An Intimate Mixture

"I prefer to explore the most intimate moments, the smaller, crystallized details we all hinge our lives on."

Poet Rita Dove

1600–10; intim(us) a close friend (n. use of the adj.)

- characterized by or involving warm friendship or a personally close or familiar association or feeling,
- (of an association, knowledge, understanding, etc.) arising from close personal connection or familiar experience,
- worn next to the skin,
- showing a close union or combination of particles or elements: an intimate mixture,
- inmost; deep within,
- of, pertaining to, or characteristic of the inmost or essential nature; intrinsic,
- of, pertaining to, or existing in the inmost depths of the mind,

In the US, the word "intimate" is a loaded word. When I say I have close, intimate friends - the meaning could be innocent (itself a misleading, and loaded, word.) But if I say feel an intimate connection with my partner when we dance (especially when we talk about tango), suddenly we're talking about something else. When people watch tango from sidelines, it certainly looks like something else. The tango is about passion after all. But the passion of tango is both personal and transcendent.

We try so hard to make things black and white in this country. The answer is either A or B, yes or no. You are either in the "lover" category or the "not lover" category. If you are in the "lover" category, then we are intimate and we can't be (just) friends. If you are in the "friend" category, we aren't lovers and we can't be intimate. We can be this close, but not that close. This feeling is okay, that feeling is not.

Tango, the tango of Argentina, the tango that sweats, sighs into our neck, whispers in our ears, sings in our blood, and aches through our limbs - is intimate. It is "worn next to our skin." Under our skin. How can it be anything else to do what it does? We long for intimacy. Our world, this modern Western marvel of civilization (particularly in America) isolates us, and strips us of pieces of our humanity. Forcing us to turn off inappropriate emotions, avert our eyes from uncomfortable scenes, push each other away, build walls. If we are lucky enough to encounter tango - to fall into the culture of the milonga - the transition from "outside world" to the milonga is palpable. Like changing our clothes... or skin..

"Let me slip into something more comfortable . . ."

My addiction to tango was born and lives in the milonga. If I had to, I could give up the classes, the workshops, the festivals, everything else - but I could never give up the milonga. Before I dance my first tanda, I can feel the effect of the milonga over my skin. Warmth. Sometimes it's sad, sometimes it's euphoric. Each milonga, each night, has a personality. Sometimes, more than sometimes, it's nostalgic. It longs for something lost. The energy is intimate - familiar, essential, deep within.

Tango, and the milonga, gives permission to be human - to feel things, to be overwhelmed, to be nostalgic for our humanity and our connection to each other, to be intimate with strangers. To hold and be held. We may not learn each other's names. But in a tanda we learn and share more than we intend to. The dance demands it. To connect, really and truly connect for this dance - we must stop lying. To ourselves mostly. All of those things that are so important on the outside - our jobs, our status, our possessions - mean nothing in here. If we face the truth, that these things don't matter and connection, our intimacy, with other human beings is what really matters - how can we leave unchanged by that?

It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental.
German Social Scientist, Max Weber


Keno said...

so true and cool. Thanks Keno

Unknown said...

Wonderful writing!

I'm amazed how you take what you think it put it onto (cyber)paper so easily.

Milonga = a chance to get lost

Anonymous said...

What a perfect post. Wonderfully written and expressed.

tangocherie said...

Well said. Love it!

Mari said...

Wow - thanks for the comments! This is another one of those posts I fretted over for quite awhile. I was prepared for the virtual sound of crickets in reaction to it. Or at least a comment like, "ok mari, you've finally lost it." Thanks for the encouragement - it means the world to me. :)

PWS said...

"Yes!" to a dance that makes my blood sing. "Yes!" to sharing more than I intend to in the dance.
"Yes!" to the primacy of the milonga. "Yes!" to everthing, in fact. That's a very trenchant post about a most important topic to me. I live in the conservative midwest, where not enough people give over to the lead, to the music, at the closest distance. I'm lucky to have a partner who will accept a close invitiation, but not enough others will do the same. I feel sun-kissed to have acquired after 5 years the 'hope' of the perfect connection at each week's milonga (everything's created twice right? Once in my mind and then when it actually happens). Sun-kissed as well to have come across your thoughts above as well as the comments from others.

Mari said...

PWS - thank you for your comments and for reading! You're right, everything is created twice. When you mentioned the conservative midwest, I was reminded that I'm planning a trip to Omaha in a few months, and I'm worried that they have so few milongas - and they don't seem to be regularly occuring. How can I make plans without knowing when the dancing will be??? I can't believe I am having anxiety at the thought of a week with no tango!

happyseaurchin said...

beautifully written
fine distinctions
and i am glad the milonga is your last departure