He came in late. Young, white t-shirt and jeans. Looked very much like a scrawny, skinnier version of the last guy I dated. He easily stood out in a room full of middle aged tangueros dressed up in their Sunday best.
The music was breathing through the room, the dancers walked and hugged and laughed and smiled and some had focused faces. I loved sitting at the desk in the lobby, watching these people tell their stories on the other side of the turn of the century ballroom’s double doors. They don’t know it while they’re dancing, but I get to see it. Each person that comes in has a past, a present, and a future. There they move in that large room, living in the present while their past has brought them here and their future invites them to keep taking steps–of all shapes, sizes, styles, and moods.
I checked him in, got his name, took his cash, and off he went to the full-of-life ballroom to put on his shoes.
I don’t remember who asked who to dance. I don’t remember what the dance felt like except that I knew by his embrace that he learned to dance at a particular studio. There, they teach a half open, half closed embrace that drives me batty. It makes me want to stop and say, with built up annoyance, “Pick. One.” At the same time, it was his embrace that I trusted the most…it was consistent and remained circular so he always knew exactly where my axis and my weight was.
After the first tanda, we talked and sat and I quickly discovered this was a kid of a million questions.
Me: how long have you been dancing?
He: Is time really an accurate measure of my experience?
How long have you been dancing?
Do you feel like that age?
I think I’ve been dancing for 3 years? I think I feel older than that. Sometimes I feel younger than that.
Why do you dance?
Why do I dance? Me, personally? To feel everything.
Why do you want to feel everything?
Isn’t feeling everything better than feeling nothing? Some people dance to feel nothing. To escape or avoid whatever they could be feeling….I want to dance to feel every part of myself. The good, the bad, the funny, and the unexpected.
So does that make tango some kind of therapy? A vitalizing, dynamic spatial movement exploration that lets us try on sensory patterns or reflections?
This kid, jeez. Question after question. Simple and then profound. Straight forward and then philosophical. Where in the world did he come from and why, oh why, so many questions?
He would ask,
Why do I do things?
Why do I feel that way?
Why, why, why?
How do you know?
What do you think about this?
What do you think about that?
Why do you think about it that way?
It was remarkable, unbelievable, eye-opening and challenging. And oddly enough, completely non-threatening. He was not asking questions to prove a point, to interrogate, to settle an argument, or to persuade.
He was asking without asking,
HOW CAN I UNDERSTAND YOU MORE?
Over those four weeks, I felt like I took an in depth study of myself. As if it was a summer college philosophical course, or something. And similar to the path of knowledge learning usually takes, I wound up with many more questions than answers. And felt very ok through that whole process.
There were a few themes:
What does it mean to love unconditionally? Who gets unconditional love? Everybody? Those who deserve it? How do you measure who deserves it?
Why are norms and expectations so powerful and resistant to change? In our families? In our societies? In our relationships of all kinds as we change?
Who would we be if our past did not define us? How do we trade in our anger, sadness, bitterness for an opportunity to love?
This is one of those life happenings that means that something better is in store, right? Is a better friend to come? A better place to live? Another love?
Why do we create stories to fuel our insecurites?
What am I doing? Do I want to be doing this? How can I be doing this better? How can I love and accept love better?
This skinny-minny, red-head, sad, satirical, caring, humorous in his truth-telling, tech-geek kid seemed to understand me before I understood me. He wasn’t that much younger, just a few years. It’s like he took a college course recently about life that I had missed in my undergraduate years. And I was the Psych major! If I could name it, that pseudo-summer learning “course” would have been called Self-Inquiry. I discovered that how I saw myself was a direct reflection of how I saw the world. I also learned that asking questions helped me learn a lot about others. Which helped me remember them too. I know it’s so easy to bond quickly over gripes and complaints and common annoyances. It’s much more rewarding, not to mention the good kind of vulnerable, when I make an effort to bond positively…usually that means I have to ask a question or two to figure out what I have in common with someone.
We still talk, that exceptional kid and I. ‘Paramour’ is usually how I address him when I pick up his call. The tender romance that word touches on existed briefly in his never ending questions that summer. Didn’t matter where we were then or how we were occupying space together; moving together on the dancefloor, driving or sitting in the car, snuggled and musing softly in the library, cooking in the wee hours of the morning in the kitchen, soaking sun by the pool, or quietly whispering at night. The storybook romance of that time together has moved on but the personal, vulnerable, and “you are important to me” bond still lasts.
Always starting with the authentically asked question,
filled with intention and meaning,…
Darling, how are you….really?
So a paramour he shall be.