I once believed that the social environment of a milonga was similar to going back to middle school. I no longer believe this. The difference now is that I believe that we can work out some of the things that we didn't when we were in our early development years.
Feeling rejection is in some ways very good. The inner child is there, speaking up and saying, "What about me?" A masculine man may not even listen to this inner child, but at the same time his feeling of rejection can lead to aggressive behavior. So being aware of this "inner child" is very important.
Rejection is a huge psychological subject. Some rejection will never go away. Some rejection can be easily fixed, which I will call "logistical rejection." The logistical solution is easier than the psychological one. So let's address the easier topic first:
Some people won't ever dance with you, and it has nothing to do with you. If you are a beginner there will be a day that you have too many friends to dance with and you will be forced to reject someone new. So the beginner or new person in a community must go back to the "logistical basics" in order to get a dance: Be pleasant. Dress well. Learn to dance well. Meet people at your level in classes. Dance a lot. Be patient!
Logistical questions aside, now we have the psychological and spiritual questions which are much harder. You would think that we already worked out issues of rejection, but really it is a life-long spiritual path we are on. Growing up takes a lifetime.
I made a huge jump out of my middle school mentality recently, but I think it was because of many stair steps of trying to grow up psychologically with the help of a very wonderful tango community in Austin, Texas, full of caring human beings. I will tell you about incidences of rejection in each of the several SOLUTIONS that follow.
SOLUTION ONE: The "One-Day-She'll-be-Sorry" method: I can say, "One day I will be better and she will wish that she could dance with me!" That is a pretty good defense mechanism to deal with the rejection, but really have I grown up when using solution one? Am I still in middle school? What if I don't get better or even more likely, we both get better? I do not want to be unforgiving as a person; so this option is not very spiritually evolved. Lori in Germany danced with me once after I had been dancing for less than 4 months. I just came to see my boys in Germany, and I thought I was pretty darn good at tango -- at least as a beginner. I was fairly ignorant about not only dancing but the conventions ("codicos") of tango. Well, after our one dance, she never looked at me again. Others were gracious. Eventually -- two years later -- she looked at me with the clear desire to dance. My SOLUTION ONE was to pretend that I didn't see her gaze, so she would feel sorry that she rejected me. But I just had grown up a bit. I was delighted that a woman at her level was nodding at me without me even trying.
SOLUTION TWO: The Ask Her Method: I could ask a lady why she never even looks at me for a cabeceo, but the truth could be hurtful or put her in a bad place to lie for my own good. If I am struggling with a case of my own middle school mentality this "solution" could be dangerous because the truth could devastate me. On the other hand, if I accept that adults have the right to pick their friends and it is all about THEM and not about ME, then asking is not dangerous. Although I do not suggest it, I have effectively used the SOLUTION TWO/Ask Her Method. I asked an advanced tanguera in Austin in an email "why" once. I regretted hitting the send button. However, I was surprised of how Sheila responded with, "please call me and we'll talk." This could have gone bad. But she explained in a long telephone conversation that she had a limited list of people with whom she dances. After all she has been dancing for a long time. Many were not good dancers but friends. So it had nothing to do with me or my level of ability. She also commented on how she had danced with me and it was at that time not so comfortable.
A few weeks later, SHE asked ME at a practica. Our dance was very healing for me. I do not have to ask her again, although I have once. It was enough that she gave me a chance. What I learned from Sheila: Both men and women have a list and being a good dancer is not a prerequisite to be on this list. I dance with friends first, then guests. The "why" may have nothing to do with the woman's level or her femininity. Tangueros and tangueras all have friends they dance with first or even more than one tanda. The night is not long enough to keep adding new people to your list.
SOLUTION THREE: The Military Method (don't ask/don't tell/don't think so much): This method requires numbing our feelings (required in combat); so it's name is very appropriate. This tactical approach does work but also has problems to it. The Military Method is the easiest and best solution that allows life to heal your moments of rejection. If a middle-school moment happens and we experience rejection, go find a new friend or just be patient while you find friends. Life heals.
Many people effectively use the Military Method. The self-talk goes like this: Get over it! You are not in middle school! Graduate! Grow up! Forgive and forget! Don't be so damned sensitive! Or to your "inner child": Stop being a cry-baby! The Military Solution will work to help you get out there and just dance. But can you really ORDER yourself to take away the hurtful twinge of rejection, which leaves you perhaps even more sensitive or even aggressive later? You have been pretty hard on the "inner child" or the hurt pre-teen inside your heart.
SOLUTION FOUR is tango itself (movement). Tango will be the most effective solution when practiced and understood as a solution.
SOLUTION FOUR for Rejection:
Soul-Work through Tango Therapy
Solution four is really a SOULution. If you are hurt, demotivated and rejected at a milonga, you now have the chance to graduate from middle school! I am suggesting that tango itself (by yourself) can help you deal with the unresolved "stuff" from your teen years -- rejection, self-esteem, body concept issues, bullying, etc. One can do this with another caring person in tango, but this soul-work is best done alone and without prescribed dance steps -- boleos here, volcadas there. The solution is in a graceful, meditative walk while pondering the hurtful event. It is NOT just going out on a walk and kind of thinking about this. There is an important protocol to follow which has proven effective results as used to help rape victims and others who have faced physical trauma and tragic events.
This is powerful stuff. You should not believe me. Instead, I will give you a task that will prove how powerful this is....
To be continued in April.