I told a friend that Argentinians make their men like they make their shoes. She requested clarification, and also differentiation between Argentinians and Italians.
It would be horribly unfair to stereotype two entire countries based on one woman’s sample populations of men and shoes. So here goes.
My journey through shoes was exactly the same as my journey through men. So here I tell both stories at once.
The Argentinians look beautiful, hot and sexy and impossibly elegant in an irresistibly seductive way, with just that touch of street that makes the elegance pulse-racingly accessible. A woman is helpless when confronted with their lottery-winning genetic charms. Resistance is futile.
But they’re not as easy to get as you might think, even though milongas are full of them, every woman seems to have sampled at least one, and you can go to a tango festival and there’s zillions of them there unclaimed and available for ready consumption. Sometimes it feels like there must be more of them outside of Argentina than remain inside, and then you go to Argentina and the whole place is, fabulously, crawling with them. But still...finding a sample that works for you is not that easy. And then when you do encounter one you can legitimately see yourself dancing with and bringing home, oye! The drama involved in acquiring the sample is absurd! And drawn-out! And energy-consuming! And involves lots of sitting around wondering whether or not this is actually going to happen, when this is actually going to happen, why this might not actually happen. Every single time a new acquisition is considered, there is invariably a point at which it’s tempting to throw up one’s hands and say, “screw it, I don’t care how gorgeous this sample is, *nothing* is worth this much of a pain in my ass.” And then every single time, it’s like they can smell when you reach that point, and then somehow, things magically work out.
And with perfect porteno punctuality, mere months after you had originally planned on having your new sample, there they are in your bedroom, looking as entrancingly delicious as you always thought, ready to join you in an exciting new journey of discovery and artistic growth.
You have to break them in, of course. Depending on the sample, this experience can be more or less tedious.
And you never know beforehand how well this particular sample will work with your Self and your needs. You can never know until you've already invested pretty heavily in the sample and brought it home and broken it in and found out how you and it work together. Only then do its cardinal charms and deal-breakers really come out.
My first Argentinian samplings *looked* great. And since I was new to tango I assumed they were the last word in tango. But eventually I came to realize that they did not actually support my growth as an artist. They were gorgeous, but artistically empty. Since they were my first, sure, they helped me get where I was going. But now that I know better, I would never choose them. I tried going back to that early sampling-pool just to see what it was like, and I wondered how I had ever put up with all that nonsense! Plus I felt like I was actually a *worse* dancer with them. Why did so many women continue to invest in them, I wondered, looking around...and then I realized: it’s because they don’t know that there’s anything better out there….
Then I moved on to a general family of Argentinian samplings that did have some artistic merit. As well as looking sexy as shit (this particular family was just ridiculous, I mean, even among Argentinians they cornered the looks market), they fit my Sole rather better than the previous family and did have actual artistic support-merit. I grew in their company, and that was great.
But part of what made them so hot also caused me a whole lot of pain. Eventually I could no longer be with these samples because they hurt me so much. It took a long time and a lot of intentional work to undo the damage I had done to myself with these samples.
And artistically, they did help me level up, but their artistic growth offerings were limited. As long as I needed a narrow range of growth, they were great, but I quickly came to need something different. A relationship that was simultaneously more stable, more supportive, more secure, more comfortable, more grounded, and also freer, more independent, more about me, more sensually aware, more attuned, more flexible, and more open to the possibility of the unknown.
I needed a relationship that was more...Supple.
So then I went through a big phase of what I thought would be *the* general sample family. I thought I was finally encountering samples that were meeting me where I wanted to be met in my life and who were beautiful and sexy *and* supportive *and* free.
And, from time to time, there moments when that was true.
With samples from this family, I was a better dancer, a better artist, I learned more faster, I was freer, I was more grounded, I was more myself, I was more stable, I was growing, it was great. But unfortunately such feelings are addictive and we always want more of them than we have at any given moment. What I had now was a lot better than what I had had in the past, but could it be even better?
Eventually I found out that I didn't have to be working quite so hard in my sample relationships for quite such labored and ineffective results: after enough people told me that my samples literally were not good fits for me, one day I woke up and, Genius Me, realized, hey! I should try a sample that *does* fit me!
Such a sample was incredibly hard to come by! Every time, they’re so hard to get. It’s ridiculous. Especially as I know plenty of women for whom samples seem to fall into their laps.
Around this time, I was realizing that other countries produced samples that could potentially foster just as much artistic growth as Argentina did. Maybe...even…(whisper)...*more*.
But I finally did get a couple Argentinian samples that were good fits for me. Habitual tastes are hard to break. And after all the requisite drama required in getting them, I was so happy with my new ones. And I was suddenly a much better dancer with a lot less work, with them.
Except one, no matter how badly I wanted our relationship to work out, simply would not support my character or my artistic growth. No matter how much I tried to force myself to fit inside the sample’s artificially produced boundaries, I just kept bursting out, and the sample didn't have it in itself to accommodate who I really as.
