NOTE: I recently discovered a file of old essays, many of which I forgot I wrote. Inspired by Kate Lowther’s recent post on (appropriately) inspiration, I’ve decided to revisit a few of them here, in the hopes that they will inspire me to write some more. This one, from about five years ago, grew out of my inability to dance the Argentine tango.
I have walked for well over forty years. I don’t mean to equate myself with Moses or any of the faithful who wandered through the desert seeking honey and milk, but in my forty-some-odd years I pride myself in having developed a certain finesse in self-ambulation. I have spent peripatetic days in major world capitals. I have clomped down (and clambered back up) hundreds of flights of stairs to view subterranean sewer pipes. I even regularly stride on the moving walkways at airports, reasoning that such a modern convenience is better suited to getting me more quickly from point A to point B than to offering me a thirty-second en route respite.
Twelve-step programs, yoga teachers, and therapists counsel us to “walk through” our grief or pain in order to have a happier or more fulfilling life; running coaches advise marthoners to walk through the water stops to ensure that the water ends up in the runner’s gullet and not up his nose. Even St. Jerome counseled Solvitur ambulando, which sounds a little like a spell Hermione Granger may have incanted, but is actually Latin for “To solve a problem, take a walk.”
Apparently all these folks figured out long before I did that walking is more than just forward motion, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, point-A-to-point-B business.
My cruel introduction to my inadequacies as a walker came in Argentine tango class. Dancing is just walking to music, others in my class would tell me as I took tentative and clumsy steps across the floor.
Devour the floor, they said. Do not ask the floor to accept you.
But, this is not possible for me; I am always, in one way or another, asking someone or something for acceptance. My movement lacks confidence: I am a knee locker, a heel rocker, and a random talker (and if I were Pat Benetar, I would sing, “Don’t mess around with me”)
I have looked with longing at other dancers doing twirly things with their bodies and legs. I have seethed with envy at their sinuous travels around the dance floor
Those things don’t matter, my teacher says. They are just embellishments. Merely icing. Only walking matters. Walking is the cake.
He doesn’t understand that I love icing. In fact, I regularly eschew cake in favor of its embellishments. When presented with a birthday or wedding slice, I excavate between the layers of cake to surgically exact the ribbon of buttercream or ganache therein. I sweep the artfully piped borders with my fork and I call dibs on the corner roses. I consider presenting this information to him but check the impulse. I’m pretty sure he won’t be impressed.