Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Art of Romance

This Second Life thing just gets more interesting all the time.

As I continue to plan out my (our) collaborative art project exploring the views and expectations of partnered avatars on SL and mixing it with the expectations of partnered people in RL, the universe is seeing fit to provide me with more and more data.

First, I came across an article on a study out of Stanford that seems to confirm that there's a lot of "leak" between SL and RL, and what you do in SL can have a strong positive effect on RL. You can read it in this issue of Time Magazine online.

Second, I began checking out the profiles of some partnered avatars and discovered that for many, getting married in SL seems to be a prelude to moving the relationship into RL. This is certainly not true for all, but I did find many cases in which people were planning on pulling up roots and moving hundreds of miles away to be near the RL owner of the avatar they'd married, because the emotional component of the relationship was very real, even if the physical aspect of it was a purely digital expression.

I was already fairly sure this was true, having experienced it myself in a variety of little ways. But I experienced it in a BIG way a couple of nights ago.

You see, on Tuesday night, Asimia had a date.

She met the gentleman involved the night before at a jazz club on the sim where she lives. She was actually dancing with someone else when this particular gentleman caught her (my?) eye, and despite having a very pleasant dance partner already, she couldn't take her (my?) eyes off this other gentleman. He walked across the floor, she (okay, damnit, I) almost got carpal tunnel running the camera controls around to watch him. He sat at the bar, she spied on him with an overhead view while chatting with her dance partner. He was stunning, and this is really saying something, because in Second Life, everyone is as attractive as they want to be. He was elegantly dressed. He seemed poised and just a touch aloof. And he had fabulous, thick, gorgeous, blond flowing hair almost to his waist.

He turned out to be friends with Asimia's dance partner, and tossed a few wry, witty comments their way. Delightful.

He was, in short, the man (avatar?) of her (my? our?) dreams.

Asimia's been in SL long enough to know that it frequently does mirror RL in one particular way: guys who make a fuss over you and say they'll call, frequently don't. Their profiles all say they don't want any drama, then they promptly set out to create it. Well, I truly don't want any drama, and the first time this happened I was surprised and a little hurt. But by the third or fourth time, I had adjusted and really felt that it didn't matter. Asimia is, after all, in SL for art and for art alone.

And then he showed up.

Long story short, Asimia's dance partner departed for another venue and she took a chance and went over to talk with Mr. Handsome. He was not very talkative at first, but he got her a drink and then asked her to dance. Asimia flirted hard, and at one point it crossed my (her?) mind that she was probably trying too hard. But, no matter. They had a little fun, then his friends IM'd him to come join them. They exchanged "friend" cards, she told him about her art party on the 22nd, and he left. And she (we) figured, that was that. As his avatar disappeared, Asimia tried to fan the virtual flush from her face and said to no one in particular, "It's a good thing I don't meet guys that look like that every day."

So the next day when he IM'd her and invited her to join him at the beach, she was very surprised. Very pleased, but surprised. And a little suspicious and more than a touch guarded. But she put on her beach wear, and accepted his offer, and found herself at a fun and people-filled beach club where they danced and drank and chatted (he's still not very talkative) until heading over to Asimia's house to hang out on the beach there for awhile. Evening came, as it does every four hours in SL, and they changed into more elegant clothing and headed over to the Jazz Club to hear the new DJ.

The new DJ was playing smoky, sensual soul. The dancing was close and slow. It was phenomenally romantic. After the sun came up again, I had to go, so that meant Asimia did too. Mr. Handsome escorted her home and said a proper good-night at her front door.

The point of all this is the next day, I—not Asimia, we're talking about ME—felt this pleasant calm lovely sensation of little endorphins sailing around in my brain. Asimia's highly pleasant SL experience with a handsome fellow avatar affected me exactly the same way as if I had had the experience with a handsome gentleman in Real Life.

People come into SL for a lot of different reasons. I think I'm beginning to understand that for me, SL is a tool for visualization. I have created Asimia very much in my own image, but at the same time she is a projection of my best and highest-idealized self. As she experiments, whether with furniture-making or crafting prims into NPIRL sculpture or romance, I reap the benefits in unexpected ways.

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