‘I apologize for writing directly to you, but you’ve come highly recommended, and we would just love to have you in our Encuentro’, the English woman wrote. A couple of things were going through my mind. One, is this a new level of event marketing that I’m supposed to explore? Two, who do I know in the UK that would put this woman on my trail? I stared at the message for a while, annoyed that this approach slightly tickled my ego. I ignore it, assuming this person was merely desperate to get her Encuentro filled up with any middle-aged, mildly overweight, grey-haired leader she could coax into joining.
I remind you I’m from Rotterdam. Friends would greet you, saying you looked less shitty than last time. So now I have a problem receiving praise. I know I’m not the only one, either. There’s probably some psychological thing going on. Thinking you should be perfect, and therefore feeling unworthy of appreciation. Or, when it’s public praise, a fear of standing out too much and people disliking you for it. In my hometown, we saw smooth talk as an Amsterdam thing. So, compliments to me are a suspicious way to manipulate someone into doing something they likely don’t want to do. Like going to a tango event in the UK, where you don’t know anybody, and are unsure of the level of dancing.
Long ago a tall guy from The Hague, far more experienced in milonga life than me, told me tango dancers are inclined to flirtatious flattery. ‘The whole flattery thing is part of it all’, he said. ‘It’s a way to get into the mood’. I didn’t know what he was talking about, so I asked, ‘What mood are you referring to?’ ‘A feelgood mood’, he said. ‘It’s nicer to dance with someone who feels good about herself.’ It seemed very logical, the way he explained it. ‘But you mean what you say when you give a compliment, right?’ I asked. ‘Sure, I mean it. Well, sort of,’ he said.
Over the years, I’ve come to see his point. Flattery is part of tango culture. People coming to a milonga expect to be seen and appreciated. After all, what is the point of standing close to someone who couldn’t care less about you? Slowly, I’ve overcome my intolerance for flattery. I can nowadays bring myself to say someone looks great if in fact they look great. I never have to lie because I’m a glass-half-full guy. When in doubt, I’ll just say you look fine.
Now here’s the thing. The other week, another woman, from Germany this time, also wrote me that she would love to have me at her event. ‘You come highly recommended,’ she wrote. I thought, wait a minute, are they all going to the same training? What’s going on here? Two in a week, it can’t be a coincidence, surely. My ego swelled annoyingly again. I considered declining but wrote to her I would pencil the event in my agenda as a ‘maybe.’ Apparently, flattery works, if repeated. But I guess you probably know this already, being the great-looking, wonderfully smart, excellent dancers and perceptive readers that you are.
Published: 16 Apr 2023 @ 18:09