'Dancing With the Stars' Almost Ruined My Marriage
By Mylène Dressler Posted May 24th 2011 11:45PM
Being a good wife, I do try to pay attention to my partner, so one Monday night, after our weekly viewing of 'Dancing With the Stars' (our favorite show -- I like the waltzes, my husband likes the Latin dances), I was all ears when my husband said, sighing, "Man, I wish I could tango. If I could learn any dance at all it would be the tango."
And so it came, the drop of a great mirrored ball into my consciousness, filling it with light. In two weeks it would be my husband's birthday. If I was going to be any sort of wife at all, I had to get my husband a tango lesson.
We headed to New York that week on business, and no sooner had we landed than I found an excuse to take the hotel concierge aside and whisper that I needed help. Together we found a studio and made arrangements for a secret, private session on a Sunday afternoon with a well-regarded instructor named Alejandro. I was giddy with excitement. I mean, how often do you get the chance to fulfill your loved one's heart's desire just like that?
In the morning, with great fanfare, I handed my husband the birthday card I'd prepared. It was the only gift I'd gotten him. It can be challenging, after two decades of marriage, to come up with anything at all. All the card said, mysteriously, was: "It takes two to . . . "
He looked at it, puzzled.
"We've got a fabulous private tango lesson together in two hours!" I blurted out, waiting for him to melt like a swooning Marie Osmond into my arms.
He went white as a sheet.
Here's the thing: You can be married to someone for two decades and still completely screw up. Make mistakes so profound it's like you've never even met before. What happened next was not pretty. I saw that I'd completely misread the love of my life and that nothing would be more demoralizing for a basically shy man than to be asked to stumble around a floor in front of, say, Maksim Chmerkovskiy. He realized that in shouting "no way," he had spurned my gift from the heart and crushed my sense of Good Wifeliness.
But did we apologize? Did we cross the floor to one another and melt into each other's arms? No; we fought. "But you said you wanted to!" "But you know I can't!" "But I stood before you with something beautiful and perfect, and you turned me down!" "But I stood before you in all my trust, and you show me I'm afraid of my own shadow! On my birthday, no less."
Lord, it was awful. I moaned I would cancel the lesson, he moaned he couldn't let me, and we both knew that, either way, the day was toast. We settled on a compromise. We would walk the 20 blocks down Broadway to the dance studio, and see how we felt when we got there. Actually, we hoped along the way we'd be hit by a taxi. We made it to the studio, glum, and took the elevator to the third floor. We were barely speaking.
The studio was empty (maybe I wasn't such a bad wife, after all, I thought; I had known it would be better on a Sunday, when no one was around). Alejandro, a short, stocky, balding guy, stepped forward and introduced himself, smiling. He was no Maksim Chmerkovskiy, we saw with relief. He took us into a private, curtained room, and he said: "Okay. Tango is simply walking together."
Then he taught us how to walk, side by side. Then he taught us how to walk facing each other. He taught us how to stretch, how to glide our legs a little more, so that we were walking a little farther, a little more powerfully than we thought we could. The music was guiding us, the beat clear. All we had to do was hold each other, and listen. He taught us how to rock back and forth in a little, sexy movement, hip to hip, and then, to end our dance, he taught us a simple lunge. "And there you have it." We practiced over and over.
After 50 minutes, we stared at each other amazed. Tango.
When we had 10 minutes left on our lesson, a short, stocky woman Alejandro introduced as his wife and partner came into the room. "Please," my husband asked, "can we just watch you two, for a minute, and see how it's done?"
All at once the air transformed as these two, ordinary, remarkably un-starlike people began to tango with such timing, such gentle and yet powerful anticipation of each other's next move. It took our breath away. Magic. We thanked them, beaming.
As we left the studio, my husband and I were quiet for a minute, and then he said, "I'm glad we did that. That was good."
"It was good."
We didn't apologize. We didn't have to. Sometimes, in marriage, the judges are forgiving.
Mylène Dressler is the author of three novels about the dance of marriage and family. You can learn more about her work, and buy her books, at Red Room.
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