights a week to love shoes that much more. My work suffered. My feet hurt. I laughed more. I talked about tango so much that my friends and family were either becoming very concerned—or entirely bored.

But nothing could stop me. How could I turn my back on so much joy? For the first couple of years, I took every level of every class with my beloved first teachers—the talented triumvirate of Carina, Laure and Dante. And if that weren’t enough of an embarrassment of riches, along came two powerhouse couples in the form of Carolina and Andres, and Ana and Diego. Triangulo’s teachers were determined to make dancers of us all­—and they used everything they had to get it done. With their passion, dedication, creativity, generosity, and a whole lot of laughing, we became tango dancers.

But Triangulo and the Argentine tango turned out to be more than I’d expected. Aside from learning the dance and having a cult-like, nifty, portable skill, I made friends. Good friends. People shared their lives with me—in between dances. I met someone who told me that he had nothing until he’d found tango. Another told me that after a bitter divorce, tango had prevented him for walking into oncoming traffic. And since then he’s met and married the love of his life—a tanguera he’d met at the Union Square milonga. A dear friend recently told me that tango allowed him to enter (with another) into a world without words. I saw how tango changed lives, and in some cases, it even saved lives.

I met people from all over the world, and though we spoke different languages, we danced in only one.

On a lighter note, I’ve never laughed as hard as I have on this dance floor. Whether it was cracking up mid-dance over some of the best jokes I’ve ever heard, or whether the hilarity was due to Dante’s Always-Keep‘em-Laughing School of Dance. At times, it’s been near impossible to maintain a serious tango face.

And all of that happened here, at Triangulo—our dancing living room.

These days though, Triangulo is much more than a dance studio—it has become a refuge. As I witness the decimation of social, economic and environmental justice, and when I can’t take another piece of breaking news, or one more obscene tweet, I always had Triangulo. And because of tango’s own constitution—its respected rules of etiquette, I knew that when I entered this studio of friends, or potential new friends, I could expect to enjoy an evening of vibrant, joyful, equitable, civil, and consensual dancing.

Tonight, when I leave for the last time, I’ll be accompanied by tango music as it tumbles out of the third floor window and onto 20th Street. There were times, that if I listened very closely, I’ve been able to hear the music almost all the way to 6th Avenue.

Carina, thank you for creating the warm, welcoming and vibrant place that we’ve come to love, and to depend on.

Whenever and wherever Triangulo’s transformation turns out to be—when you build it, we will come.

 



© Nancy Green 2017

 

See what Triangulo is up to now.

 

Ten Cents a Dance (Adjusted for Inflation)

I’ve been published in Salon.com!

http://www.salon.com/2017/07/09/paying-for-it-ten-cents-a-dance-adjusted-for-inflation/

 

She was twice his age, her vermilion hair matched his red velvet suit, and her three-and-a-half-inch sparkly-gold tango shoes allowed her to peer over his head—by at least a foot. Who was he dancing with? His grandmother? His great-aunt?

It was one of those evenings of watching others dance tango, and spending a little too much time on the sidelines, not dancing—having not been asked. Tango etiquette has some antiquated rules of engagement, and the one that causes the most chafing is that men do the asking. If that weren’t problematic enough, combined with the lead-follow imbalance, the New York tango cliques, and the exclusive couples, it can all add up to doing some extra time on the bench.

That night, I had plenty of opportunity to track this truly odd couple circle the dance floor for yet another go-round. She had the air of an Upper East Side heiress, meticulously preserved, costumed in something beaded, asymmetrical, and slit halfway up her thigh. He looked like a grinning, dance-hall dandy, with a pencil thin moustache, and penguin-like, as he sported a pair of black and white spectators. If he’d been wearing a hat, he’d have tipped it as they tangoed on by.

I asked the woman sitting next to me about the mismatched pair, who never split up,even though tango protocol states that you change partners after each set. “She hired him,” my bench-mate said. “She what?” I asked. “She hired him for the evening. They’re taxi dancing,” she said.

As it turns out, there’s a foolproof way to make sure that you’re not a tango wallflower. You can buy dancing insurance! It comes in the form of a partner for hire, a taxi dancer. A tango escort service if you will.

