In 1958, it took me months to save up the $2 for a hula hoop. I mowed lawns for $35 cents. I baby sat. I saved the pennies my mom gave me for the gum machine at the grocery store. $2 was a LOT of money.
When I finally got it, I took it with me everywhere so I could practice. Spinning that hoop around my waist didn’t automatically make it stay up. At a park, some kids who didn’t have a hoop attacked me and stole it. Then they got into a tug of war and put a kink in it. Once it was damaged, they didn’t want it any more. A little tugging and it was round enough to spin again.
After that I only practiced at home. Hooping was the first normal thing I'd ever wanted to do, that other girls do. Forget Barbies or playing with make-up, or boys.
I spent more time practicing spinning that hoop than I did doing my homework. And since my mom wouldn’t let me play until I was done with my homework, I mastered the art of concentration. If you really focus on your homework, you can get it done while there is still daylight, unless the teacher has really piled it on.
In a few weeks, I mastered spinning the hoop around my waist. I learned to add an extra push with my hips and send the hoop up, over my shoulders. From there I could stick a hand inside the hoop beside my neck, and raise it over my head, switch hands, and drop it back down to my waist. I learned to work it down over my hips, catch it at my knees, and work it up again. I learned to spin in circles inside the hoop, and to walk around the block while the hoop whirled about my waist.
All the while, my hoop spun to my left. I never thought about it. I just spun it that way. As later my politics spun to the left.
I don’t remember when or why I stopped playing with that hoop. I do remember there were decades when I never saw them in stores any more.
And when they came back, I bought one, brought it home and tried to show my husband how much fun it is to spin a hoop around your body. I couldn’t do it any more. I’d thought hooping was like biking – once your body learns, it never forgets. But it wasn’t so.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one. A few years ago, adult hoops came on the market. Instead of weighing a few ounces, the new ones weigh a pound or more. And it’s not enough just to keep it spinning any more. Hula Hooping is a sport, it’s a dance, it’s something they teach at the gym.
Last Wednesday night I tried an adult hoop with pretty metallic stripes. The hoop stayed up. I spun it for an hour in class. I learned to pick it up with a hand behind my back and raise it over my head. I learned to spin it around my body like wings. And I almost made it home before the pain kicked in. Spinning to the left, means that the left hip does most of the work. My left hip got hit by a car. It doesn’t want to play that game any more.
So, this morning I tried to spin the hoop to my right. It kept falling, like that hoop did back in 1958. But when I was done practicing, I wasn’t in pain. It’s just a matter of more practice. And I’m sure my politics aren’t attached to that hoop. Hooping to the right won’t make me stop being a liberal.