A Hoop of My Own

Yesterday afternoon I arrived at my friend’s home for her birthday party. The invitation said to wear yoga-like clothes, as little as possible. I certainly didn’t know how to interpret that, and I just didn’t ask.

The guests – a small group of six women – deposit our potluck offerings, introduce ourselves to each other, and journey through entrée small talk. Suddenly the hostess/birthday girl speaks up. “It’s time,” she says. Time. I have no idea what awaits us.

She ushers us into her welcoming California backyard with a nicely sculpted grass area ringed in tall plants. Beside the lawn sits a professional music system. Next to it, a pile of hula hoops.

Oh, God,” I think. “Save me.”

We each grab a hoop of our liking having no idea on what to base our selection. I go about it much like I pick a car, reaching for a color combination that pleases me. Red, yellow, and orange. I’m normally the cool color type, but this one just speaks to me.

I never could hula hoop as a child. Despite exceptional athletic skills that took me from baseball field to football game, from the volleyball court to the eventual destination as a tournament tennis player, the hula hoop was my nemesis. That ring would circle me twice and hit the ground.

My inability to hula hoop, as well as my affection for sports favored by boys, made me feel like an outsider amongst girls. Every girl past the age of five seemed to have the natural ability to shake her hips and make that thing spin. I stood there in my attempts and felt I belonged to the wrong gender.

Now, decades later, I stand in a circle of women, focusing on the fact that the homemade variety of hula hoop – as in the ones our instructor has brought – is rumored to be easier to swing, that in fact it’s nearly guaranteed. I’m hopeful. I give it a go, and it almost works. I keep at it and I can actually do it, and I’m kind of excited. Phew. Mission accomplished. Can we eat now?

“Now we’ll move onto tricks,” our kind, acrobatic instructor tells us.


She gets her whole body into the action – arms, calves, neck. I reflexively gag when the hoop hits her windpipe. She lifts the hoop over her head, whips it around, does some impressive jumping maneuver – the whole time the hoop spinning flawlessly. Somehow Cirque du Soleil comes to mind.

We move to twirling the hoop with our outstretched hands. Mine keeps going AWOL and nearly decapitating the woman beside me. Luckily, she’s my one old friend amongst the guests, so she smiles kindly and encourages me on. I feel as if it’s first grade all over again.

I’m lagging behind the group. In my overly developed need to excel, I tunnel inward and focus. My neighbors move on to mimic our leader, pulling the spinning hoop up off their waists and raising it above their heads, spinning it behind their backs, and jumping through it. Okay, no one but our leader actuality achieves all these moves, but the combination seems within reach of several of my fellow partygoers. And they’re discussing the technique really seriously as I desperately restrain the jokes trying to leap from my mouth.

I decide to return to trying to spin the hoop over my hand without killing the friend beside me. And I get it! And I feel extraordinarily successful. Two skills mastered in one night – spinning around my waist and twirling in my hand. Not bad for a 1960s’ playground failure.

The most amazing discovery is how much work this all is. I feel my breath accelerating, my shoulder muscles growing sore, and my waist trimming with every spin. “This is good exercise,” I think to myself. And it’s oddly meditative. I close my eyes and picture myself on my beachside roof deck gyrating in the ocean breeze.

By the time we’re eating dinner, I’m asking the instructor where to get a hula hoop. “I make my own,” she answers. She explains she uses PVC pipe and colorful tape for decoration, though admits finding the pipe is challenging. I ask her how much she charges for the hoops, and she says, “It depends on the decoration. The sparkly ones cost more. It also depends how many colors I use. But typically, I sell a hoop for $40.”

Forty dollars? This is no impulse purchase.

I decide to investigate making one on my own. I go home and Google ‘Making your own hula hoop,’ and discover that there is a hooping.org magazine. I’m fascinated. I had no idea the trend was so big, but then again, if you base your judgment on the existence of an online magazine, I imagine that’s deceiving. Tomorrow I could launch ExpatsOfBeverlyHills.org – which would welcome those who endured endless questions in their childhood about The Beverly Hillbillies and Beverly Hills 90210 – and an innocent Googler would envision a movement.

I work my way through the hooping website and discover lots of information on making your own hoop with the concurring opinion that finding the pvc piping is a challenge. You may luck out and be able to buy 100 ft. of it at Home Depot. While that’s useful information, I hardly want such a quantity (enough for eight hula hoops, the informative site tells me.) I’m not really interested in turning this into a cottage industry out of my Venice condo, though if any location would be suited to such a business, I suspect Venice Beach is a likely success story.

I’m planning to call my friend to ask for the hula hoop instructor’s number and making what just days ago would have sounded to me like a ridiculous purchase. But after an afternoon of communal hooping, I’ve felled one of my childhood demons, albeit not the most threatening one. If I can do that for forty dollars and dive into some meditative exercise that may prime me for a future gig in a talent show, that sounds mighty inviting.


Anonymous said...

Funny, how as a reader, I went through the same emotions you did, from laughing at the crazy Californians to thinking it sounds pretty cool. I wonder what would make this type of hula hoop easier to swing than the traditional one? Is it lighter? You realize that you and this woman might be starting the next Tae-Bo like exercise trend...

Anonymous said...

I love that I can see (in my mind's eye) you in your condo and deck, hooping. My girlfriend runs a website that sells a lot of different things, among them hoola hoops that have these bead thingy's that supposedly whittle your waist while the hoop spins. I imagine watching the sunset (or sunrise for that matter), while hooping, could be quite meditative.

Girlplustwo said...

love it.
but what i want to know, deez, is...what did the hula hoop say to you when it was dancing around your waist? one hot mamma?

i am so adoring you right now for researching your very own. what a great party.

Anonymous said...

My mind was going through all the possibilities for the yoga clothes: yoga, tantric sex, finding your inner whomever...I never would have thought about hula hooping. What a fun day.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure purchasing 100 ft. of PVC pipe will get you on the Homeland Security watchlist?

Anonymous said...

Love this as well. In fact, I'd love to publish it verbatim on hooping.org - with link and credit to you and Confessional Highway of course. May I? Please email me Deezee. Thanks!
- Philo Hagen, Editor
Hooping.org Magazine

Stepping Over the Junk said...

I think you can get a hula hoop at Toys R Us for pocket change!! And being from just up the road from you near Venice, Ca, all I can say is "only in california would they have a hula hoop party!"

Emily said...

I could never hula hoop either. I really liked how this moves from something anxiety producing to success to the serach for a hula hoop of your own.

Willie Baronet said...

You are reminding me of some great memories at the High Sierra Music Festival north of Sacramento. Many hoopers, fun to watch. I have the same demon but haven't exorcised it yet. :-)