During the 1920s and 1930s, taxi dancing was a popular ticket-a-dance arrangement that operated in closed dance halls. Closed in that female customers were not admitted, which opened the door for a new kind of non-domestic, urban job opportunity for unmarried working-class women. Dancing female employees. Male patrons would present a ticket to a chosen dance-hall hostess, and the pay-as-you-go, ten-cent agreement would last the length of a song. Taxi aptly, though indelicately refers to renting her—on the meter—not unlike cab fare. This of course was considered a scandalous profession chosen by—you guessed it—morally corrupted women. Today though, with morality up for grabs and corruption setting its sights on loftier goals, the notion of taxi dancing once thought illicit, now seems quaint. Today, on the tango dance floor, faced with a dearth of good leads, hiring a male dancing escort just seems like a really good idea.

One night at a milonga (tango social) I asked my beloved teacher, Dante, if he felt pressured to dance with his students outside of class. Was he aware that some of his female students tracked him around the dance floor? Making sure they knew where he was, who he was dancing with, and then getting into position so when the music stopped, they’d just happen to be within asking-them-to-dance distance. Kind of, if not exactly like, what I was doing with him at that moment. I told him that I respected his right to have a tango social life, and while I didn’t expect him to dance with me beyond the studio, if he asked, I wouldn’t say no.

“Nancy” he said, “There is a way that you can dance with me often, you know.”  “How’s that?” I asked. “You can hire me,” he said.

So reader, I paid him.

Deal struck, and joy to be scheduled, Dante and I made a date to take our tango-trade-agreement out for a whirl. We met on a warm fall evening at my favorite outdoor milonga, Riverside Gypsy Tango, held at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on the Upper West Side. Built atop a promontory, just north of the marble monument, and down a grand staircase is a charming, formal, amphitheatre-like terrace. The balustraded-balcony, surrounded by curved granite benches, sits high in a crown of trees. It’s a perfect place for contemplation, assignation, and Shakespeare re-runs. And decked with 800 pounds of portable parquet flooring, perfect for Argentine tango.

We sat down on one of the stone benches to plot out our evening’s dance card. Milongas are carefully configured tango socials made up of tandas or dance sets. Each set consists of three or four songs of the same style of tango, and usually from the same orchestra. To signal the end of the set, a cortina,the 30-second piece of non-tango music is played. This musical chairs like interlude, is the time to change partners, pop a breath mint, go to the bar, or rest your dancing feet.

Dante suggested that spacing out our hour’s worth of tandas was a good strategy as it gave us each the chance to dance with others, and maybe avoid the appearance of a financial arrangement. But paying to play didn’t bother me—much. I was ready for a night of marvelous dancing in the arms of a smart, handsome, funny, sexy tanguero (male tango dancer), who was a beautiful dancer, and knew how to show a tanguera (female tango dancer) a good time.

The Argentine tango is a deceptive dance. From the outside, it can look like an intimate conversation that once started, is best finished off the dance floor. Deeply woven in each other’s arms, lips brushed up against a cheek, and with its leg-entwining antics, you’d think the tango was all sex. What makes it so intoxicating though, is that the tango is really an inside job—a hypnotic, dancing meditation. The goal, and then the pleasure, is to dance as one, to tango’s time honored steps, to be so merged, that the separate self is abandoned. Well…not unlike like sex.

Dante escorted me to the dance floor for the first set, a tango—the style of music that’s most associated with Argentine tango. All passion and pathos, and everything’s unrequited. It’s the kind of music that makes you want to put a knife through your heart right after you pulled it out of someone else’s.  But because of, or in spite of its theatricality, we hammed it up a bit and engaged in a little pre-dance play-acting, my femme fatale to his debonair. I’m at ease with tango’s defined lead/follow roles. To be in the arms of a strong, capable, leading man, and to then interpret (not follow) his lead can be thrilling. I’m often reminded of my mother’s shorthand, gender studies proclamation “vive la differénce!” The four-song rapture ended and as no crimes of passion were committed, we collected ourselves and waited for the music to begin again.

The next set was a vals tanda (waltz set). In the refuge of his embrace, watching the moonrise over his right shoulder, we danced, skipped, flowed and played, around and around again, to the seductive, rhythmic three-count melodies. The music was from the Golden Age of Tango, from the 1930s. It had the nostalgia of a Hollywood musical, all Fred and Ginger—and Dante made sure to throw in a dash of Gene.

