Can you remember before tango?
Me, I have the barest recollection of that far-off life. Sometimes I think I'm fabricating memories or borrowing from songs I've heard. But one of the few distant bells that still rings is the idea that Hugs used to be Different.
For one thing, they were hugs, not embraces. They generally had an air of firmness, no-nonsense, keep a lid on those feelings, and they were kept within a strict brief time period. Anything further strayed into Awkwardness. Or, worse (or better) yet, into an Inadvertent Sexual Invitation.
People generally didn't like people who were Long Huggers. They made other people feel nervous. What am I supposed to do with this information, the huggees would wonder. Why are they still hugging me? What does this mean between us? Should I move my arms? Should I keep squeezing? Are they still squeezing just to be polite because I haven't yet relinquished them? Are we frozen in Hug Purgatory?
And for that same reason, the Long Hug usually meant quite a bit to the people who chose to employ it for its suggestive nature. Many if not most non-tango relationships begin with a Long Hug. It delicately crosses the bridge between appropriate and inappropriate social touching.
And can you remember what people did with their bodies while hugging? It is difficult, as the information has been overwritten so many times. But I believe that what people did was they stood there. Rooted to the spot. They put their arms around each other and kept them pretty much wherever they landed. Without moving. Usually the relative tensile strength of the hug was settled upon embarkation and remained static for its duration. Sometimes people talked. Sometimes they progressed into kissing, of varying kinds. But in general they didn't do much. They listened with their hearts, yes (unless they didn't). That was the golden kernel from which we created the popcorn that is the tango embrace. That was the funny-looking little grey duckling that would grow up into something extraordinary.
The tango embrace revels in every aspect of hugging that makes normal people nervous. It turns all those scary, socially inappropriate ideas into mutually exploratory art. It makes love-making into some kinesthetic sculpture, worthy of display in a gallery.
All those tango gospels are just rules for how to embrace. (And here are a few if you left your copy in your other pants.) "Listen with your heart. Hold on for way too long. Embrace. Accept. Taste the other person's body with your own. Caress. Melt into the moment. Be soft. Be animal. Be yourself."The dance is embrace, that's all it is, that's everything. We forget that. We get caught up in body mechanics, technique, yackety-smack. But the most beautiful tandas are the ones that are "just" an embrace.
And thus the tango embrace was born, splendid in its whiteness, and not looking anything like any other bird. The swan we love. Go thou and do likewise.