Last Tuesday, Social Services launched a national initiative called Week Against Loneliness. At first, I laughed it off as typical for the sector and joked about wanting to hit the streets myself, with signs to demonstrate against infidelity, greed and bad breath. They mean well of course, but please be assured people will be lonely no matter how many weeks of national attention we mobilise for it. It just has too many evolutionary benefits. Also, I couldn’t help thinking about the vast amounts of tax payer funding poured into this issue and how nice it would be if some of it would drift our way. After all, we are fighting loneliness, in the trenches of the welfare state, every week!
Our milonga rents its space from a foundation that purchased this 150-year old school building around 1970. It is called The Open House and organises activities for singles above the age of fifty. The members of the lonely hearts’ club look a lot like the elderly persons that the Week Against Loneliness is showing in television ads this week. However, they seem to be coping well. During the day they play cards, lottery games and shuffle (‘sjoelen’) or practice line dancing. The dance floor is also used on Sunday afternoons for so-called ‘Pink Evenings’; dancing for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. So yeah, our milonga fits right in.
The members of The Open House and our very international tango scene look and sound different, but, we are really quite similar. The tango scene dances a little better, I guess, but The Open House members are probably better at cards and shuffle. The tangueros communicate with just about every English accent in the world while the old Amsterdam crowd speaks their witty, Amsterdam dialect and vernacular. Sometimes our worlds mingle, when a bridge player, who has enjoyed happy hour after the last bridge drive, wanders into our room, marveling at the dancers and looking as if he/she wouldn’t mind a taste of what we have. They are in their bubble and we are in ours, but we are coming to this place for the same reason, to feel alive, appreciated, and less lonely.
In our weekly battle against loneliness we stand shoulder to shoulder with our landlords Harry and Jannie, who coordinate all activities of The Open House. When we signed the contract with them they looked elderly to me. Now, nine years later, they look just the same, but I resemble Methuselah! What if I get an injury and my dancing days are over? What is the contingency plan for my old age? Learning to play bridge seems like a tall order, but in primary school I used to beat my whole family at shuffle… In any case, if a government funding for our worthy cause materialises at some point, I suggest we pass it on to Harry and Jannie. After all, they use it well and I, the aging tanguero, well I, have to think ahead.