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8.29.2013

POLES TO PLAY WITH


There are a few things in life that just don't seem to be needed. Their origin or necessity eludes me. I've never understood their purpose, their place, or practice at some point in history.  Two obvious examples; tether ball and May poles. 

There's a scene at the end of the movie, "Napoleon Dynamite" where Napoleon, finally able to secure a girlfriend, is playing a game of tether ball with her.  His tether moves are overly serious - like it is being played for a medal in the Olympics. The tether ball game absolutely magnifies his geekiness even more.

I don't know if there are actual rules to it or if it is more a smash you in the face and dominate your opponent sort of game.  Either way, I don't really see them on modern playgrounds like I did when I was a kid.  It was the one piece of playground equipment that lay motionless most of the time, even with bustling recess playground traffic. 
 
As a kid I tried my hand at tether ball a handful of times. The trick was to play against someone shorter and not as powerfully strong as you.  That usually guaranteed a win. That was also tough for me since I was not a big, tall or girthy kid. 

Once you started slamming the ball, and kept up the speed and momentum, your opponent did not stand a chance.  It is a sort of global dominance game - kind of like the U.S. tries to be in the world.
 
Hopefully that ridiculous stringed ball circling around a metal pole game (which I don't think really ever caught on big time) has faded from school playgrounds and city parks.  The pole at the park close to my house growing up was so rusty you needed a tetanus shot just to play!
 
I don't personally know what a Maypole is with great certainty. The name denotes some sort of spring tradition of frivolity and dancing if I remember back to elementary school.  Spring does that to me too, but I don't need to dance around a pole holding onto ribbons!  Was this actually a common practice at some point in history!  I would lump Maypole activities in with scrap booking, shopping and getting your nails done - way too girlie kinds of activities for me. 
 
A few theories abound about the symbolism and history of maypoles.  For such a boring thing - a tall wood pole, I feel historians have spent far too much time expounding their theories.  Suffice to say that it is believed to have begun in Europe with a predominately Germanesque influence. 

The pole, typically wood, is said to have connections as well to the pagan reverence for sacred trees.  [Right now it is sounding a lot like an episode of Gilligan's Island!].   Others think that silly pole thing dates back to Roman worship of the god Priapus.  Still others theorize that maypoles were just simply a part of the general rejoicing that winter ended and spring was in bloom.  It was an early form of line dancing possibly [please note the ridiculous sarcasm].
 
In our modern culture, the maypole has morphed boldly to the sexual overture world - a stripper pole [seriously I did not make that up!].  There appears to be a shirt tale relationship between stripper poles and maypoles.  The sexual reference to the maypole is in found John Cleland's novel Fanny Hill,  "...and now, disengag'd from the shirt, I saw, with wonder and surprise, what? not the play-thing of a boy, not the weapon of a man, but a maypole of so enormous a standard, that had proportions been observ'd, it must have belong'd to a young giant."  Riveting bed time reading from 1748.  He was basically a mid-seventeen hundreds smut novelist.  Dubbed the first hard core written porn, it was banned until I believe the 1960's.  A bit more difficult to catch the meaning in old English, but it is there.
 
A penis reference in regards to the size of the maypole appears to be John Cleland's suggestion. It appears most anything can be twisted and misconstrued - even in another century! 

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