I have a complicated cultural background. Born in Spain to parents who were also born in Spain but raised in Argentina, I was never sure what to bring to my school’s “We Are All Americans” Day. I was raised in the U.S., after all. I like hamburgers. I’ve got family in Argentina – my parents’ siblings’ generation and their kids – and Spain – my grandparents’ generation and their offspring. If someone talks about going “back home,” I generally just head for New Jersey.
Still, these roots do exert some kind of pull, and it was with this in mind that I signed up for tango lessons about ten years ago. I didn’t grow up listening to tango – it would have been like Elvis Presley songs are to my kids today, just some old-fashioned stuff you sometimes hear on the radio. Still, my best friend from high school had the inside scoop on the city’s finest tango classes, and wanted a buddy to join her.
It was a funny time in our lives. We met before high school, when our respective Catholic grammar schools shipped us off to the local high school for “gifted and talented” classes. But it wasn’t until we both wound up in the same Catholic all-girls’ school that we became inseparable. We were the “modeling club mafia,” poring over Vogue magazines and staging fashion shows that held all the allure of an all-girls’ school event (boys came from miles away). When we were done with high school, we stayed friends, and have been until today.
Still, when we decided to take these tango classes in the city, our lives were in a bit of disconnect. I was just emerging from the fog of having two babies eighteen months apart, lucky to slip on two matching shoes, in a marriage that was already starting to falter. While my kids were just starting elementary school, she was in a high-powered and glamorous job that required long hours at modeling shoots and involved meeting celebrities. Just past the mid-point of our thirties, she was still single and childless. I tried to explain my all-encompassing but problematic fervor for making my kids’ lives perfect. She tried to explain about the latest hot New York City restaurant. Tango class was a way of finding some common ground when there seemed to be so little.
I fell in instant crush with our tango instructor, an impossibly hot blond guy who could pull you in close and drag you around a dance floor and make you feel like a competent tango dancer. She laughed and practiced the steps. We had a blast, and part of the fun was the tango music.
We only took tango for about a year, and to this day, I can’t say I dance it particularly well. Our lives were thrown into some more mismatch when, just as I was getting my divorce and seeing some independence as my kids got older, she had her late-in-life baby. I saw her less, then, as she began to experience how sweeping motherhood really is. I was glad we’d had our chance for tango in the little moment of exhale when I was just getting a grasp on being a mom and she was just about to enter it.
We talk all the time, but don’t see each other as often as I’d like. I had lunch with her a couple of weeks ago, and thirty plus years of memories swept over me as I saw her beautiful face and we chatted about everything. For some reason, it reminded me a lot of tango time. I searched out one of my favorite discoveries of our tango year – a modern spin on classic old tango rhythms – which at the time made me feel sexy and alive when I really needed it. It was nice to realize it still helps me feel that way, tugging at my heart strings with familiar Spanish words and names of places I’ve been. I play it when I exercise now.
Here’s the song. The string instrument (violin?) is just exquisite. Enjoy! (Bonus points: it’s got my name in the title).