My colleague summarized what I just explained. “So, you have the introverts. Then you have the ones with daddy or mommy issues. What am I forgetting? Lack of confidence around another gender, inability to connect with people, a bad marriage, divorce, loneliness, or childhood trauma.” “Correct,” I said. “Or other challenging circumstances, like unemployment or money issues.” We were discussing why dancing tango is beneficial for the soul. “And you say tango is helping people with all of that and should be financed by health insurance.” “It’s only logical,” I said. I hadn’t told him that cushy subsidies might also make life easier for milonga organizers like me.
Once tango outsiders consider sex may not be our main motive, they mostly wonder how crazy we are, dancing three nights per week and going to marathons. ‘But the dancing is therapeutic’, I told my colleague, justifying going off early. “I’m sure it is,” he said, raising an eyebrow. I repeated my claim that tango dancing is beneficial for our physical and mental health. ‘Okay, but people playing chess or collecting stamps may say the same thing.’ ‘No, no, it’s not like that, it’s… deeper.’ He frowned and I could tell he wasn’t convinced. “Like running is good against depression,” I added feebly. “Are you all depressed?”. “No”, I said. “Well, not all of us.”
“Tango is transformative. It’s about growing as a person,” I tried. “Everybody wants to transform nowadays, except my boss,” he said. I reminded myself there are good reasons to keep your tango life private. He winked at me. “I can see you get many… stimulations out of dancing.” Not showing my irritation I said: “Sure, it’s the adrenaline and endorphin and oxytocin being released that makes you feel good.” “But how does the transformation thing work?”, he wondered.
I was improvising now. “First, they hook you in such a way that you can’t stop,” I explained. “Then it’s a frustration for some years and you want to quit, thinking you’ll never be good at it.” “That sounds terrible.” “It’s character building. In the meantime, you get rejected, insulted, mansplained and taken advantage of. Your relations may suffer, too.” “And this is supposed to be good for you?” “I forgot to mention some humiliation may be involved, but not enough to kill you.” “And this you want to be covered by health insurance?” “Well, the idea is, after you’ve overcome all this, your daily challenges will seem trivial and you’re fine.” “Is the effect lasting?” “No, you continue the treatment permanently.”
I threw in some facts I picked up over the years. “Research shows improved cognitive functions, especially in areas such as attention, memory, and decision-making. Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression…Improved mood and overall well-being, social connectedness… Of course, they didn’t research the people that didn’t make it.” “But hang on,” he said, “You’re not an introvert or depressed, are you?” “No, I’m an escapist with attention deficit,” “You’re what?” “I get bored easily,” I said. ‘’ “What is it you’re escaping from?” I stared at him long but I didn’t say “From you,” because I’m much too nice a guy for that, and tango has transformed me into a hugging, spineless, hippie pussycat.