When I learned of my husband’s infidelity and sunk into a messy funk, one thing that surprised me were all the friends and acquaintances I had who had experienced something similar, but hadn’t mentioned it to me before. One girlfriend learned her husband was cheating when she checked her credit card bills and realized he was charging hotel rooms for his affairs on her tab. Another woman told me how her husband had left her for her brother’s wife—they’d met at family holiday gatherings. Amy, who I talk about in the book, found out her husband was sleeping with a close “friend” of hers. Her husband served her divorce papers while she was at her father’s deathbed.
These stories made me feel better, not so much as misery loving company, but all these people had moved on and rebuilt their lives. This is what gave me the idea for the “Heartbreak Competition.” While not everyone has braved their way to the tango floor, it’s safe to say, everyone has had their heart broken. We’ve all been dumped and betrayed. We’ve lost a beloved parent or grandparent, tried to conceive a child, lost a child, or thought someone was a close friend and found out otherwise.
Heartbreak comes in many different forms, and we all have to learn how to deal with the sadness. And for some reason, sad songs make us feel better, much in the same way telling each other our stories does—it taps into our humanity and reminds how we are all in this together. So everyone is encouraged to send in a short story of heartbreak, about 100-200 words. The judges choose a winning story, and this tale will be made into a tango song. The competition is running through Valentine’s Day, as this holiday is a torment for the lovelorn. I remember my first one during my divorce. Men holding armloads of flowers walked down the streets; I made my way to a French Bakery, bought myself a chocolate mousse, and ate it while I watched “Mad, Hot Ballroom” by myself. I cried during the movie because the kids were so cute, then cried myself to sleep because it was Valentine’s Day and my heart was broken.
Tango did not just help me get over heartbreak. I learned from it that I could transform my life in many other regards. Every milonga or social dance was a new adventure. I met new people all over the world who shared my passion, I gained confidence to start my own business, and I developed a truce with the opposite gender and learned to approach relationships in an entirely new way. This process of transformation is the goal of the Heartbreak Competition. We will share our stories of sadness, turn them into a work of art, and then we will dance to it.
Maria Finn has written for Audubon Magazine, Saveur, Metropolis, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, among many other publications. She has an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and her essays have been anthologized in Best Food Writing and The Best Women’s Travel Writing. Learn more about Maria’s new book Hold me Tight & Tango Me Home at her website www.tangomehome.com.