All Tangoed Up

I tried to dance the Argentinian Tango, and it did not go well.

I made a new friend through one of the dating apps, and she is obsessed with dancing. And fishing. If this was a Venn diagram, there would be a circle for fishing and another for tango, and they would barely touch, and in that little sliver would be my new friend. She’s energetic, cheerful, and enthusiastic, and she does this thing where I remember her talking all the time, but we’re always talking about me.

She reached out to me on a dating app, and I talked to her about learning to dance. I’ve been talking about learning to dance for years, and I’ve never followed through on it. Well, she did, and after a false start, we found a place that taught the tango. We went to the class, listened to the lecture, lined up with our partners, and I had a panic attack.

Part of it was because I was overwhelmed. Part of it is because touching makes me uncomfortable, and I couldn’t power through it like I thought I would be able to. To be fair, this was an advanced class, so we were learning a few steps ahead of what I could handle, but still, I was a mess.

The instructor, who was amazing, and who loved dance, saw that I was floundering, and he stepped in to show me the basic tango moves: step, pivot, step, pivot, and so on. I figured out the stepping part, and if we had stopped there, it would have been a successful learning experience. But the pivoting, which I had to guide with my chest, baffled me. The instructor could be heard saying, “Guide me. No, the other way. The other way. Okay, you don’t need to move your feet to pivot. Step, now pivot. You need to stop moving your feet when you pivot. Step, pivot. Try to keep your feet together when you pivot. Step, pivot. You did it! You did it!” I’m pretty sure he was thinking, “Finally!”

My new friend took me out on a break, during which I told her about my touch aversion, which she felt I should have told her about sooner. But in the room where we were hiding, we tried the basic steps. Eventually, I got it, though I will need a lot more practice until I feel comfortable with it. We called it quits there, after a half-hour, so I could get home and recover from the trauma.

I’m excited to go again, and as I suspected, the more I danced, the less the touch thing bothered me, so it should go a lot more smoothly. My dance partner is practically a professional. She’s been dancing since the nineties, so she’s pretty advanced. I worry that she won’t be able to dance at her own level while I’m around, but that doesn’t seem to worry her at all. Probably because, when you’re taking the class and not losing your shit, you have to switch partners, and she would inevitably be paired off with someone with a lot more experience (but not as much as her).

For the past several months, I’ve been writing, or I’ve been editing. I wake up, I write, I clock in at work, I clock out, I write, I make dinner, I watch some TV, and I go to sleep. All weekend, I type what I’ve written and write some more. I sometimes go to the grocery store. If you’ve been paying attention at all, you know that writing is my life, and this seems like it would be ideal, but I really need to get out. My new friend gets all the points for getting me out.

The Princess and the Pauper

Once Upon a Time, there was a pauper who lived in the Magical Kingdom of New York, by way of the Fiefdom of Jersey City. This Pauper was deeply in debt, and had to work two jobs to keep the creditors off of him. Working so hard made him tired.

Once Upon a Time, there was a Princess in a distant kingdom. She had troubles of her own and was also very tired.

The Princess and the Pauper knew each other, but only barely. And yet, one fateful day, she sent a message to the Pauper that she had some frequent-flyer miles, and she wanted to see the Magical Kingdom of New York, over President’s Day, and would he be her guide?

The Pauper remembered being bedazzled by her smile and her attitude, so he opened his doors wide, where she came into his life like a tsunami. She was a princess, in every sense of the world, and demanded the Pauper’s full attention and allegiance. They zigged and zagged through Manhattan, until something caught the Princess’s eye, and everything came to a halt while they investigated. There was much to investigate. They went to the finest restaurants, the finest drinking establishments, the finest merchants, and befriended the finest puppies. Unfortunately the Princess chose the wrong boots for all the walking they were doing, but she persisted. She had to see all of Manhattan in three days, and they almost did.

