25 March 2010


In tango, every leader has a Tell. They don't necessarily know they do, but they do: each has a set of movements that go together, and the first movement of that set will inevitably be followed by the other movements - so the first movement is the tell (this is actually a poker term, meaning the gesture or face that a player always, but unknowingly, makes when she has a certain kind of hand). Theoretically, being a good follower would require not recognising the leader's tell, because theoretically a tell might not always be followed by the rest of the movement sequence, so you wouldn't want to anticipate (anticipation makes for a terrible follower), so you wouldn't want to recognise the tell. But in fact, at least for me, you cannot help but recognise the tell - but, very interestingly, the recognition is not conscious. I have danced with many men who have a tell (obviously, given my first sentence), but I've only realised that I knew they had one after I several times automatically and unconsciously predicted the movements the tell heralded. The tell is unconscious, but so in some way is the recognition of the tell: only the recognition of the recognition of the tell is conscious.

This is only really interesting to those not involved with tango because everyone has a tell outside tango, too. In fact, everyone has many many tells - tensions and relaxations and alterations in the self that indicate a given mood or thought or concern. These tells often occur when even their possessor doesn't know what he or she feels: the body, particularly the upper body, indicates feelings that the conscious mind doesn't know it has (this is one of the reasons why the body is so so interesting, but that's a post for another day). But the difficulty is that, just as in tango, you have to get close to the body to see the tells. This is why, for example, I have great trouble knowing how my VTTT feels when we discuss personal things, and thus knowing how to act: I only view or lean against his lower chest, and that's not an area that has many tells.

I'd be much better at making conversations go right, and generally at manipulating people, if I could always stand very close to them, or always interact with them when it's quiet - so would anybody with a little insight and a little patience. What a pity we don't always interact face to face, or chest to chest.

I was going to write about my trip to Venice, but that will have to wait until next time.

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