We have a wonderful story from Australia — specifically, from a baby boomer in Hobart, Tasmania, which is way down south! And while writer Kathy Gates didn’t give it this title, we could easily call it “Down Under,” which you’ll understand in a moment. But it’s a story about a love affair, forgotten for forty-eight years, revisited. Which you’ll understand a moment later.
My eighth birthday is one that I will always remember. I was allowed to invite eight friends around for a party, Chocolate Mint Slices — my favourite treat — were on offer, and I finally received my heart’s desire: a hula hoop. My beautiful present was bright orange plastic and, though I’d never hooped before receiving it, I was a natural.
Fast forward forty-eight years. A young friend posted on Facebook that she was going to a hoop class and I asked if I could join her. So, on a mild evening last February, I presented myself at a community hall behind the austere-looking Scots Church in central Hobart. My friend didn’t show up but there were two other women of my age, and a dazzling array of hula hoops.
There were big heavy hoops, small light hoops, and hoops with knitted covers. Even traveling hoops that come apart and fold up. Turns out that hula hooping, or hooping as it is now known, is a popular exercise. I later discovered online sites which offer hoops for sale and ‘how-to’ guides to make your own. There is also a big demand for ‘moves’ and dance routines which can be incorporated into circus and burlesque acts.
But back to the class. I started tentatively with a big, heavy hoop — the easiest kind, according to my new friends. The moment it was around my middle and in my grip, eight-year-old me reappeared and the hoop was twirling around my waist and my hips without any problem, then around my knees and even around my neck. My classmates were amazed at my prowess; one confided that it had taken her weeks to master enough technique to keep her hoop twirling.
Swapping to a lighter model, I had to have a go at the old ‘hoop around the ankle’ maneuver. It was more tricky than I remembered and possibly dangerous if you lose your balance. Best new move of the evening was ‘the cowgirl.’ The hoop is twirled around the wrist with the arm straight up in the air. Much laughing and ducking was involved as our hoops flew out of reach.
Halfway through class, the decision was made: I had to have a hoop of my own. Next day I set out for the nearest toy store and was re-directed to a fitness outlet. Of course! Hooping is the new black if you are a fitness freak. Couldn’t tell if the young salesman was bemused or embarrassed by my enthusiastic gyrations in the middle of his shop as I auditioned at least half the stock. I finally settled on a sparkly silver, mid-sized hoop.
Now, every evening, my hoop and I spend quality time together. Yes, I have trimmed down a little around the midriff but that’s not why I love it. You just can’t put a price on feeling eight-years-old again.