This will not be one of those carefully constructed blogs in which I clearly make my point and then end on a positive note.
This will be a rant.
I am not in the habit of asking men to dance at milongas. It isn’t my style. It just so happens that I broke ranks the other night and did so, with disastrous consequences.
I was traveling and in an unfamiliar market. I had been there about ten days, over the course of which I attended eight milongas. It seemed like a great way to experience a lot of dancing with many different people.
At the eighth milonga (oh, why did I have to go?) I came a cropper. I had been observing an older man (let’s say, mid-70’s, closely resembling my father) nearly all week, and noticed that he seemed like a very nice dancer. In particular, a nice dancer of milonga. Now, I had spent the entire time in this market NOT dancing milonga, because no one knew me, and it seems that few men want to risk inviting an unknown person to perform what is perceived to be a difficult and faster dance.
I was dying. Ten days in these beautiful venues with no milonga tanda.
This gentleman appeared to dance with other people – in other words, he seemed to circulate amongst his friends. I took a chance. About two hours into the evening, a milonga tanda started and I noticed he did not invite anyone. I decided to introduce myself, say I was from out of town, and ask if he would be willing to dance with me.
At this point, my evening took a turn for the worse.
A woman seated next to him stared at me with rage in her eyes. The kind of rage you might see in the eyes of Lord Voltemort from the Harry Potter movies. She said that I should be asking for her permission instead of his, and by the way it was my responsibility to verify his marital status.
His marital status??
“The Codes, oh no, The Codes,” I thought. “How could I have missed a Code? “
I am familiar with the practice of men requesting permission from other men if a woman is accompanied at a dance, but was not aware of any Code that worked in reverse. A reverse Argentine Code! One that favors the women! This did not seem possible…
I quickly turned to her and apologized saying I was not from the area and didn’t really know anyone (least of all marital status). Furthermore, how lucky she was to be married to a man who danced so well. I did not mention the fact that the man reminded me of Father Christmas, and that I just wanted to, over the course of ten long days, dance one stinkin’ milonga tanda.
As the man got up to dance with me, she raised her voice and said to him pointedly that he would eventually have her permission to dance with someone else, but not before an entire year had passed.
Que momento de mierda!
I smiled ingratiatingly, while searching furtively for an emergency exit. I was then put in the horrible position of turning this very nice man down, while no doubt everyone in the milonga looked on. How must he have felt? My Texas ranching mind turned quickly to scenes of castration, but I don’t want to dirty up this blog with descriptions of cowboys and livestock.
I returned as jauntily as possible to my seat and quickly told my companion (a man from England) what had happened. (May I note here that no one at the milonga was asking his permission to dance with me? Can I just say that?)
“There’s clearly nothing for me to do but find a back door and call a cab,” I said to him. He didn’t quite understand, but it was obvious that I was done for the evening. He suggested an exit strategy and out I went.
I will never attempt this again. Anywhere. Unless I know the person really well. And he obviously can’t be married. Or possibly dating. Or sitting next to anyone else. Or even sitting next to an empty chair with a purse on it.
And, like a character from The Godfather, when entering a milonga, I am going to always identify an alternative exit.