Loving One, Loving Many (The L Word, part 2)

July 27, 2007 at 7:06 pm (Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Second Life)

I think the experience of being magnetically drawn to another in SL is rather universal. And I’d venture a guess, so are the feelings, questions, and doubts that this experience raises in our own real lives.

As I mentioned in the previous post, soon after I joined SL I found myself faced with very intense feelings for someone I’d met in world. This took me completely by surprise as I had been happily married in real life for over 10 years. All of a sudden someone other than my husband was making me weak in the knees and causing me to run to my computer repeatedly throughout the day, desperate to find some sign of him.

At first I was petrified that this meant my happy marriage might be over. I began to compare the idea of this exciting new lover to the man I’d made my life with. And the intensity of the butterflies in my stomach weren’t helping matters. But, like any good transformative experience, this situation caused me to start asking some pretty heavy questions:

  • Why are the butterflies of new romance so intense? And why do they fade over time?
  • Is it cheating if I find romance online and I’m honest about it with my partner?
  • Is monogamy natural to the human species?

As my husband and I began to ponder these questions (because, of course, by now he’d also fallen in love online), a friend who had been following our evolving drama sent us a link that changed the game for both of us. We were introduced to the idea of polyamory, or the idea of loving many.

Now I realize how new-agey the word sounds. It conjures up images of seventies swinger parties and kooky HBO sex specials. But after looking at the philosophy, it seemed that what we were doing in Second Life was exactly that: loving many fully and equally. And, as long as we remained honest with ourselves, each other, and these new and fantastic “friends,” it all seemed to make sense.

I’m not suggesting here that this concept or philosophy is right for everyone. People who struggle with honest communication in their interpersonal relationships would make terrible candidates for this kind of exploration. But I am proposing that there may be a different way to look at marriage and online relationships than through the often puritanical lense history has handed down to us.

So what do you think? Do you think it’s possible to love a spouse and an online lover without upsetting the familial apple cart?

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The “L” Word, part 1

July 27, 2007 at 12:07 am (Love, Marriage, Second Life)

I first logged on to Second Life to explore how my company might leverage business opportunities within world. An innocuous task, right? Little did I know I would chance upon a rabbit hole through which I would fall on my greatest journey of self discovery since my Saturn return 10 years ago.

Again, readers not steeped in the experience of SL may wonder how emotional love pertains to an online game. But those of us who have been in world for any period of time know how prevalent that emotion is in SL and beyond.

I stumbled upon it fairly early in my exploration of the world and it hit me like a ton of bricks. At the time I would never have called it love, but in retrospect that’s exactly what it was (I only know because I’ve had the wonderful luxury to feel it several different times since then).

So what is this love experience–this emotional connection– and how does it wriggle its way into the lives of us unsuspecting normal and happy adults who play this game (I know–it’s not a game!)? Moreover, when we find it, and it feels sooooo good, what do we do about it?

Now I can only speak for myself. But to me, love in SL usually begins with curiosity: a desire to get to know the person behind the avatar. [I’m not into the role play game. My primary goal is to find people from whom I can learn something.] So my dance begins with an introduction, usually followed by exceptionally witty verbal jousting (thanks for the word, Ray). And, just like in RL, 4 hours later we’re wondering where the time went.

Some of the loves I’ve had in SL have crept up on me over time, scratching an itch I didn’t know existed. Some blew me away in the first 3 minutes. But all have been meaningful, substantial, and have afforded me a glimpse into my own psyche that has truly made me a different person. (Not to mention that I’ve had the sincere pleasure of getting to know some pretty incredible men!)

Those of you who know I’m happily married in RL may be wondering what the hell I’m talking about. How can she find “sweep-me-off-my-feet, knock-my-socks-off” love in SL with a husband and family still in the picture? This is a legitimate question. And one I’ll attempt to answer in my next post. So stay tuned.

For an interesting and somewhat sad look at how love can feel in SL, check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZDRRDEvtPU&NR=1

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Judging A Book by its Cover: Must Avatars Look Good for us to be Attracted to Them?

