Two to Polka: A Letter to My Brother

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Someone taught our little Catholic college a traditional Austrian dance: the Sternpolka. The women would parade in a ring around the men with hands on their hips, and the men on the inside would clap their hands and slap their knees. At one point, the circle stops spinning and each woman finds herself paired with one of the men. Only, there were not enough men. A few women would be left partnerless, going through the motions by themselves.

Of course, it’s not just the dances; it’s in the pews as well. But in the pews we can look at it intellectually, give it a title like “a crisis of masculinity” and write books on how to fix it. At a dance, no one is thinking about sociology and psychology, about new programs and initiatives. People are there to have fun and enjoy some company. Often, I can’t dance because you’re not there. Swing or waltz, I need your lead to help me spin and twirl.

Beyond the dances, we need your leadership, your strength, and innate drive to help. Maybe you don’t think you have these things to offer, but you do. I know college was hard for you, and it made you think you didn’t have any worth. You saw and experienced a lot of pain, especially between the genders. As it stands, the world will measure your worth according to your paycheck and connections. As it stands now, the world doesn’t even care that you are a man or “identify” as a man.

I know you had your own questions in high school. The answers given by the Catholics in your life were lofty, empty, or didn’t seem plausible. Chastity must have seemed like a harmful repression, and temperance like a pointless self-denial. Instead, I want you to know, they call you to self-mastery. They call you to be the thing you’ve wanted to be your whole life: a man.

Our church was founded by a man who was never afraid to speak the truth, who guided his flock with confidence, and loved to the point of death. Yes, he was also God, but he chose to be born a man, one who would take care of his mother, protect his sisters, forgive his friends, and never bow down before his enemies.

Even at your most apathetic, I know you’re not indifferent to the people in your life. I know you think you could do more, be more, and I want to tell you that I, your sister, want you back here, at the dance, leading, serving, doing the things that only you can do. The world, more and more, reaffirms its stance that it doesn’t need masculinity in the family or workplace. Well, we need you, because you are a man.


Photo: Scott Broome on Unsplash / PD-US.
Rachael Johnson

Rachael Johnson

Rachael Johnson is a young adult trying to discern her vocation among the noise of a major culture war. With a degree in Creative Writing, she hopes to one day share tales of the fantastic with a larger audience. She maintains a blog at Cool Cats -- a blog about cool Catholics.

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2 thoughts on “Two to Polka: A Letter to My Brother”

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    This is powerfully written and deserves a wider readership. I’m so glad I married a real man, who is so in love with God (and me).

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