I've been meaning to write this post for a long time. The problem was that I had too many thoughts about it and couldn't sort through which ones to tackle first, and which ones to leave off completely.
It started with this story in the New York Times, about hugging in schools and the restriction thereof.
“Touching and physical contact is very dangerous territory,” said Noreen Hajinlian, the principal of George G. White School, a junior high school in Hillsdale, N.J., who banned hugging two years ago. “It was needless hugging — they are in the hallways before they go to class. It wasn’t a greeting. It was happening all day.”
Hugs happening all day? Needless hugging? I'd wait in line for some needless hugging (as soon as I could figure out what that was exactly.) We have metal detectors in our schools and this is what you're complaining about? Where do I start with what's wrong with that?
Can't we be allowed to connect with each other without someone regulating it, defining it, and probably taking every bit of joy (and ultimately any real connection) out of it? Yes, there are dangers in not setting boundaries, especially for our children - but some things go beyond common sense.
And then I thought about tango.
Because I always end up thinking about tango.
Does tango attract because it allows us a context to (as freely as we can) connect with another person? For 3 or 4 songs I can embrace and be embraced by another human being, whose name I may, or may not, or may never, know. For those few minutes we have the opportunity to tell our stories to each other with our dance, comfort each other and allow ourselves to be comforted by another person's physical presence in the music. All of this (for some there is more, and for some there is less) in a context that rewards connection instead of discouraging it.
Outside of the milonga, we have to place boundaries between what is my pain and what is your pain; what is my joy and what is your joy. Reaching out to other human beings (certainly to ones you hardly know) is a sign of impulsiveness, weakness, neediness, even sickness. We're constantly conditioned to be self-reliant, self-sufficient, on guard, disconnected. That can't possibly be what it means to be human.
Back to tango . . .
Inside the milonga, we connect with our partners, the music, the floor, the other dancers while moving together in the line of dance. In the moment, our "sphere of influence" expands and becomes nebulous. We can reach out, ideally at our own pace and comfort, to all of those who would reach out to us.
When the music stops we can go back to our lives - hopefully with traces of blissful entanglement, attachment, connection, still lingering over our skin.
(There is a delicate dependency necessary for this environment to work. It has to be safe, physically of course - but also emotionally. The milonga codas/codes serve to put everyone on the same grounding, following the same rules.)