Even though I’d bypassed the grand gesture of being asked to dance, and paid for the pleasure, the benefits are the same, if not better. Hiring Dante eliminated all of the game playing, the disappointment, the waiting to be asked, andsome really bad tangos with leads that just can’t. I was insured for an evening of perfect tangos. Another bonus to dancing with an expert is that I become a better dancer. It’s a simple equation really; ease and confidence on the dance floor leads to a joyful, happy looking tanguera, which leads to more invitations, which leads to less time on the bench.

After the second set, Dante took my arm as we returned to our seats. I felt flushed and had the slight ache of a permanent smile. I was elated from our fifteen-minutes worth of dancing intimacy. So euphoric, that I was startled that much more when I heard the woman sitting next to him say, “Are you dancing socially tonight?” I dropped my head along with my already sunken shoulders. What she meant was, would he dance with her for free? What I’d heard was, she didn’t have to pay to dance with him.

Deflated, all my joy had been let out, and I wanted to sink into the granite bench with shame. But the stone seat wouldn’t allow for it. Embarrassed that I’d had to pay for someone to dance with, and chagrinned to be middle-aged, and still single in a world that over values couple-hood. All the times of loving and not being loved back enough, and all the years of not having a partner to bring home to my family and friends came rushing in. The times of tagging along, of being the guest who has to sleep on the single air mattress in the hallway, or the traveling singleton always having to pay the single supplement.

But enough of that.

I had dancing to do, and the next set was a milonga tanda, the completely fun and vibrant quick step of tango—a step for every beat. I grabbed Dante and we traspied (double stepped) our way onto the dance floor. It took me a few measures to regain my balance, and to remember the gift I’d given myself that evening; the joy of dancing tango by moonlight, with my teacher, my friend. It was more than a fair trade.

After the tanda, Dante told me that he was equally startled by her intrusion, and didn’t even know how to answer her question. He said that the genuine warmth he feels for the women with whom he taxi’s (and for me especially), places the transactional arrangement in the context of the social dance, and not exclusive of it. He said her entreaty was so personally rude, and so inelegantly in violation of the “filo-dough-pastry-ritual” that is tango etiquette. Rules he said, that exist not for artifice, but to preserve everyone’s dignity in a situation that is intimate, public, private and vulnerable.” When we were on a break, he asked her to dance anyway. He’d known her for many years and gave in to her arm-twisting. Much to his chivalrous credit though, he told her that what he did on the dance floor and with whom was none of her business, regardless of how public the milonga is.

Brilliance and gallantry in dance shoes.

It was almost the end of the evening, the meter had run out, and I’d had enough tango to last until the next time. We settled up, and I wished Dante a good night. On my way out, I suggested that he go and ask a beautiful woman to dance.

 

“Nancy,” he said, “I already have.

 

© Nancy Green 2017

My Best Girl

If you sit down at my computer and look through my web search history from say, a year or two ago, you’d find what you might expect: evidence of my tango obsession. Queries such as: Where to buy the latest Comme Il Faut tango shoes in NYC? Or, what is the ratio of men to women at every milonga in the tri-state area?  Or, what’s the weather in Buenos Aires?  And, is there tango in Trenton?

Though lately, my concerns have taken a decidedly different turn. These days I find myself shopping for things like dependable bed wetting supplies, and attractive waterproof sofa covers, or searching for information about the causes and remedies for urge incontinence. I’ve also been watching YouTube videos on the best way to convert baby diapers into doggie diapers. And just to allay any concerns that you may have for me, I’m happy to report that I’m not in the middle of this type of health crisis–yet–but my dog is.

My fourteen-and-a-half year old beautiful, precious, obstinate, funny, Tibetan Terrier is beginning to fail. Most of my free time, with my pup’s reluctant blessing, used to be taken up with everything tango—dancing my way through the week. Now, much of my days and nights and thoughts are dedicated to the care of my feisty, four-legged, octogenarian (in dog years); Tingri. My best girl.

At the beginning of our journey’s end, I made my way to a section of the A&P that I knew very little about, the baby care aisle. There I stood, head in hands, trying to choose between Pampers Cruisers adorned with Bert, Ernie, Elmo and Big Bird or Huggies Little Movers decorated with Disney characters. I chose Elmo: Tingri’s ethos has always felt much more like Sesame Street than Walt Disney.

