“Just remember, all the men down there are liars. Liars! All of them! Don't believe a word they say!” She spoke with the sting of one who had been intimately acquainted with too many lies.
But that is not what I saw. I discovered a world overrun with too many truths.
Perhaps she meant that the men fell in love with lots of women and gave their hearts over and over again, and that made things feel like lies. But what I saw was that the porteños' hearts were so open, they were helpless pawns to the truth of the moment, whatever that truth was.
But is there a minimum temporal duration required of truth to make it true? Is truth like the dirt on the floor that only sticks to the buttered toast after it's been lying there for three seconds or longer?
Another woman, an expat porteña, warned me, “oh, if you want to have sex you can certainly have sex down there, it's easy. All the men fall in love in, like, five minutes.”
But I had had enough sex to last me the rest of my life and, for a change, was not planning on falling in love. I was however curious to see men who fell in love in, like, five minutes. I assumed she meant men who had learned to shift their outward behaviour into courtship mode in, like, five minutes.
I was wrong.
I'm an energy worker. I know when people's words and actions do not match their internal state. And it turns out, they're not lying! They really do fall in love, or lust, or something that is to them of paramount importance, in nanoseconds. And it's charming. Because we all fall in love (or lust) instantly, all over the world, it's how feelings work. One moment you're checking out someone's groceries and the next moment it's “why, Miss Jones! You're beautiful!” —The only difference is that in Argentina they succumb to their feelings, giving their hearts free rein (perhaps citing the always-appropriate national motto, “...but what are you gonna do about it? NOTHING!”). Perhaps they know that to fight their hearts would be a waste of precious energy, and in a country of squandered resources, it's good to keep something to one's self.
“¿Parque Patricios? Why, I live in Recoleta! [Neighbourhoods at opposite ends of the city.] We're practically neighbours! Let me drive you home,” he said, wagging his tail and beaming at me like a Golden Retriever.
“I've lived in the city for eleven years and I've never once danced with someone who understands me as you do. I feel like, yes, I want to fuck you, but it's much more than that, it's deeper, I feel that we are destined to be together forever,” he said, holding my hand and looking deeply into my eyes. A pity he was such a bad kisser.
“Finally, I have found my tango twin soul, someone who feels as I do. It's such a tragedy that you must leave so soon! Please, come to my private studio tomorrow and we will practice together,” he said, his mostly-sad heart shining at me with a single beam of poignant hope.
“Thank you, now my dreams have come true,” he said, after videoing us dancing together. He said he'd share it with me on Facebook but he never did...someone else said he was a well-known teacher....
And then there was the one who said little but on his way out left me with a folded-up poem....
There were the two who fought for me from Canning to la Viruta and kept up the fight over la Viruta medialunas at our table and even kept fighting for me on Facebook after I went home.
And there were a whole host who offered to drive me home, who offered me wine and coffee, who spent all night long staring at me trying to get second or third tandas, who wrapped their hands around my necks, who wanted to meet for lunch or for dancing or for sex, and insisted I must dance at their milongas of choice. There were scores of men who took my departure from milongas like news of a death.
And every single one of them gave their whole heart and soul, every time.
That's the thing of it! The concept of lines and tricks and gimmicks doesn't really exist down there, because they mean everything! They're totally sincere, every time—which is why the system works in their favour. Every dance step, every piropo, every offer of coffee really comes straight from their helpless human souls. How could they, hapless mortal men that they are, do aught else in the face of such blinding goddesslike radiance? They have never felt this exact feeling at this exact moment in time with this exact you before, so it's totally like it's the first time it's ever happened for them! They may have screwed a thousand women, but it's irrelevant, because none of them was you. Besides, that was then. This is now. And tomorrow hasn't happened yet.
There's an innocence down there that doesn't exist here. Every time, it is perfectly true that they have something special with you that they have never had with anyone else and never will have with anyone else. What the two of you have is precious and real and true and unique and probably would turn out to be lots of fun in the sack—so how can you blame them for doing everything they can to make their penises' desires into reality? Why would you blame them, for being human? Humanity is so lacking up here. We do so much to distance ourselves from our basic human instincts and, strangely enough, we now have frustrated, lonely people wandering around in a culture that's distanced, disconnected, desiccated, and inhuman.
I believe the one who said they're all liars is someone who may have hoped that their truths would be true for longer than they actually were. But the thing about truth is that you can't change its nature to suit your preferences, much as you may want to. What I've noticed about these Argentinian guys—if I may make sweeping overgeneralizations—is that they're truthful to a fault. When unstudied their body language is overwhelmingly truthful, even times when it might get them in trouble with sharp-eyed women who know about that sort of thing. When they feel, they act on their feelings, or they repress them with difficulty. Producing on the surface a mirage that distracts from the truth of the source feeling seems to be beyond their capabilities. After all, their warm hearts (or penises) produce feelings so great that just keeping a lid on them is a herculean task that runs counter to how they live the rest of their lives. Their way of lying is just not saying anything. (So if you want to know what your Argentine is lying about, just listen to what he isn't telling you!)
And so what if the men fall in love in, “like, five minutes”? So do I. I can't think of a single love story (or sexual escapade) that didn't involve a Moment, when suddenly you tip over the tipping point and can't go back. It's one of the great joys of life. And every single time a man fell in love with me—which happened about fifty billion times during my stay—they did so with every single fibre of their being. I could feel it pouring off of them. When they were with me, they were with me, nothing else in the world existed for them but that moment of our being together. Their brains were with me. Their elbows were with me. Their histories were with me. Their breakfast preferences were with me. Sure, their penises were leading the charge, but they dragged with them every other aspect of the men too! Turning life into a human and connected affair, and the pursuit of sex into a celebration of union, a sharing of one's deepest truths, and the joys of succumbing to reality.
I'll tell you what the real lie is.
The real lie is coming back here. Here we try to stuff sex under the rug and pretend it doesn't exist, particularly not when it involves ourselves or people we actually know. Here we suppress it, and it backfires on us, as all that restricted energy hemorrhages out in harmful ways. Here we pretend that sex is not the engine driving all of humanity, all the time—and that's just a lie.
The real lie is coming back here and once more dealing with people who keep back huge portions of themselves and have turned socializing into the art of editing: I'll give this to this person, and that to that person, and this other thing to this other person, but I'm never going to be fully myself for anyone! I don't want to share. I prefer to remain hidden. I don't want to be witness to all of them, either, that sounds like much too much. I'll give up to 60% of myself to whomever I'm with at a given time, and I'll listen to about as much of them. That should be more than enough, right?
I come back here and people are all hiding behind their defence mechanisms, desperately afraid of offending or being inappropriate or revealing something unattractive. Afraid of not being cool. But why be cool when you can be warm? It's the kitten's underbelly that we really want to stroke.
I don't think any corner of the world has a greater-than-average share of liars. But from a cultural standpoint, here's what I have to say to the woman whose remark started this quest. “Just remember, all the men up here are liars. Liars! All of them!”