It takes two to tango.

My boyfriend asked me to start taking tango lessons with him.

I was startled, I was confused, I was doubtful of his orientation, and I was skeptical that “Tango Lessons” was a code word, but above all, I was compliant.

Not wanting to waste the opportunity, and uncertain as to how long it would last, I immediately turned to trusty Google in an answer to a question I never thought I’d pose. Alas I discovered that apparently my local community was far more eclectic, and contained much more spice than I had ever imagined.

It seemed that weekly lessons were offered for dancers of all levels at both the San Luis Obispo Odd Fellows Hall, as well as the San Luis Obispo Vets Hall. Convinced, I donned my black strappy heels, festively pinned a rose twisted up in my hair, and hurried out the door enthusiastic boyfriend in tow, anxious to perhaps discover some hidden talent that had remained concealed all these years.

Surprisingly enough, the class was pretty well populated and we were taught the basics of the Argentine Tango to a slow South American rhythm. The instructor, a middle aged gentleman with tent shaped hair that sprouted from the center of his head kept re-adjusting our hand placements, and moving my boyfriends hand higher up on my back, apparently it had a tendency to slip downwards. I could have told you that. After switching partners to allow the opportunity to dance with everyone in the room, a prospect of which some were more excited than others, it was announced that it was time to spotlight what we had learned.

Wait a second, this sounded dangerous, certainly my horizons had expanded greatly from where they lay, forlorn and tango-less just an hour before, but my newly attained tango skills, or lack there of was certainly nothing to brag about. But despite my attempts to casually slip out the door unnoticed, each pairing had to perform for the others.

I’ve come to the conclusion that when put on the spot, namely when asked to tango around the classroom with all others critiquing your caminada, there’s terrifying similarities to a deer in the headlights moment. I of course turned a flattering shade of, well, red, for lack of a better description. But like a fluorescent sort of glow stick red only before seen at raves and often the color of piñatas at seven year olds violent birthday parties. And I started laughing. Like a lot. My brother once told me that if I ever want to get married, don’t laugh in front of my future husband. However needless to say, I tend to laugh at the very worst inopportune moments. When all surrounding sounds are muted or turned way down low in respect to the importance of the occasion. Like church, or fancy dinners where everyone puts their napkins on their laps and checks their suit jackets at the door, or, when on presentation in tango class. So, anyway, that’s the very same laugh that I started doing, like a hysterical deafening cackle as I tangoed around the room, redder than a redneck. My boyfriend on the contrary, becomes an ostrich. Completely frozen, playing dead, bury his head in the sand type of frozen stiff. So here we are, warmly welcomed to tango lessons, cackling tomato girl and possum boy. What an attractive couple.

A couple weeks later, we felt ready to take our show on the road, well, the equivalent being Sundays from 6:00-7:30 tango evenings at the glamorous Madonna Inn. The tango dance sessions that Madonna hosted were completely free, being a college student that was essential. It was a fun, public event for those with a Latin vibe in their dance moves.

Fully prepared for an evening of seat warming and admiring the pretty dancers at the gorgeously exquisite notoriously pink mansion of a hotel, I was taken off my guard when an elderly gentleman approached me asking for a dance. I stuttered that I don’t actually tango and unless his shoes didn’t mind having the bottom of my stilettos permanently imprinted on them, then it probably wasn’t a good idea. He chuckled in a good-humored sort of way and offered to teach me. Sold.

No longer attempting to maintain a shard of dignity, I followed him out to the floor, letting him twist and turn me any which way. Traipsing along five steps behind, trying to match his zest for the dance. A feat that didn’t seem possible.

Returning slightly exhausted and extremely humbled, I enthusiastically sank into the big fancy chairs surrounding the dance floor and admired those that we deemed “experts” twisting and twirling out in the center of the floor. Pretending to critique their performance, we really just marveled at the fluidity of their moves and the natural rhythm that they exuded from a meticulously gentle flick of the hips. “Wow” I wondered, regarding the spectacle, “I wonder if we’ll be able to dance like that when we’re sixty?” “Nah”, my practical boyfriend dismissed, “We’d have to had started four years ago to come anything close” Unfortunately I had to agree with him.


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