This is my first hands-on experience with elder care and it has been quite a ride; at times very funny, sometimes heartbreakingly poignant, and often frustrating with overtones of relentlessness.

I can’t say that Tingri has taken that well to wearing diapers, or being dressed at all for that matter. She has a charming habit of ripping them off, destroying the nappy and spreading its sodden contents all over my apartment—every hour. Even a velcroed diaper cover didn’t keep them on her. My determined little Houdini, managed to remove the diaper–while leaving the cover on–in a move not unlike yanking a tablecloth out from under the table setting or removing your bra through one sleeve without taking off your shirt.

That’s my girl.

I’m just now realizing how my life has been altered since my apartment became the equivalent of a canine nursing home. I’m reluctant to invite friends over, my kitchen counter has become a diaper prep station, and conversations about tango have been replaced by the physical woes of my scruffy, aging pup.

Last week I bumped into a friend in the hardware store. I was buying Goo Gone and Gorilla Tape, provisions for my baby-diaper-to-doggie-diaper conversion. My friend asked if I was doing some home repair. I told him that Tingri was incontinent and it was less expensive to convert baby diapers than buy expensive dog diapers. I went into great detail explaining how I cut a hole for her tail, reinforced that hole with strips of Gorilla Tape, and then cleaned my gunked up scissors with Goo Gone every two or three diapers. He just stared. “You know Nancy, you could have just told me you were doing some home repair,” he said.

I also dance less, though every now and then I do take a break (which may be more of an escape) to head to a milonga for a much-needed change of scenery and for the chance to slip into that blissful dancing meditation that tango can be. Even then, Tingri is always in my thoughts. Whether I nuzzle my partner’s neck, or give him a couple of swift pets in praise of a dance well done, or wonder what kind of a mess I’ll find when I get home, she is with me. I often leave the dance early—even before the stroke of midnight to head home and check on her.

Tingri and I made a contract fourteen-and-a-half years ago. I promised to love and care for her and she promised me nothing. I’ve loved (almost) every minute of it and cannot imagine my days without her.

Here’s to you Tingri, with all my love.  My best girl.

Tingri adjusted

Copyright © Nancy Green 2015

Sandy Don’t Dance

The morning of Sandy, while I was out doing some end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it provision shopping, I passed by Giovanni D’Italia, our beloved shoe repair shop.

I asked Nick why on earth he was open?  Were they expecting a flood of emergency shoe repair issues?  A run on waterproofing supplies?

He looked at me and in earnest said, “Some people need their dance shoes.”

Well yes, some people do.  And as we would soon see, some people would need their hip boots and waders. Including all at Giovanni D’Italia, who found themselves under water, as most of Hoboken did that day.

I am one of the very fortunate.  My street does not flood…yet.  My home is on its foundation.  No lives lost.  No looming insurance nightmares.  But no power for a week.  It was like camping…indoors.

After five days, the charm had worn off and I had some options.  A place to go where the lights were on and somebody was home.

I was conflicted about bailing on Hoboken though.  About missing the volunteer and communal opportunities.  And the free food.  To which my best friend, who is one of the flooded weary said, “So what.  I’d leave if I could.”

And so, by candlelight I packed a bag that included my dog, external hard drives, hair care products, survivor’s guilt and my tango shoes.  For you never know when a tango opportunity will present itself.  With a quarter of a tank of gas I fled for higher ground to my family in Massachusetts.

Dancing would have to wait until the waters receded, tunnels were pumped out and New York was turned back on.  And as I write this, our PATH train, one month later, is still out of service.  Indefinitely.

In exodus, in a lit and heated home, I spent all of my time and data allowance on Twitter trying to get a grasp as to what happened to New York and New Jersey when Sandy came to town.  I’m sure that I was quite tedious to be around.

One of the signs that one is becoming a tango addict is that one could turn any conversation to tango within two minutes.

I found that I could turn any conversation to Sandy within one.

When the coast was clear, and I did not need a flotation device to cross town, I returned to clean up and pitch in where I could.

And so, accompanied by battery powered Pugliese, I listened to tango music while I scrubbed my flooded friend’s defrosted fridge.  By headlamp.

Copyright © 2012  Nancy Green