The Dance of Love
I recently started taking tango lessons. I really sucked at first. I tripped and got tangled up. I wavered and wafted. I was terrible, until I realized the male and female dynamic. The male is expected to lead, the woman is expected to follow. The leader needs to be clear and romantic about what he’s asking for, and the follower should be graceful and sensual about how she follows. As soon as I got the idea that the man is in charge, I started dancing better. I know it seems chauvinistic, but this seems to be a great metaphor for a relationship. Perhaps we can learn something from tango.
Now, before you feminists start beating me over the head, hear me out. I consider myself to be a feminist. I’m all for women’s rights, gay lesbian bisexual transgender rights, and for equality. But I just think that perhaps in a relationship, an understanding of the dynamic of feminine and masculine energies might be helpful.
In every relationship I’ve ever been in there has been a power struggle. Who is wearing the pants, me or her? If we are going out to a movie, who gets to decide which movie we are going to? Who decides whether or not the parking job is appropriate? Which person is supposed to be the primary adorner of gifts and service, and which person is supposed to receive those gifts graciously? And if both of our feelings are hurt, which person gets to share their feelings first?
Let’s take the example of choosing a gas station. I want to go to Shell, and she wants to go to 76. Shell is further away, but cheaper, and the 76 is more expensive, but closer. We both have opinions about which gas station we want to go to, but we can’t have it both ways. We both want our way just as strongly – it’s not just about the gas. It’s about this issue that has been building up. We both want to be in charge. So which gas station do we go to?
Tango dancing says that I should control where we go, and that she should follow gracefully. I am taking the masculine role, and she is taking the feminine role. It works perfectly. We go to the gas station, and go on our way, problem solved.
If we both try to lead, just like in tango, we crash into each other. We trip, we topple, we fall. So the man always gets his way. Great.
But that’s not true in tango either. As the lead, I can’t just do anything I want. I can’t just take her dancing out the window, or go so fast she can’t keep up with me. If I go too slow, she gets bored. If I spin her and spin her and spin her, she gets dizzy. So I have to try my best to please her. To offer her leadership that romances her and gives the opportunity for her to shine and sparkle.
Let’s say our feelings are hurt. She’s on the verge of tears, and I have a lump in my throat. We are both equally hurt. Who gets to have their feelings heard first? If we both share at the same time, it becomes a shouting match. “You really hurt me by doing that.” “Oh yeah? Well, I’m hurt too!” “You’re not listening to me! I’m hurt!” “Well, that’s because you’re hurting me!”
Watch any great tango couple, and ask yourself, which partner has more feeling, the woman or the man? Which partner is being more sensual, more expressive and sensitive? Which person is the star of the show? It’s the woman. Tango says that the woman should get the first word when it comes to feelings. The woman is the sensual one, and the leader should make every effort to please and give to the woman. The woman needs to receive that initiative and sparkle and shine on the dance floor.
So the tango system works like this:
The male leads and plans, and the woman follows respectfully, but the woman can always veto the male’s ideas by not participating. The woman can share her ideas, but she should be respectful of his ‘role’ first.
The woman needs to receive gracefully, and have her feelings honored first, but the man gets to share his feelings after he first listens and honors her ‘role’.
In her book “Staying Married . . . and Loving It”, Dr. Patricia Allen says that the problem with couples today is that too many men act like women, and too many women act like men. She says that the feminist movement offered great strides in the realm of equality and in economics, but it sabotaged our love lives. Going back to this ‘tango system’, she says, would help us not crash into each other while we negotiate the complex dance of love.
Finally, she says that the masculine and feminine roles can be negotiated. In other words, I don’t always have to be the man, and she doesn’t always have to be the woman. We can switch. But we should talk about it. I’ve been working long hours at the office. I’ve been bossing people around, telling everyone what to do, commanding, leading, and then I come home and I have to do it all over again? Maybe sometimes I’d rather just sit back and be given to, and just follow what someone else wants to do for a change. Maybe I want to be the woman in the tango dance sometimes.
So in that sense, this ‘tango system’ is universal to all couples, gay, straight, or everything in between. Have you ever seen a gay couple, for example, where one person definitely filled a masculine role, and another really seemed very feminine? Perhaps we do it naturally, over thousands of years. Dance has after all, been around just as long.