The XX Factor

Hoop for the Soul

The New York Times’ Guy Trebay gave a shout out in his “Noticed” column on Sunday to Philo Hagen, a Los Angeles hula hoop enthusiast who posted a smile-inducing video of himself hooping through the city’s “seedy nighttime streets,” after a tedious day at work, while simultaneously undressing down to his skivvies. Trebay calls this unheralded Web sleeper a pleasant antidote for those of us experiencing a creeping Grinch -ness now that the sickeningly commercialized holiday season is upon us. And it is. With the help of his column, the video will likely soon become a Web sensation.  And it should. Hagen depicts himself as a bored office drone unleashing his inner free-spirit and joyfully reminds us that once in while it’s good to free our minds from our workaday stresses and robotic routines and just simply let go. He has a Web site devoted to hooping.

True, hula hooping in one’s underwear in public is not for all of us, even late at night on mostly abandoned streets. I wouldn’t do it for a million bucks – well, maybe if it came with a guarantee that I would not be filmed or appear on You Tube. Then again such guarantees are impossible, what with all the amateur cell phone videographers out there. But I digress; the larger point is finding a fun way to release. Hagen’s video reminded me of how much I loved hula hooping as a kid and how good I was at it.  In my college days, I was a somewhat serious and uptight student on the weekdays, but on weekends my more uninhibited roommate and I would go to parties on campus and to clubs in Manhattan and dance into the wee hours. Whether guys joined us on the dance floor was irrelevant; we danced with them and without them, not the least bit self-conscious, until we felt ready to drop.  I remember feeling completely in the moment when I danced, oblivious to those dancing around me and unworried about the next exam or paper due. We didn’t have the Web, or You Tube, or cellphones as mental escapes. Nowadays I mostly dance, and sing off-key, in the shower – I don’t have the time or the inclination, never mind the energy to go dancing every weekend. But I do have a really large shower. It’s okay, but it doesn’t come close to hula hooping, or dancing, alone in public.

Photograph by Lisa Maree Williams for Getty Images.