And the other sample fell apart from the very beginning. The sample that seemed to work in every particular...but even though the sample was beautiful, and even though the sample was purpose-built specifically for artistic growth, the sample just could not stand up to a real relationship and the real needs of a real artist. Not even in the beginning phases where everything is supposed to be in good shape.
So many women had told me that their Argentinian samplings did not treat them well. That they looked great but did not function in relationships. That they were sexy but didn't support them at all. That they were hot but useless. That they were beautiful but unreliable and would leave you hanging. Most of all, that they drew everyone’s eyes at milongas, but as soon as you got them home to yourself, they Just. Fell. Apart.
And there you'd be, having wasted a ton of investment that could have gone somewhere else.
I feel these women only got part of the equation. I learned a lot with my Argentinian samplings. I grew a lot. I went from nobody to who I am, every day closer to my true self. I developed as an artist, thanks to them. I developed as a philosopher, thanks to them. I became much more in line with what was right for me, thanks to them. They taught me a ton, and they always meant well.
It’s not their fault that they fall apart. They’re just built that way. Put the tiniest bit of stress on them, and it’s all over.
They’re still much prettier and a lot more fun than Birkenstocks.
I recently took a trip to a Faraway Land and I noticed that it was chock-full of hot sexy gorgeous artists who were not remotely Argentinian. I had no idea how this was possible, or how I could even be attracted to people who looked so un-Argentinian, but here I was, in a world that was visually and geographically the polar opposite of Argentina, and yet *somehow* up here they were just as soulful dancers and just as attractive men as they were down there! Even though they were totally different!
This made it possible to entertain the prospect of buying a pair of shoes that was not Argentinian.
I just ordered a pair of Italian tango shoes. I feel nervous. It’s all so unknown. I wouldn't even believe Italians could make tango shoes, if I hadn't just found out that other countries could make tango dancers. That were just as wonderful as the ones from Argentina. (This took a lot of careful observation over time because it flew in the face of everything I believed was true. But yes.). Will I like them? Will they like me? Will our relationship give me the support and freedom I need to grow as an artist? Again, the only way to find out is to invest in them and hope for the best.
What will happen in my personal life if I suddenly start wearing shoes that are, gasp, not from Argentina?
For a long time, in the beginning of my life as a dancer, I noticed a mysterious but specific correlation: every time I bought a new pair of shoes, within a week or two, a new man would come along. It could never be planned, and the shoes always came first. And there always had to be a legitimate reason for buying new shoes. One pair had holes worn into the soles, one pair lost half of itself in a taxi, one pair had a cm cut off its heels by a well-meaning idiot cobbler, sometimes I needed to move on to different shoe families...there always had to be a real reason. But like clockwork: new shoes, inhale, exhale, and, pop! New lover!
This may be why I was a serial monogamist with my shoes for a long time.
But monogamy is impractical.
Let’s not start on how much practicing and growing I do and have always done with *no shoes at all*.....
Eventually the correlation went away. Kind of. Perhaps because there’s only so much sex one person can have. Eventually sex got boring. Getting my feelings hurt got boring too. I realized Men paled in comparison to Art, which provided an infinite growth opportunity. So Art won.
Having just talked about shoes to talk about men, I can do the same thing in reverse, and maybe that will tell me a little of what's in store for me with my new Italian shoes, whenever they come.
When I was in Italy I slept with a bunch of Italians, because...that’s what you're supposed to do! But also because I was young then and sex was still new and exciting. As such I cannot really be a reliable witness regarding the overall caliber of Italian lovemaking. I didn't have nearly as much to compare it to as I would now. Besides until then I had only ever slept with Americans, so I was practically a virgin.
I also slept with a Kosovan refugee and a couple of his Macedonian friends, while there. It would have been hard not to at the rate refugees were fleeing those countries and pouring into Italy in those days. The Kosovan was darkly tormented and electrically soulful. The Macedonians were simple and friendly and sunny.
But back to the Italians.
Like their shoes, they came in a certain narrow gene pool, and if you liked what was available, you were all set, because within that narrow spectrum, they could do what they did better than just about anyone else. If you like the looks of Italian men and Italian shoes, you’re in luck, because they are the hands-down global winners of that particular aesthetic. The men were, especially compared to American men, peacocks of stylish elegance, just like the shoes. Like the shoes, they were great for a few certain purposes and useless for others.
I bought a couple pairs of Italian shoes while I was there (because, as with the Kosovan, how could one not). I never felt like *I* was quite stylish enough for *them*. Although I sure wanted to be.
As far as workmanship, they were definitely well made. If I still had them, they would probably still be in the same shape as when I bought them.
But this was during the Pilgrim Toe Era. I don’t remember exactly when my Italian shoes and boots and I parted company, but I distinctly remember feeling embarrassingly unmodish looking down at the dated look of the Pilgrim Toe. ….So it was probably when I lived in New York, and Pointy Toes had entrenched themselves as how women’s shoes were now going to be, *forever*.
I slept with a bunch of New Yorkers, too, so it makes sense that I would let go of the Italians in order to make room for the new era.
And that's what I have to say about shoes and men.
And even though I think these things make me happy and help me grow, a big part of me realizes that I am happiest and grow the most when I’m barefoot and alone.