“I make hula hoops for grownups.” That’s been my stock answer for many years to the inevitable American ice-breaker, “So, what do you do?” And it’s been a satisfactory response – not too cryptic, not too revealing. It answers the question. It begs follow up. It’s a potential conversation starter, no doubt. It “works.” But, lately, I’ve been nagged by the feeling that it’s not entirely true.
There’s a difference between the “social” answer – what you say to someone who may not actually care (Sometimes it’s just a way to say “hello,” right?) – and what you say to someone you know is really interested in the answer. Or is there? In principal, I’m a fan of there not being a difference. That way, I get a phenomenal blow-off or a really fascinating conversation. Either way, my evening is off to an interesting start.
But principal aside, my stock answer is admittedly pretty neutral and leaves the ball squarely in the asker’s hands. “Oh, cool. Hula hoops. Looky, is that prosciutto-wrapped shrimp?” Right. No, let’s talk about your importing business instead. Yawn. Another opportunity missed because of my go-to platitude. Who’s fault is that? It’s SO mine.
Lately, I’ve been entertaining the thought that I’m not just giving the wrong answer. What if I don’t actually know the answer? If I met myself at a cocktail party, what would I want my answer to be? Nine years in hooping can blur the route to the truth, the motive, the human element at the root of what started nine years of hooping in the first place. I make hoops, I sell hoops, I run a hooping business, I teach hooping, I write about hooping. But what in the world does any of that mean to someone who doesn’t know what can happen to a person in a hoop?
So this week, I went on a mission to peel back the years of hoop-business woes and successes to find my hoop-roots, to re-discover the ground into which my hooping toes plow and turn, to name the source of what keeps me doing what I do. Logically, I knew that whatever keeps me involved in the hooping world would be what got me started in the first place. But what was that? Did I … could I … remember? And could I translate whatever-it-was into a cocktail-party answer?
Lest you lose faith in your linguistic hooping columnist, I’ll cut to the chase. My soul DID find a one-liner that was true to my experience. I remember the day I picked up a hoop for the first time as clearly as I remember this one. But more importantly, I remember the thought that urged me to put that circle around my body and move. “If I pick up that hoop on the ground … ,” I said to myself, “ I’ll have an excuse to dance.”
It was 2002. It was a music festival. I hadn’t “danced” since I was 8. I bobbed my head to the music like many urban white girls because I imagined that my body moving looked something akin to Elaine’s moves from Seinfeld (If you don’t get this reference, you should watch this). But when I picked up that heavy, untaped hoop, something happened. Everything that my body wanted to do, but didn’t believe it could, produced itself from within that circle. My body moved, it grooved. The hoop wanted to fall, my hips caught it. I was on fire. My clumsy limbs, it turned out, had something to say! I had given my body the permission to enjoy itself, to celebrate, to have a party. No instructions, no degree, no certification. Permission. Permission to move. Permission to create. Permission to participate in my life. Permission to dance.
So nine years of hoop-making, teaching, and business later, my unadulterated, truthful, and fabulous answer to “So what do you do?” IS, “I give people permission to dance.” There are SO many answers to that question, but if mine rings true for you … by all means … take it. And somebody, give Elaine a hoop, would ya’?
Hooping.org columnist Lara Eastburn has been dancing in meadows and singing with the moon while spinning in circles for eons at Superhooper.org. Beyond commenting here, you can also discuss this and other topics related to the Hooposophy for living in Hooping.org’s Hooposophy Group and Forum. Lara is also the planting and gardening force behind discovering our hooping community roots at The Hooping Family Tree Project.