The Illusion of Intimacy

Will your Tango friends remember you, when you stop going to Milongas, because you‘re ill or old or just fed up. Won‘t most of them forget you? When I am going to stop teaching and dancing, people will talk about this for a couple of weeks. Some of them will regret it deeply, I‘m sure. But soon they‘ll forget, because there are so many new people, faces, impressions. It‘s overwhelming.

– Melina, Tango Friends

Melina’s blog post expresses my feelings so well. Of course, this is not unique to tango. This is life. We meet many people, we interact with them, and then many of them slip away as quietly as they came into our lives. We forget. A few people stand out, and we take the time to truly know them—those are our true friends. But most people we meet will eventually fade away.

The problem I have with tango is how often we exaggerate the connections we have with the people around us. Maybe it happens because of how intimately we connect with our partners on the dance floor. We can know them deeply without knowing anything about them. In the dance, we feel incredibly connected. In the milonga, we are able to strip away the outside world and be in the moment. We call everyone friend and hug and kiss and embrace. And when we walk away from the milonga, that world easily fades away along with the people in it.

There are some true friends who came into my life through tango. I don’t think it’s impossible. I believe that some of them would still be around, even if I never stepped foot in a milonga again. But there are so many others who call me friend and yet would probably let me slip away. What does that do to us? How does it change us to feel so close and yet so detached from the people around us? (It seems like a strange form of anomie.) I suppose these are the times to intentionally focus on those people who are truly our friends. To remind ourselves of reality and put our energy where it really matters.

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2 thoughts on “The Illusion of Intimacy

  1. Via your post, I read Melina’s post. I think that the problem is that we can too easily see the dynamic of tango friendship as being superficial. Perhaps. But we would complain if we had to transform what it now is to something more profound — knowing lots about our tango friends. I wrote this to Melina: “In two different cities, I have seen two funerals for dancers who have died. The communities swarmed around the widow in DC and widower in Austin. One of the most moving memorials happened at a dance studio during this time. I have stayed in contact with people who fell away because of busy schedules or injuries. They have never come back. I am highly informed about how to define a friendship from working as a therapist with combat vets and alcoholics — sometimes their vision is that a true friend is something that they cannot be themselves; so they end up not having any friends. To me a friend is someone who influences me in a positive way. Period. Socrates can be my friend or a tanguera. It may be forever or just from one thing they said or did that changed my life….” We have many friends … the ones that hold you in their arms and take you heaven on earth for a moment are the nurturing kind of friends that you will need forever.

    • I appreciate your comment, Mark, but I disagree with your definition of friendship. For me, friendship requires a level of trust, honesty, and reciprocation that goes beyond just a positive influence. This isn’t to say that acquaintances and larger social support networks aren’t important, but they aren’t the same as friends.

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