Hot evening in Bucharest. I’m at a milonga – a party where people dance tango – organized by my tango school. I started to learn 5 months ago, and I confess it took me a lot of courage to attend to a milonga, let aside to actually dance.
If you ever attended to a milonga, you know what I mean. It’s that combination of beautiful women, elegantly dressed, waiting to be invited or slowly doing the cabeceo, and the men browsing through them with their eyes, all surrounded by the slow, yet grounded, tango music and the floor filled with floating couples. They all seem to dance so good, to be so connected, that, if you’re an absolute rookie, like I am now, it’s almost impossible to invite a woman. You can actually visualize how you’re gonna make a fool of yourself by stumbling, or, even worse, stepping on your partner’s toes. To be honest, there were moments when I actually felt that my army instruction, as a soldier, was way easier than starting to really dance tango.
But not this evening. In a very fortunate chain of events, a few colleagues from my school are here too. Obviously, they’re at the same level with me, which drastically increases my chances not to look like an idiot. So, I summon all the courage and go on the floor. And it works. First with some of my colleagues, then I actually invite other women and, surprise, I manage not to step on anyone’s toes. Some even tell me they enjoyed it. Without me asking, that is.
And, right when I was feeling so motivated to do this until morning, milonga ends. That’s it, next time. We decide to celebrate our first real milonga with a drink at a terrace in the nearby Old Town. In less than 10 minutes we’re there, sitting at a table, along with other bohemian (or not so bohemian) youngsters enjoying the music, the scenery and our drinks.
As we laughed and talked about our first milonga, a couple of street musicians approaches. One of them had a violin, the other one an accordion. They’re the kind of musicians you can find in traditional Romanian restaurants, playing traditional Romanian music. But, again, not tonight. In another fortunate chain of events, it looked like they were playing a… exactly, a tango tune.
Without even thinking, along with another guy at the table, we invite again our colleagues from school and start to tango right there, on the street. People stare. Then they start smiling. And then they applaud us. The tune ends but the musicians decide to stick around for another one. It’s a waltz, this time – apparently, that was the only tango tune they knew. So, we do another tango (didn’t really matter the music was a waltz). And we get another genuine round of applause.
At some point, I spotted a guy taking pictures. Not at all unusual for the Old Town in Bucharest. Well, I’ll make it to some Swedish tourist holiday album, I said to myself. The evening ended soon after that.
Next morning, as I was browsing my Facebook timeline, I saw a picture with a familiar scene. Looked like the exact street where we were dancing last night, in the Old Town. And in that picture, surprise, it was the other couple. The picture was posted less than an hour before, by a group called The Optimist Bucharest, which, apparently, was emphasizing nice stuff happening in the city. Obviously, an impromptu tango session was a good candidate for that. And when I look closer, I see the picture had no less than 200 likes. Ups.
Then, in less than an hour, another picture, this time having yours truly too in it, was posted on the same group (click on the picture to see it on Facebook).
At the moment of writing this article, it had more than 450 likes and 40 shares. By any standards, it went viral.
Being Famous Is Just An Accident
So, that’s the story. And why do I write about it, you asked? Well, because we’re all having this obsession with becoming famous. Whether or not we admit it, we’re very much into it. Some may even make a sort of a fetish out of it. While some are spending ridiculous amounts of time and money to reach it.
Truth is, that, at a very shallow level, popularity brings us a certain level of validation. Based on numbers. If so many people know about me, if so many people are enjoying my pictures, if so many people are interested about tiny details of my private life, well, I must be somebody. It’s a very simple mechanism, but, as much as we don’t like to believe it, it’s also completely wrong.
Fame is based on expectations and projections. It’s not baked up with direct interaction. You secretly project your own expectations of beauty, success and elegance onto some images and then the image makers are doing the best to comply with your projections. That’s how popularity is constructed. Behind the images you won’t find anything, though. There’s nothing. The real people behind those images are, well, just real people, like you and me. With flaws and depressions and, to be honest, the vast majority of them are not even likable. But without direct interaction, you can’t really tell it. So you just buy into the predominant image that is sold to you.
Being famous is just an accident. I couldn’t find a more appropriate story than this one to prove it. There is no direct link between the degree of one’s popularity and his or her skills. Or intrinsic value as a human being, for what matters. I’m an absolute rookie in tango, yet I had my 15 minutes of glory as a tanguero. The people applauded, genuinely thinking I know my shit. Honestly, it was the worst dance I had that night. But it didn’t matter.
Using fame as an indicator of success is simply wrong. It may or it may not happen at some point in your life. But it’s just a random thing, believe it or not. You can’t predict it and, no matter what a PR company will tell you, there’s no way to buy it. In a fortunate chain of events, your image may comply, at some point, with some expectations and projections of other people, but that’s temporary. That trend will be soon replaced with another, more fashionable one.
The only way to become good at something is to actually be good at something and keep being good at that thing. Fame is just an added bonus. If any.