Meanwhile, the paupers of New York gathered on random weekends at a pub called The International. The Princess’s sightseeing fell on the same weekend as one of these gatherings, and the Pauper had to confirm with the Lead Pauper that he could have a plus-one. This made the Lead Pauper suspicious, and when he and the Princess arrived, the Lead Pauper gave her a look that asked the question, “Who do you think you are?” The gathering of paupers was for paupers, not princesses. But then Lead Pauper and the Princess carried a conversation with their eyes for a split-second, and the Princess was welcome to their corner. The Princess charmed everyone, and was a welcome addition to the gathering.

When the Princess and the Pauper weren’t wearing themselves out in the Magical Kingdom of New York, they were resting. They took refuge from the chilly February air under the blankets and sheets, talking. They talked and talked and cried and laughed and talked some more, all while cuddling. And that’s where they kept it.

At the airport, when it all had to come to an end, she kissed him chastely but passionately, and when she pulled away, she nibbled on his lower lip. That was when he fell in love with her. This wasn’t the pining, focused, often possessive love of fairy tales but rather a sense of joy knowing that she was in the world, bedazzling others with a smile and a wink. He never fell out of love with her, even through several girlfriends and a long marriage, and when the Princess found her Prince and is now Queen of her own kingdom. They don’t talk often, but every President’s Day, they reach out and remind each other what that weekend felt like.

And they lived happily ever after in their own lives, knowing that, on the day when everyone in the US celebrated their presidents or, more likely, their day off, the Princess and the Pauper would always celebrate each other.

My Silly Valentine

Having been single for the first twenty years of my life, I grew to hate Valentine’s Day. Here was a card that, like Mother’s Day, was invented just to sell flowers and cards. I used to think that, if couples needed to wait until one specific day of the year to do something special for each other, then maybe their relationship wasn’t so special.

At the age of twenty-five, I was dumped on Valentine’s Day after we celebrated it together and I spent a lot of money on her. We won’t discuss whether I deserved to be dumped because I totally did.

At the age of twenty-two, I made a friend whose birthday was on the thirteenth, so I would celebrate that instead. (I lost touch with her for around fifteen years, but I always celebrated February 13 for her.)

While married, Valentine’s Day became just another day, as we focused our celebrations on the dates that mattered to us specifically, i.e. our anniversary, the anniversary of the day I left New York to be with her, and, as the years progressed, her religious holidays.

I did have a Valentine’s Day on an undisclosed year of my life that is one of my fondest memories. It started out playful and flirty and hit kind of an ugly point, but we brought it back together, and that night, while she slept, I think I fell in love with her (but I never told her—one of the greatest regrets of my life).

As I’ve gotten older, and I’m already looking at forty-five in my rearview mirror, I’ve come to realize what Valentine’s Day is really about. It’s about giving out those little cards to everyone in your class, even the ones you hated, the ones with the puns and your favorite superhero on them. It’s about those candy hearts that say, “Be Mine” and other phrases I can’t remember anymore, the ones you were supposed to give the apple of your eye, but you just ended up eating it yourself. It’s about pink streamers and cutting hearts out of construction paper, and the red sheets always running out before you can get to it. With the exception of my nearly perfect Valentine’s Day outlined above, this is the Valentine’s Day I want to celebrate—kids who have no idea what romance is being creative and funny to each other, passing each other pieces of paper that advertise a fast-food version of said romance.

When you’re with your beloved, and you’re irritated that none of the restaurants have any space for couples, and you forgot to make reservations. The ones that do have openings jack up their prices for the day. You just spent over a hundred dollars on flowers and chocolates, and you have no idea what to talk about on a date with someone you’ve been living with for years, just remember when that girl you definitely didn’t like, especially not like that, handed you a card that had Aquaman on it, and it said, “I ‘sea’ you, Valentine” and long for those days. I generally don’t think that things were better when I was a kid, but in the case of Valentine’s Day, it totally was.