Tuesday night is tango night at my local dance school. Strolling past the class one evening last October, it occurred to me that this was precisely the sort of romantic pursuit befitting a young woman newly arrived on the French Riviera and I signed up on the spot.
Envisioning myself wrapped in the arms of a swarthy señor, it came as a horrible shock when I discovered that my tangero was not Antonio Banderas. Six-foot-five and without a sense of rhythm, dancing with my partner has actually put me in the unusual position of wishing for a man with smaller feet. Still, the situation is not completely desperate; when my partner is absent (often) I have no choice but to pair up with a rather dashing neuroscientist from Buenos Aires. And over the past couple of weeks, I have noticed that our embraces have been getting closer, our steps marching together more in time. Now, my obsession with him consumes me to such an extent that I’m wondering if he has crawled into my neurological pathway and planted a homing device.
For a brain doctor his social skills are astounding; in fact our phone calls, with their shy awkwardness, gentle teasing and thinly veiled flirtation, are quickly becoming one of the highlights of my week. On Monday, after some polite chitchat about the cost of bike rental in Holland, he lisped, ‘It would be my pleasure to be your partner tomorrow.’ ‘Excellent,’ I squealed, clearly playing it cool. ‘There is a problem though’, he continued. ‘Another girl.’ I tried to breath. ‘I promised that I would dance with her ages ago. She hasn’t called but if she’s in class you’ll have to share me.’ Share my Latin Prince? I would not. ‘I called, she didn’t. I get to have you.’ I thought my claim on him tres sophistiqué. ‘Do you want to put a flag in my head?’ He sounded serious. Being a woman of the plume I would have preferred a feather but I was willing to negotiate; at this stage any sign to mark my territory was valid. ‘How about a label?’ I compromised. ‘With my name on it, like your mother would sew on your gym kit.’ This made him laugh. ‘That’ll be one point to me’, I said aloud as I hung up, fully aware that the only person I was gloating to was myself.
Going to class on Tuesday evening, I skipped down the boulevard with the confident swagger of a champion boxer. In the space of half an hour I had transformed myself from slob to señorita. My black dress, synched at the waist with a red belt, showed just enough thigh and hint of cleavage and my eyes were suitably smoky. My entrance into the harshly lit studio was sheer perfection with just the right flourish of flustered breathlessness. The black cashmere shawl draped loosely over my head to protect me from the rain added a certain je ne sais quoi. The moment at which I pulled it back to reveal my identity was characteristically timed to have full dramatic impact. Carmel shrieked with delight. José gasped and leapt out of his chair to embrace me. It took all my will power not to turn around to check if my neuroscientist was looking. This had to be making a favourable impression. Eventually, I allowed myself to send a purposeful glance in his direction. He winked before returning to his conversation with the blonde beside him. I tried to remain dignified and turned to José, whose fawning was making me feel considerably better. I cursed my schoolgirl tactics: arriving late had merely given my rival an advantage. There was nothing left to do but prepare for battle. She had a couple of inches on me but she was scrawny; I reckoned I could take her.
My bullishness, though admirable, was a touch hasty. ‘I told her that I’m your partner tonight,’ he swished to my side gallantly, ‘you did call, after all.’ Alas, my joy was short-lived; we had barely managed one rotation of the room and an eight-step pivot before José shouted for us to tourner. Quick as lightening, Blondie had whisked my neuroscientist away. I, somewhat dumbstruck, was shoved towards Thomas – a silver fox with bulging biceps it’s true, but an OAP nevertheless. I proceeded to spend the next hour dancing very badly whilst having to watch my Latin Prince tango magnificently with someone else. With the debutant class over, only one small consolation presented itself: the advanced students arrived and Blondie too found herself dumped for another woman… one who could actually dance. It is now evident that this neuroscientist is after more than mental stimulation – he needs a girl who can match him in the milongas too. I am now preparing myself for Round 2. I am on a strict regime of ‘Teach Yourself Tango” on You Tube and have Carlos Di Sarli playing on repeat. Although I may have lost the battle, I’m not ready to wave the white flag just yet.