If you could look like anything you wanted, what would you look like? Now reread that question and see if you missed that I said anyTHING. Did your mind automatically go your physical attributes? Did you automatically make yourself taller or shorter, thinner or more muscular, with different hair or different eyes? Or did you allow your imagination to run a little wild? Would you be an animal, a mythical beast, or maybe something beyond what others have imagined?
In a virtual reality, where we can look like anyone or anything we choose, most of us choose to stick with human. A few more of us add tails and ears. Others add fur or wings or claws or vampire fangs. But even though the additional parts may not be possible in the physical world, we still generally strive for an appearance that we feel is visually pleasing.
There are some brave souls, or perhaps those just willing to look outside the box, who have chosen to wander Second Life as geometric shapes, normally inanimate objects or walking works of art. It’s a rather small collection of people who use the infinite creative ossibilities of the virtual world to be more than human, to make a statement, to shock, or just because they can.
It would be interesting to have a conversation with assorted Second Life residents about the choices that they made in their avatar appearance. Maybe I’ll do that at some point! But for now, I share a bit of who I am in relation to my virtual appearance.
I stay primarily inside the box with my normal human female shape, though I am known to occasionally take the form of a tiny cat or a huge dragon. I also have a little butterfly and a little frog in my inventory of appearance choices. But, the virtual me that I have evolved to be over the last four and a half years is rather normal, given the never ending
I have given it some thought over the years and I suppose that virtual Tricia looks like the person I am in my head. A few of my choices have been things that I am not. Short, for one example, skinny for another. In reality, just about everything except making myself shorter is not a complete improbability in the physical world, with hard work, hair dye and cosmetic surgery.
Even the “short” aspect is kind of irrelevant. Height in Second Life is measured in the virtual equivalent of meters, but there are gadgets that tell you what your height is in feet and inches. I chose a height that averages around 5’ 8”, which is my actual height. However, in the virtual world, where such things are kind of a matter of perspective, I am
a shrimp among Amazons. It’s actually kind of cool when you’ve been fairly tall most of your life. It gives you a little bit different perspective. I get picked on, but it’s all in fun.
I chose realism for my virtual appearance, and chose what I think I would choose to look like if I had a handy control menu with little slider bars to adjust my height, muscles, waistline and butt and boob size. I am an artist, and virtual me is the culmination of four and a half years of tweaking, adjusting, upgrading and taste changes. She is a personal, one of a kind, artistic expression of myself.
I get a lot of comments on her appearance. It can be quite gratifying, especially when you’re not really accustomed to that in the physical world. At least most of it is gratifying. She is cute; she can be sexy or serious and does a great job of pulling off a professional business suit or a little black dress. At first I thought I was being all risqué when donning the little black dress or the slightly sexy dresses, but really I avoid the slutty look, and believe me, there’s a LOT more of that out there than there is simple yet attractive. I said to a friend the other day, I used to think that I would not wear the stuff that virtual Tricia wears, but then I realized that if I really DID have that body, I’d probably dress like that!
What does irritate me, however, are the overtly sexual remarks, the comments from complete strangers who tell me my avvie (avatar) is hot, sexy, gorgeous, or whatnot. This is where I start to bristle at the superficial beauty in Second Life. To me, beauty should be practically irrelevant when ANYONE can be drop dead gorgeous. Most of my choices in my avatar’s appearance have been to please me, rather than other people. I certainly don’t consider myself ugly in the physical world, but I also haven’t had half the attention my virtual self gets.
I have experienced firsthand the difference in how it feels when a dear friend tells me I’m beautiful and when a stranger does. I take more stock in the friend that says this, because they know me. They have taken the time to know me and to talk to me; they know more about me than what a nice cartoon I have. More often than not, they know what I look like beyond the keyboard and they have earned the right to declare me beautiful, or even average. They have loved me when I am smart and funny, as well as when I’m cranky or sad.
Maybe this is the same problem that ‘beautiful’ people have out in the physical world. The inherent inability for humans to get beyond the visually pleasing to what is beneath the surface, something that I’ll confess even I am guilty of. I have had a few friends in my virtual life that I have dearly wished I could make over. Maybe what I need at this point is a psychologist or anthropologist to tell me what it is that is hard wired in the human brain to get all worked up about something pretty. In the meantime, I choose to remain virtually pretty, and when I receive an instant message from some pixel crazed admirer, “Your avatar is SO hot!” I’ll continue to use my well-practiced reply, “Thanks! I made me myself!”