Thursday, July 2, 2015

T for Tango Addict

Tango is her sin?  Her addiction?
Are you a tango addict?  A tango sinner?  Do you shamefully bear the "T" upon your forehead?

I hope that that one day all the references about being a tango addict will be seen as worn out joke.  I know it's easy to talk in terms of getting a "fix" with anything that is pleasurable, but it's time to give it a rest, especially for tango.

I have a therapist friend, who says in all seriousness that I am a tango "addict."  He grew up in a church that banned all dancing because it was a sin.  He presently spends far more time in front of a television than I do dancing.   His boob-tube time, just as my time dance, is not destroying our lives or giving us hangovers. His TV and my tango are activities that are not ruining our social lives.  We continue to be able to perform at work.  Is his "clinically informed" diagnosis that I am a tango addict a product of scientific analysis?  I think it is more likely that his reasoning is clouded by his earlier belief that dance was a sin.   Sin/addiction.  One coin, two sides.  In countries like Cuba, where dancing as a culture is seen as healthy, you won't hear "sin/addiction" language about dance.

It's not about tango

In reality this post is not about tango.  It's about inappropriate humor.   It is not funny to joke that you have an eating disorder in the presence of someone who truly does.  It is not a joke to say you are an addict in the presence of someone who so suffers.

With very questionable science* behind the concepts, the addiction business is exponentially expanding. Food addictions. Gambling addictions. Sex addictions. Tango addictions?  What will be next? Fishing addictions and holding-your-children addictions? Even one theologian has a convincing book:  "Sin as Addiction."  The theologian is missing the point!  Sin and addiction are historically the same.  One coin, two sides.  As a therapist, I used to believe the medical model for sin was more humane, but I no longer think so.  You see, being a sinner allows for repentance and a new start.  Being an "addict" is a lifelong "disease" or "sickness."  I feel a rap song coming on:

Sin/addiction make up a two-sided coin of lead.
It carries lots of weight, but get a silver one instead.

This way or that:  Two sides of the same coin.
Tango & Procrastination
I may from time to time dance "too much," but in every case it is helping me to ameliorate some stress at work or missing my family when they are all so far away.  Surely there are moments that compulsions towards pleasure can take us away from the task we have to do.  But so what?  When he was 18, my wise son once said, "Dad, I don't think that any creative idea came about unless the person was procrastinating about something they were supposed to be doing."  He showed me an impressive drawing he had done as proof.

What to say instead of "tango fix"
One of my favorite words in German is "Streicheleinheiten," which literally means "units of caressing."  People get these units from cuddling with people they love or one's dog might desire some of these "units."  Tango gives me "hug units" and "dance-to-the-music units," and "social interaction units."  I think the world needs "tango units," because we--the speaking-music-making-dancing-social animal--needs these units.  The dishes will get done. The taxes will get done.  At the end of life, we will have wished that we had more tango units, not that we had not filled out more forms or had a cleaner kitchen.

Need some tango units?  Go dance.  It's good for you.  Rub off the tango-sinner-addict "T" from your forehead!  For the vast majority of people who dance,  tango is no more an addiction than it is a sin.  The Path of Pleasure can be a spiritual path.  If you are not comfortable on the Path of Pleasure now, you will not be comfortable walking the streets of heaven.

Photo credits:
(1)  Woman with the "T" on her forehead:  Photographer is  K.M.  Model is I.M., her sister.  Photo concept:  Mark Word

(2)  Sin and Addiction sign--a coin with two sides:


*More reading about the politics and pseudo-science of addiction:
(1) Perhaps you have read "Is Argentine Tango another Behavioral Addiction," which is often given as a link on social media. This article in the Journal of Behavioral Addiction answers its own question by pointing out that tango was nearly always a positive influence in the dancers' lives.  Nevertheless, mostly I have seen this article used to prove that tango is an addiction!

(2)  Cultural beliefs about sin and addiction actually predict poor outcomes in cultures who ascribe to the sin/addiction model.  In other words, the joke is not funny.  Tango isn't a "ha-ha-ha addiction."  Stop it, please.

(3) Scientists in Canada, not influenced by financial gain of the "addiction business," stood up against the American Psychiatric Association's politically skewed "science" by pointing out that the very basis of addiction theory was greatly flawed and has caused the APA and their beloved followers (the world) to go down a path that focuses on the "sick" individual rather than the larger picture that indicates a need for social bonding.   Their impressive work was ignored and their further study grant was withdrawn.  In a "Rat Park" the scientists put "addicted" rats who were given self-administered morphine for 57 days.  The 57-days were in a terrible little cage.  Then the rats were transferred into a rat paradise park with lots of things to do.  The large majority of rats gave up their drug use, although morphine-laden water was always available to them in the park.  Set up a morphine bar at a milonga, and you won't see many people taking part.  In a sense the Rat Park was like a good milonga.  :-)  [Added 18 July 2015:  This TedTalk may change the way you understand your "tango addiction."  Although we mostly joke about tango addictions, the false beliefs about addictions actually generate the analogy and way of (mis)understanding the joy of tango. ]

And an earlier article he wrote which is in essence a transcription of his talk:

(4)  Addiction theory / treatment may not based on scientific proof.  Time:

(5) 40% of College students may be labeled as alcoholics by the ever-expanding definition of addiction:  Remember the rule?  Once an addict, always an addict--that is, if one wants to not look at the evidence all around you (your old college friends maybe?).  Most "addictive" behavior stops without treatment before the age of 30 and without treatment.

(6)  Heavy drinkers outlive teetotalers (non-drinkers)?  Yes.  If you don't drink, maybe you should start!  In this study over a long period of time, the three groups studied (social drinkers, heavy drinkers and abstainers) showed that those who did not drink at all had the highest mortality rate.  What this means for tango dancers:  The "addicted" dancers will undoubtedly live longer than non-tango dancers.  That's my guess, at least. :-),9171,2017200,00.html


  1. I kind of like the "tango as addiction" idea as a way to take the addiction framework ad absurdum. Lifestyle moralists have falsely "addictionized" a lot of recreational activities in order to create phony scientific justifications for suppressing them.

    1. Ferdinand, this was said in one sentence better than my entire article. :-)


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