Almost immediately, we noticed how the (Tango) embrace looks completely natural in Buenos Aires. Why have we so often seen awkward embraces in North America? Besides the possible issues one might have with physical closeness and intimacy, here is one of our hypotheses: Physical closeness and intimacy are multi-day occurrences in Argentina. To begin with, friends kiss and hug each other to say hello and goodbye. But the custom extends beyond this and is not reserved solely for friends. When meeting someone for the first time, the same greeting takes place. Even co-workers and bosses take part in this custom. It is not gender specific either. What a beautiful site to see two men kiss one another, cheek to cheek!
The Argentine people are completely accustomed to putting their faces side by side and reaching their arms around one another. It is what they do. The embrace is a part of their everyday existence.
The waiter hand was observed numerous times in Bueno Aires… and there were numerous times that we heard teachers (of Argentine Tango) mock this kind of hand hold in classes. We have never liked this hold and have never understood why any man would want to hold his hand this way. On a purely esthetic level, it’s visually ugly. On a male ego level, what are you trying to say?
In a culture that prides itself on its machismo, we came to understand why this hold is disapproved of and we were given this explanation: The man’s left arm represents his virility. What are you saying, men, if you let your hand flop over into that “in-fashion” waiter hand? Is your manhood not functioning properly? Similarly, if some of you men are raising your left arm far above your head… Keep dreaming. No one believes you ;)
In addition to this, we were told that the positioning of the man’s hand speaks to the equality between the man and the woman. That is, the arm should be in a comfortable position for both the follower and the leader. When a man places his left hand folded over the woman’s hand, it makes you wonder what he thinks of women (i.e., lesser than?) because he obviously does not want to provide her with comfort. Perhaps one famous exception was Gavito who was known to say that the woman plays an equal part in the dance and yet he had an “I’m-Above-You left arm hold and he was famous for putting women in back-piercing leans.