Headmaster’s Thoughts — April 2015

The thing about hula hooping is that there is something absurd about it. You gyrate with arms flailing because a person’s arms have nothing to do with keeping the hula hoop going, apart from keeping them out of the way. You wiggle your stomach in time to some rhythm that perpetuates this moving plastic ring. You look like a complete fool. And yet, like other things that look absurd (and there may be children reading this so I am not going to expand on this thought), it is a pleasant if tiring feeling, and your stomach is getting a workout.

Most people can rightly guess that the hula hoop originated in Hawaii. The company that put it on the map was one of the greatest fad companies of all time: the Wham-O Company, founded by two young University of Southern California graduates, Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin, who began by manufacturing their own wooden slingshots in the Knerr family garage. This information is all available on Google, as is the long list of products Wham-O pioneered. The hula hoop, the flying disc called the Frisbee, the Monster Soap Bubble Maker, the Super Ball (a giant version of which was accidentally dropped from the 23rd floor window of an Australian hotel and bounced back up to the 15th floor), the Hacky Sack and the Silly String. There is nothing silly, however, about this company. It should be the first in the Pantheon of companies; this is genius! This is a company that produced a do-it yourself bomb shelter in the sixties for $119. Genius, I repeat! But I digress (as always).

My hula hoop is weighted, which makes it easier to keep spinning. In fact, once I get into the action, I am proud to say that I can keep going until tired or bored. I cannot do tricks (turning around while spinning the hoop is a good one I have seen, and I have heard that it is possible to hula hoop while standing on one leg, although I have never seen this). I tend to hula hoop in my office at home because there is something embarrassingly “late fifties” about it. You feel that you should hula hoop accompanied by lava lamps and 12 inch black and white television sets. The vintage “MadMen” décor, if you get my drift. You don’t want adult people to walk in on you as you hula hoop away; how could they take you seriously? I cannot imagine teaching my senior ethics class while spinning the hoop. I am sure you understand.

My hula hoop can also be taken apart into 7 different colored bits. You could (I haven’t) travel with it in these pieces and put it together when you arrive. It is waterproof (I know, I am beginning to get silly), but the one I have does not float (and why should it?). I wish I could say I had a name for mine, but I don’t. However, now that I think of it, “fad-thing” might be good.

One of the oldest pieces of advice to a nervous speaker is to imagine their audience naked. I never really got this nugget of wisdom, but it seems to me that imagining your audience hula hooping would work just as well. Certainly, you can hula hoop naked, so perhaps you can imagine your audience doing both hula hooping and being …you get where I am going. At this point, if any parents are reading, they may be seriously thinking of pulling their children out of the school. It is all right; I promise that I never hula hoop naked. I won’t explain why and I hope you feel better about your child’s headmaster knowing this.

I want to end this ridiculous piece by saying that hula hooping is better than snake oil for your health. We naïve humans have been urged to devour poisons, apply poultices, and have blood sucked by leeches; all in order to cure ourselves of every malady that besets us. I personally was glad to see the back of those leeches, although I hear that they may be returning for blood clots. Yuck! Keep those little critters away from me, thank you very much, doctor! Which all begs the question of why history is so short of patients recovering by hula hooping? Leeches or hula hoops, is there any question? Unlike leeches, hula hoops do not need food, are just as portable, can be used in your own home without a leech-minder present, and you can watch television while spinning your hoop (which I defy anyone to do while they are having blood sucked from their veins). Leeches were first used in ancient India for medical cures over 2500 years ago. And how long have hula hoops been used? What went wrong? Do leeches work your core muscles? Hula hoops do! The only explanation of this remarkable error by the medical profession, this preference over many centuries for blood sucking worms over innocent hoops, this craving to have oneself gorged upon by sticky articulated maggots with sharp teeth, is that I have to admit, as I began, that there is something intrinsically absurd about hula hooping.

Ronald P. Stewart
York Prep