Return to site


Two governing forces dictate life. Our heads and our butts. (Consider it a testament to Argentine brainwashing that I now think of “butts” as the obvious second word in that statement.) They're equally powerful and, in their own ways, each has justice on their side. It's nice when the two can work out a mutually agreeable compromise. Often they can't.

Both genders have both body parts. Yes, women, men have heads, and they occasionally make decisions with them. Yes, men, women have butts, and unfortunately they make decisions with theirs about as often as you make decisions with yours. All of us are what my mother calls “the minds of gods in the bodies of animals”: messy combinations of rational and limbic. Homo and sapiens. Cranio and sacral. Let the revels begin.

We try to live by our heads and our principles. But our butts drive us too, and we all do scoundrelly $#*! we can't explain, even to ourselves, before during or after the fact. “Why did I do that?” Who knows? Human behaviour is inexplicable even to the humans doing the behaving, which is why too much navel-gazing is an exercise in futility. On the other hand, blunt refusal to introspect is also disastrous. A delicate balance between the head end and the butt end of of the spinal cord, that's what we need.

That balance is the dance.  Maestros will tell you: open up sensitivity in your back, your spine is where you are, there are guitar strings all down your back that the man plays, your back is you, your back is the dance, feel with your spine, etc. Well there are guitar strings all down your back! Look at that central bundle of nerves. That is you. They originate at the occipital region of your cranium and insert at your sacrum. And anybody who's ever made out with anybody knows how much power pulses through the cranial and sacral ends of your spinal cord. Don't %@~^ around with those areas, because they are literally live wires. Covered with the barest wisp of skin. —It's an engineering anomaly, because generally our most sensitive bits are on our easily-protected fronts. But our backs, the spiny parts we turn to the wind to guard our internal organs, have these two spots that are more emotionally charged and vulnerable than anything on our fronts. Perhaps it's because we can't see them. There's a reason why tangueros make such a big deal out of touching the back of someone's neck: because in a culture where we rub up against each other all the time, brushing erogenous zones on a daily basis, that spot is still private, indefensible, and a no-man's land. To Go There should be avoided under all except the most extreme of circumstances.

I need say nothing of sacral nerve endings. Just put your hand on your own sacrum. Now please try to take it off and get something done with the rest of your day. Tough, eh?

….But though I need say nothing of them, I will anyway. Sacral nerve endings probably play a part in the South American predilection for rear ends. Our backsides are defenceless and—as a cosmic joke—crammed with nerves that are not used to being touched and therefore never inured to surprise. So in cultures that view virility and conquest of women as fine things and part of what make men men (and doesn't that beggar the question, “well what else is there?”), you see how una conquista del culo would be the coup de grâce. Extra-conquesty. Extra-varón.

And then there was the night, I was still a baby, when I looked around a milonga and realised: “aha! It's not about feet at all! It's about butts!” —We all have this realization at some point. First I saw the womens' tushies, as they swivelled around me like so many peaches and apricots, and I remembered what someone said to me: “no, I do not have a butt. Men do not have nice butts. Women have nice butts.” Suddenly all I could see was a dance that had been invented by Latin men that would show off the thing they liked best in glorious Technicolor.

But then I got to be a better dancer and one night I was looking around at another milonga and saw all these happy men's heinies frisking around, and I said to the woman next to me, “aww—men are so sweet when they're naked.” When you see a man's dance originating in his bum and radiating out to him and his partner, it's adorable. “I feel that it should be like this!” the bum says, and the remaining bodies had best comply.

The butt is the thing that's doing the dancing. And it is also the thing that's doing the feeling. It feels a wide range of feelings, and like any other force of nature, it doesn't care whether what it feels is suitable, appropriate, or convenient. Like any other force of nature it doesn't fake anything either, and has no memory, no conscience, and no 401K. It should be grandmothered in to Geraldin's all-you-ever-need-to-know tango lesson: “bitches, go with your cunts.” It is a grounding source of power technically, and the engine right in the middle of your core, if we go with the tango definition of “core” as being something that starts under your bra and ends a little before your knees. It is where it's at.

But the head is also mighty important! The head is what makes all this fun. And the smarter the head, the more fun it has.  Butts are the opposite of smart, which is why we love them.  But the head invents games and jokes, draws out seduction, and explores, invents, and creates.  The butt reacts, but the head acts.  We love heads. Heads, after all, invented tango, which is to natural impulse what the Luxembourg Gardens is to plants. If it were up to the butts we'd all just be rooting around in the backs of Cadillacs, and that gets boring.

Butts make things primal. Heads make things elegant. The two together? Unbeatable.