Four times, four times I said no. With my mouth, a sound, not a slight head movement in a well-played cabaceo. No, face to face, with eye contact. No, no thank you, no, thank you but no, not right now. That ‘not right now’? a STUPID crack in the door [Palm to face]. The fifth time? I was grabbed by the hand and pulled to the floor to dance. Fine. I am uncomfortable, feeling some weird shade of guilt I can’t really contend with — and it hits me. I still have some power in this moment, but what is it… what is my ground?

I danced flat-footed. I was heavy. I was channeling my week one self. I went left when he went right. I laughed like he was being funny rather than serious when he instructed me, “come on now, left right left right. You can do this.” Yes, I can. But I refuse… suck a bag of dicks. He at one point said, “I will push and drag you through this if I have to.” Like I am silly, and need to be manhandled. That manhandling is an act of generosity on his part.

Oh gee thanks, yeah. WHY do I feel GUILTY?

At the end of the tanda he pats me on the shoulder and says with a wink, “See you can do it.”

The next tanda my friend volcadas me past the table where Mr. Pushy-pants is sitting. He looks up from his incessant instruction this time at the poor woman sitting in ear shot of him and winks at me again. Clueless?

This man isn’t a jerk, he has a kind face, is always polite and always says hello. He smells nice, wears a clean freshly ironed shirt to every Milonga and is the secret bane of many women at Milongas. How do you say no to a nice man who won’t take no for an answer?  Female empowerment isn’t simple. Saying ‘No’ doesn’t always, fuck that!  it usually doesn’t work. The guilt that ices that cake can be the sweet spot some choice men are working. How do so many women end up buried in the yard of that nice man who lives down the street? because he was persistent and had a kind face.  Mix that with some guilt for saying no several times? You have women ground into pork burgers for the local PD. I wish I were making up those comparisons but both are recent news.

A firm talking to, to women like me doesn’t undo the desire to be kind, respectful and accommodating to the persistent men in the tango community. I feel bad when I say no. I feel guilty when I am secretly thinking this dance is awful and honestly it’s hurting my feet and my back. It’s never as simple as just saying no. It’s never solved by telling me to toughen the fuck up. That it’s my own damn fault. I know my part. I feel it right now, a pit in my stomach, a ball of guilt in my throat I can’t swallow or spit out. I’m damned if I do dance with him and damned to feel like a jerk if I don’t. Stop feeling sorry for people? For myself? Stop caring? Care less? Just don’t care about him? It just isn’t that simple. Or at least in this moment right now, as I write this, this feels very complicated. He is a nice man… I did say no with my mouth four times. Now I have to spend time meditating on the next tactic I have to experiment with on him this weekend. Do I pull him aside? Do I keep running away? I know there is an answer out there that fits my personality that expands me out into a better version of myself rather than feeling like a complicated experiment in channeling a personality other than my own.

I am aware men experience their own version of this as well. Usually men who are experienced dancers lament that they have a hard time saying no to aggressive women. They can spend an entire night trying to get a dance in with women they choose. I am not attacking men. I am frustrated with myself for not knowing how to be efficent and respectful in getting out of this awkward situation when it happens. Even writing this last paragraph here to make sure I don’t offend anyone… guilt.  A premptive — I’m sorry.



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