July 25, 2007 at 5:15 pm (Beauty, Second Life)

Gamera the Turtle

For those of you out there reading this post who do not participate in Second Life (yes, I know there are still a few of you) this topic may seem utterly bizarre. Hell, even to those of us leading second lives, this question is a strange one. But I’m wondering, why does the cartoon representation of us matter?

Surely the way our pixels are arranged is not the only thing that we go on when determining with whom to spend our limited time in world. But clearly looks do matter in Second Life. Why else would we spend time and money buying clothes, hair, skin, and shoes to play virtual Barbies with our avis?

I think the way we make our avatars look is considered a reflection on who we are as the real individuals behind the keyboard. Admittedly, I’ve made Cinderella a hot representation of the personal attributes I like about myself. But she is more of me than her looks alone; her mannerisms, the way she dresses, and certainly the words she “speaks” (or I type) are totally me.

Lest I receive nasty-grams chastising me for being shallow, I do think it is possible and natural to get beyond the way an avatar looks. Some of my best SL friends I initially met when they were cats, turtles, warriors, the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man, and–Gawd forbid!–newbs. It was the person behind the av that attracted me to them.

But, I admit…I’m often quick to help a new-found newb friend find skin and hair becoming of a “proper” avatar. And I don’t typically go out dancing with the turtle. Perhaps I should (nudge nudge, Gam).

[Note to reader: I am aware of the prolific use of role play in Second Life. I’m not referring to that here.]

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Is Second Life a guilty pleasure?

July 25, 2007 at 1:22 am (Guilt, Second Life)

Let me state upfront that I find guilt utterly useless as an emotion. That’s not to say I don’t feel it. I just fail to see its value. So today, when I asked a friend to describe a guilty pleasure and he said Second Life, I felt somewhat defensive. A guilty pleasure to me meant eating an entire 1/2 lb. bag of M&Ms (no, I’d never do that) or my answer, buttered popcorn. But someone close to me to considering Second Life a guilty pleasure elicited a knee-jerk reaction akin to goosebumps from a swim in the frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest.

So what’s so guilty about enjoying Second Life? Is it that we can say “Five more minutes, honey” with complete confidence and turn around 4 hours later wondering where our night went? Is it the stirring of dormant emotions prompted by enticing relationships with various men and women we may have just met?

My friend said it was about spending so much time on something so frivolous. But must we really spend all our time productively? I often ask that of myself as a parent when my son, who has been working productively at school all day long, asks to watch tv or play on the computer. Can a little downtime really hurt?

Being an extrovert–meaning that I get my energy from other people–I  look at some of my time on Second Life as a welcome opportunity to pump a little extra energy into my reserves. But mostly I just really enjoy it. I feel like a better person learning the things I do from other people or exploring a part of myself that might have gone unchartered.

So I think my problem goes back to the word “guilty.” It serves no purpose and, I argue, should be stricken from the English language. So should the word pathetic, in my opinion, but we’ll save that for another day.

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True Love’s Toes by Cindy Kesey

July 24, 2007 at 2:53 am (Relationships)

A tree stands tall amongst her friends
true test of time that never ends.
And though they share the soil and moss
their roots are sure to never cross.

Yet sun, he tempts the branches grow.
And soon roots have no place to go.
Stretch they might cross forest floor.
One wish: alone they’ll be no more.

In moment’s hush as day turned  night
the roots entwined as lovers might.
And tree stood tall for she’d finally found
her true love’s toes beneath the ground.

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Why does anyone care what I have to say?

July 23, 2007 at 9:45 pm (Relationships)

Well, admittedly, you may not.

But that’s never stopped me from waxing poetic before.  And I’ve always said I have lots of opinions about things.

So if you’re here….hey….thanks for coming! These posts here are just my opinions, which–being the quintessential female that I am–I reserve the right to change at any moment. In fact,  you can rest assured I probably will, due to new information, a growing sense of enlightenment, or just to keep things interesting.

I also love hearing other people’s opinions.  So don’t hesitate to tell me what you think.

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