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The Gift-Giver's Tanda

The Gift-Giver's Tanda

I just put my insomniac son back to bed. Santa Claus already came tonight, but instead of being excited about the shiny presents under the tree, this boy only wanted to check on one thing: did Santa Claus eat the cookies we left out for him?

We checked the plate, empty except for a thank-you card from Santa Claus, which my boy brought back with him to bed, read, said, “awww,” and then went back to sleep.

Did you take what I'm giving you? Isn't that what we all want for Christmas? People like me who say they don't want anything...all want something. We want our presents to be accepted. We want our gifts to be received. We want acceptance, and validation, and maybe even appreciation. We don't trumpet this desire, we keep it hidden in our back pockets, but in the end...isn't that why we give presents? Isn't that why we love? Because we long to share, to connect, to hear and be heard? To have someone bear witness to our lives?

Isn't that what we're all doing on Facebook, at every milonga, and at every family holiday gathering? Every time we have tea with a friend, every time we wrap our arms around someone with whom it's not even clear what our Status is, every time we gather around the Christmas tree and rip open crinkly paper—we are there to share. Because we're hoping for something Real, and we never know where we're going to find it. Because we don't care about presents as much as we care about Santa eating the cookies.

No one can give us anything, and everything is already within all of us. Ja. But people can certainly remind us of some of the more beautiful things inside ourselves. We all know that we're beautiful, wonderful, important people who matter and whose lives have meaning...but every time another person accepts our cookies, or hugs us back, or enjoys their tanda with us, we revisit the part of ourselves that safeguards this critical information.

We want Santa to eat the cookies, because it makes us feel good about ourselves. But I would go out on a limb and say that we also want Santa to eat the cookies because it makes Santa feel good! And this I cannot explain. This cannot be rationalized or theorized or philosophized away. But there it is. We love Santa, we want Santa to be happy, cookies make Santa happy, so we give Santa cookies. And we are happy knowing that he is happy. Even if he, somehow, misses the key point that the cookies are from us, we are happy.

This is the impulse behind the anonymous donors who make ballet companies possible, and the anonymous heart donors who make lives possible. —Sometimes we cannot keep our identities anonymous but we keep our motives hidden, and this is what makes the apparently altruistic act of a good buddy possible.

….I haven't been going out lately. I've been hungry for real emotional food, and at milongas the endless string of overpriced emotional cheese cubes and grapes that keeps me never satisfied and never hungry has, officially, started to make me feel sick to my heart's stomach.

I want someone to take what I give. Dribbling away in snacks and constantly flickering alternating current, like a tap, to be turned on and off at will, is exhausting. I want to put out the cookies for Santa and have him eat them, and not live in a no-man's land of Schroëdinger's cookies, that are simultaneously eaten and not eaten.

The presents are, as my smart son already understands, irrelevant.

….I never cared for Noëlia Hurtado until recently, when I started tripping on the idea that the embrace is tango, and everything else flows from that. And I suddenly saw that she had the energy in her embrace that I was fumbling for. And after staring at it for a while, I decided, what I'm seeing is not Noëlia's embrace per se. It's Noëlia's embrace of her husband. Aha! –Not even, aha, “her husband,” just, aha, sharing real emotional meals is necessary in order to create a real embrace.

A Muggle once asked me, “so, is it true that you cannot properly dance tango with someone unless you're fucking them?” According to my calculations, yes, it is true. (Edith Piaf said you never really know a man until you sleep with him, after all.) But even that is not enough. Because sex can just be about shiny presents under the tree. The really good tango embraces I've seen are all between people who have eaten Santa's cookies. Who have shared real emotional sit-down meals with tablecloths and cutlery, instead of an exhaustingly inexhaustible progression of cheese cubes.

It all weaves together. I decided tango was all about the energy exchange of embrace, and then felt like I could no longer dance with anyone who wasn't exchanging energy (and, for that matter, had clearly never been dancing with them in the first place). Then I got sick of going out. Then I started to hunt around for something “real,” having no idea what I meant, just knowing that I'd know it when I saw it. Then I saw the difference in energetic embrace between real couples and...not-so-real couples. Then I decided I didn't want to dance any more with cheese-cube embraces. And now here I am talking about Santa giving us the gift of external validation and acceptance for Christmas, and saying that tops every other gift ever.

But what that means? To me? I have no idea.

Santa, thank you. You've already given me that many times over. It has been a wonderful year, perhaps the best of my whole life. Not even perhaps. It's definitely been the happiest and most magical year of my life, thanks in large part to Santa eating my cookies. The world gave me many wonderful and shiny presents this year, really cool ones, exactly what I asked for and so much more! But what really made this year wonderful was that the world wanted, took, and enjoyed what I gave.

So maybe I'm left with a lingering, fretful wish that some day I might feel for myself what a real tango embrace feels like. I know I've already felt little snippets and whispers and moments of them. I've felt entire minutes of the realest embraces out there.'s all right to want more.

It gives us something to look forward to for next year!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night—