A Different Body

MP900402316This is a share of a post I wrote for a new blog I have created called Fitness for Real Girls, but the conversation fits just as easily here on Spiritual Tea, as it gives us reason to stop and think about how we perceive our own bodies.

For me, one of the big ruts is that of inertia. Once I stop, it is so hard to get started again. It’s part of a routine that is probably familiar to many of you. I get sick, or hurt myself, or feel tired and achy, and I don’t exercise.

Then of course, since I work at my computer all day, I feel tired and achy and blah because I’m sitting at my desk and not exercising. And I don’t exercise so I feel blah, and I feel blah, so I don’t exercise, and on and on, you get the picture!

I realized that some of my aches and pains were most likely due to being overweight, and if I was going to sit here and feel achy, I might as well exercise and have a good reason to be achy! Interestingly, the muscle aches from biking and hiking are a different kind of pain, maybe one might even call it a good pain? Ok, yeah, that might be pushing it. But at any rate, it feels better than just feeling achy and crummy from sitting inside all day!

Around the same time I was contemplating all of this, I came across an interview on Slate.com with photographer Jen Davis.  The article by David Rosenberg is entitled In Revealing Self-Portraits, Body Image Is Front and Center, and is well worth the read. Jen spent many years taking self-portraits that centered around her body image and the thoughts, emotions and fantasies that shaped it.

The interview and the photos really touched and inspired me, and led me to think about my own image. Perhaps her self image and reasoning were not necessarily positive, and many people may not agree with her process, but there was a line in the interview that struck me:

“It was kind of shocking, kind of painful to look at myself and to see myself evolving and growing and understanding a deeper sense of myself but my body not being able to change after nine years’ time. I was shocked and thought ‘why can’t I take control of my life?’ and I realized I didn’t want to wake up at 40 and be in this body—I wanted to know what it would be like to be in a different body, and that was a painful realization,” Davis explained.

I wanted to know what it would be like to be in a different body… Very simple, but somehow it struck me as very profound. Again, maybe it’s not the best philosophy in the world, but it has become something of a mantra for me. For years I have felt stuck in this rut of being overweight and feeling unhealthy, most of my motivation for exercising and losing weight was for all those same “rut” reasons; feeling bad about myself, my body and disappointed in my own inability to get out of the rut.

So, I have put a curiosity spin on it. This body is fine, it’s served its purpose, but what would it be like to be in a fit body? Even if I am not skinny by today’s marketing standards, feeling stronger and healthier would be a GOOD thing, and looking at it this way has helped me feel empowered and keep moving. While the process is slower than I might like it to be, I can feel the difference, just a little hint of what’s to come in this different body.


Not Just Another Pretty Pixel

If you could look like anything you wanted, what would Tricia circa 2008 - photo by PJ Trentonyou 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.

Scottius Polke - Otterly FamousThere 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 toFairy Tricia - photo by PJ Trenton 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.

Adventurous T - photo by PJ TrentonI 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!

Self Portrait at the time of this writingWhat 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 Contemplative T - Self Portrait 2009psychologist 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!”