Thursday, October 24, 2013

Acceptable Sports for Females #3: The Graces

You know these ladies, The Three Graces. No doubt our sport of the day was named with them in mind: a trio of elegantly nimble young women floating about, not "sporting" about. In The Girl's Own Book, Mrs. Lydia Child recommends The Graces as an excellent activity. It played with a light wooden hoop and sticks held by the players. Mrs. Child instructs each player to hold two sticks, while contemporary prints of adults playing show them using one stick each. The hoop, which is wrapped in strips of cloth or ribbon to pad it, is thrown up in the air from a stick and caught by another player on their stick or pair of sticks. That player, in turn, keeps the game going by flinging the hoop off the stick. Besides being a fine general physical activity, it promotes good hand-eye coordination. I would think that the two-stick version would be the better of the two in that regard. The hoop must be caught on both sticks held a few inches apart, and flung by crossing the sticks and pulling them apart. I would have been the despair of Mrs. Child, as my complete lack of hand-eye coordination is legendary and the stuff of long-standing oral tradition around the evening campfire. If it involves a moving object and a planned connection between me and it, I'm not your girl.

An interesting, though probably unwritten, rule of the Graces is that a man or boy may play against one or more females, but two males never play against each other. The bottom line is most likely that this is a girl's game, and while it is a friendly gesture on the part of a man to play against women, two guys just  don't fling the hoop around. It's a good way to meet bouncing girls though. That being said, there are later pictures of boys playing against each other. These lads may not have heard of this injunction, or simply dismissed it, claiming they were playing a new game called "Rings of Death", played without the ribbons. Note that these boys use two rings at once. Other early pictures show two rings in use, and the companies which sell the game today usually include two rings. Go, Rings of Death Lads, go!

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