Love it or Hate it: Playgrounds

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

Love itPlaygrounds are like miniature battlefields. Out there at recess, kids can learn most everything they need to know about the triumphs and pratfalls of the human spirit.

You take turns on the tire swing, seeing who can push fastest and highest. You close your eyes and clutch onto the creaking chains, feeling the whole world spinning off its orbit. You participate in heated monkey bar challenges, hanging there until your arms feel like they’ll be ripped out of their sockets. You wait your turn at the tunnel slide and pretend to get stuck there like a snug little parasite, staying until someone slides along and dislodges you. You arrange clandestine meetings with schoolyard friends and enemies on top of the rickety wooden bridge. You try to bounce your friends off. Girls aren’t allowed. Boys aren’t allowed. You form clubs and committees and break hearts and reputations.

Adult playgrounds are a thing, too. They’re cropping up in places like Miami, St. Louis, Washington state, Boston, Hong Kong, Austria, you name it. Play is important, even to those who have traditionally outgrown it. Multiple studies demonstrate how effective play is for improving productivity in work environments. It also helps stimulate imagination (your old pal, possibly dusty from misuse) and foster childlike excitement. Plus, it can get your heart pumping. Adults need exercise, yeah, but most of us secretly want to swing and slide and frolic, too.

Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldHate itIt turns out that there are certain places grown men cannot go alone lest you raise suspicion and elicit stares and scorn, if not flat out calls to the police. The women’s bathroom: Understandable. The women’s section at any store: Maybe I’m shopping for my lady, but point taken. Chuck E. Cheese: I get it; I can get pizza elsewhere. But the big one, one that makes the 10-year-old in me weep and long for innocent times: Playgrounds.

As an adult, I’ve been known to hit a playground or two. My favorite activity is to commandeer the swings, get going as high as science will allow and jump off to see how far I can fly. If I’m with anyone else who shares the same desire, a competition always ensues and each jump is an attempt to be “the record.” And what’s more fun than playing “fire tag” on the jungle gym where a normal game of tag is complicated by the fact that the ground is made of lava? And, I’m sorry, but sometimes a guy just wants to take a single trip down the slide on his way home from work.

But such enthralling activities are not open to single men or even two men. Whether real or imagined, there’s a great sense that any man by himself at a playground must be a predator (In fact, I’ve had friends tell me flat out that they would never leave a child alone with a man). And the only thing that seemingly disqualifies a man – any man – from being a child molester is to have a woman or child in tow. I hate that.

David Holub


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