“It takes two to tango,” she said, without explanation. “But…” The youngster before her opened his mouth once more in protest and then, sensing that the conversation was over, shut it abruptly. It was as plain as the nose on his face that his brother was at fault. Surely the boy couldn’t be blamed for taking part in an argument which had been initiated by his evil older sibling. The elbow through the screen door…that was just the result of what his older brother had started. He knew that it was no use. Dad would be home soon. He wouldn’t use enigmatic phrases like “two to tango”, but he had other means, less quaint, to drive home his point. Oh well, what was done, was done. The two who were tangoing would soon face the real music. Still, what did that odd phrase mean?
The boy thought that he may have misunderstood the words his mother said. Perhaps she had said, “…two to tangle.” That would work. When you tangled with someone, you fought with them. One person can’t fight alone. There had to be a second combatant involved. That must be it.
Imagine his surprise, some time later, when the phrase came up in a discussion of two adults who had gotten involved in an extramarital affair. Someone blamed the man, but the boy’s mother, always seeking fairness, said the words again. “Two to tango…that’s what it takes.” He walked away, still puzzled. Not only a fight, but also a close relationship? It would be years later before he understood the oddly worded concept.
I’m not a dancer; not the most coordinated mover you would ever meet, so my knowledge of the tango is only second-hand (the Lovely Lady breathes a sigh of relief…). What I see of the dance however, explains the use of the trite phrase offered for seemingly opposing actions by my mother, so many years ago. The tango has some movements which appear to be combative as the dancers push each other away and work against each other physically, but it also has movements which require a closeness and synchronization that demonstrate almost a oneness, a unity of thought and action. I have watched the dance and imagined what it would be to see just one of the partners moving by himself or herself. Actually, what I have decided is that it couldn’t work at all. The opposing, almost combative, action requires a partner against whom to work. The matching, close action still requires a partner for the movements to be reciprocated. It really does take two to tango!
We live in a world of extremes. I have watched couples tear each other apart, symbolically, as they deal with frustrations and hurts. In many cases, both individuals oppose the other, with resistance building until an all out battle erupts. The two dance their angry, bitter tango until one partner walks away, leaving the other to stand on the stage in wonder at the cessation of the dance. Miraculously, once in a long while, one of the partners will attempt to repair the relationship, exchanging their taunting, contrary moves for the clinging, synchronized ones. But, if the other partner doesn’t soon change the attitude of his or her dance, it is to no avail. It takes two to tango. I have seen times when the change in attitude by one will be reciprocated, and the dance of love and closeness resumes. Those times are, in our day and age, too rare. Our society seems to celebrate the combative spirit, encouraging the dancers to seek other, more exciting, partners. The dance ends in civil court as the last part of their tango for two is played out.
I’ve spent a fair share of my own time shoving and pushing away from others. I’ve come to realize that the close, congenial interaction is much more desirable. We draw strength from each other; we work in tandem with each other; we achieve our goals as we borrow each other’s strengths and smooth over each other’s weaknesses. It still takes two to tango. I like the end of this particular dance a whole lot better, though.
How’s your tango going? You know better than anyone the struggles and the calm, the fights and the embraces. Maybe, it’s time to take a dance lesson or two. I know a Teacher who understands the moves better than any other. He’s even got an opening in His schedule for another student or two. If you’re going to tango anyway, you might as well do it right.
Well, this old guy with two left feet has had enough of this part of the dance for today. I think I’ll head home to spend a little time with my favorite partner.
I haven’t stepped on her feet in quite a while. I’ll try to keep it that way.
“And, hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.”
(“The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear~English writer and poet~1812-1901)
“There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.