|Model Pretend Daughter-in-Law|
Incidentally Polish Pretend Son is Single but picky (as should you all be), so if you are Polish-positive and greatly resemble Pola Negri, please send me an email with a personal photo attached. Fiery temper encouraged. Denim-wearing right out.
Here is a link to a post on Polish tango, and now I shall make some characteristic observations.
First, Poland finally regained its independence in 1918, only to be blotted from the face of the earth by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in September of 1939. Thus the Polish tango craze coincided with, and was the soundtrack to, the entire existence of the Second Polish Republic.
Having done nothing but keep the flame of Polishness alive for 150 years, the Poles gave themselves permission to relax and check out foreign stuff. And the foreign stuff they apparently liked best was Argentina's tango. Why?
Just so I am not the only one to make outrageous generalizations, here is another, even more fanciful, post on that subject. And to put my biases on the table in plain sight, the first things I ever heard about the Poles as a child was that 1. they were suicidally brave, 2. my Polish courtesy uncle was said to be a lady-killer: "a very devil with women", 3. they were living in utter poverty under Soviet oppression. In short, courageous, dangerously attractive, poor and oppressed.
Because Uncle Lady-Killer never set foot in church, I did not know that the majority of Poles were, despite all the Marxism around, devout Catholics. However, I know now that in 1919, if you were not Jewish, Ukrainian or a German living in the Second Republic, you were a Latin Catholic. And if there was one thing that all Latin Catholics could agree on in 1919, it was that sexual attraction was delightful but dangerous and could get you into all kinds of trouble, ultimately sending you straight to hell. And this is what tango is all about.
Here follows Seraphician Rant Against Tango Dancing:
Having a romantic and fatalistic disposition, I greatly enjoy reading Polish tango lyrics, which are all about suicide, fog, break-ups, petty crime, defeat by rivals and emotional anguish. However, I do not like the dance because I was once seriously involved with a very good tango dancer who was also a control freak. Tango as an expression of male dominance in intimate relationships is not attractive to me, a woman who has suffered abuse in a male-dominated intimate relationship.
If you have been surrounded by milquetoasts your whole life, or merely by men who are so awed by you that they give you little presents and obey your every command, then--okay--being pushed and pulled firmly around a dance floor by a man you are nestled up against might be rather thrilling. Certainly I have met enough tango fanatics to know that there is something about it all--perhaps the music, perhaps the sexual ideal they are chasing--that inspires and consoles them. But the idea makes me want to kick something. My super-romantic role at a tango gathering would be to wear a lot of black eye-liner, drink vodka and brood amidst the ruins of my youth.
"Come and dance, Pani Anielska."
"Nie! Już nidgy! Never again..."
"You have been hurt, then, by some horrible tango dancer of your youth?"
"Ah, my friend, I could tell you such a tale it would make a statue weep. Give me your palm, and I will read your future. O Boże! What do I see?!"
End of Rant.
Tango, it occurs to me, is the ultimate rebellion against feminism, political correctness and the pious cheer of the Theology of the Body, which brings me to Saint John Paul II and back to the Catholic-dominated Poland of 1919-1939. And I think it is enormously funny that large numbers of Catholic Poles danced the tango on Saturday nights, thrilling to dark romantic fantasies about suicide, drug addiction, crime and betrayal and then went to Mass on Sunday morning and sincerely prayed their hearts out. It shows the contrariness of human nature and also the devotion to emotional sensation a Slovene acquaintance of mine called "the Slavic Soul."
"This next piece," he said, hands poised over his piano, "expresses the Slavic Soul."
He opened his eyes wide as he said "the Slavic Soul", and his face took on an expression of intolerable mental anguish. He then plunged into something complicated and Russian. I first fell in love with him when I was fourteen, and later when I was twenty-six. Fortunately he never noticed, and so we are still friends.
I suppose the nice thing about tango, from a traditional Catholic perspective, is that it is incredibly sexual without actually being a sin. Arguably. I knew a old lady, raised in a Portuguese convent, who was forbidden by the nuns to play tangos on the piano. And as Sister Faustina ran away from a dance in 1924, I suspect that the band was playing a tango. In our day, traditionalist Catholics have had kittens over tango masses, and I am positive Polish tango aficionados wouldn't like them either. The Poles of 1938 would be scandalized. Mixing up tangos with church takes the fun out of one and honest piety out of the other.
So tango, I argue, appealed to the religious and cultural sensibilities of the Second Polish Republic, including those of the Jewish minority, whence came a large number of the composers, lyricists and musicians.
Now, of course, Polish tango epitomizes the mostly vanished Second Republic and the whole interwar period, with its good manners, piety, national pride, smart fashions, beach resorts, inexpensive servants, etc, etc. I say "mostly" for it still flames in the hearts of Polish Young Fogeys like Polish Pretend Son, who sported a waxed-pointed moustache until it caught on with hipsters, and then he shaved it off.
"He prefers to behave as if it were perpetually 1938," I explained to a trio of Polish young ladies when he had left the table for a smoke. These were very young and modern Polish young ladies, and yet they all fell silent at the thought of 1938. The most Pola Negri-looking one had tattoos, but for a moment they seemed to fade away.
At last she broke the silence.
"If that were true, Poland would be very rich," she said.
"Yeah," said her blonde hipster roommate, nodding vigorously.
We all sighed.
Take it away, Sława:
(That's Pola Negri again in the photo.)