Playgrounds shouldn’t be just for kids. They typically* have things like steel bars in various configurations that are good for pull-ups and laches and dips and rows and miscellaneous things that can be tough to replicate at home.
However, that’s not the world in which we live. Playgrounds are for kids, and using them as an adult can raise suspicion, even when that usage is as innocent as a workout. And I get it: We should want to protect kids from people who wish to do them harm. But I’d like to be able to get some monkey bar work in myself.**
So how can you use these public, taxpayer-funded facilities without seeming or feeling like the kind of person who needs a mustache and a corner shrub to peer through at all times? I’ve assembled some suggestions. Use your common sense before applying them and don’t be creepy!
- Go when kids aren’t there. This is the approach I’ve been using so far in Ohio, and it’s worked well; the playground that’s near to me is both not terribly exciting and not particularly convenient to extensive residential area. (There’s one neighborhood around it, but it’s bounded on one side by a county fairground, across the street by a greenway, and a third side has a school and then fields.) So, while I’ve seen kids using it, there’s never been any potential conflict.
- Get in/get out. By that I mean: Most of your workout doesn’t involve the bars. So go there, do your bar work quick, and then go elsewhere—like the middle of the field—for the rest of your workout. Also, maybe make sure you’re facing out (rather than toward the rest of the play structure) while you’re working. And wear a shirt. Don’t be this guy:
- Bring a kid of your own. Or a neighbor’s kid. Or a random one you find on the street. I’m not here to judge that kind of morality. However, this can be tricky, even if you do it totally legal-like: if you bring a kid, you’ll be expected to keep an eye on it, which might get you some appalled looks if you spend too many minutes on your toe-to-bars.
- Wear a uniform. Certain people in our society are above question. If you dress as a police officer, a firefighter, or a soldier, you will automatically be protected against any accusations of creepiness because you’re a hero. (Maybe our culture ought to have a bit more nuanced relationship with the idea of those professions.)
- Be a juggler. Jugglers can work pull-ups into their act. Jugglers can work anything into their act. Unfortunately, this might not be enough to make you appear not to be creepy. And if you are deemed acceptable by community standards, you’ll need to develop 30 to 60 minutes of kid-friendly patter in order to keep the show going.
- Wear a badge. I’m thinking one of those “Hi, my name is,” stickers you can put on your shirt, and then you can write in “Someone who isn’t creepy.” Although if you don’t have any of those stickers available, you could carry a sign, write it in Sharpie on your forehead, or safety-pin a note to your shirt. I’m sure any of those will work okay.
On second thought… maybe just move to a place where they have grown-up playgrounds. I’m not sure how effectively these techniques will keep you out of jail.
* No, not always. When I was in Chicago, there actually seemed to be a movement to rip out playground equipment and replace it with these weird cord-based structures. I have no idea why; they didn’t look like they would be particularly fun or particularly safe.
** I was going to say “innocent monkey bar work in,” but that makes the phrase so much more creepy, no?