It's nearly impossible for any male AV to cross the moat and scale the fortress walls around it.
Meanwhile, my heart thus protected, my rational mind also screams in protest at the thought of SL romance.
It just hurts too much.
I've been thinking about this subject a lot lately because I know three couples who recently crossed the border from SL to RL in their relationships. Two stories turned out to be rather fairy tale-like. One turned out to be a disappointment. The guy told me that when he met his SL partner, unfortunately he was completely freaked out and repulsed by her in real life. So I've heard the success stories, and I've heard the nightmares.
More than a year ago, I got close to a guy in Second Life. We finally made plans to meet in real life. I chickened out at the last minute — I made the poor guy cancel his plane ticket and everything. So yeah, even when the opportunity's there, I'm just not brave enough. I didn't want to be one of the nightmare stories. And I knew it wouldn't be as sweet as it was on my monitor.
And that's it, actually. To me, love in Second Life is like a sweet, sweet drug. When I'm with a man I adore there, I feel warm and wrapped in affection. I see his arms around me and I feel it physically. I really do. Countless scientific studies show that the mind cannot tell the difference between detailed visualization and reality. That's why so many psychologists out there urge you to visualize the achievement of your goals in as much detail and as often as possible — to visualize yourself as you'd like to be as vividly as possible.
Think it and think it hard enough and the mind starts to believe it.
So in the case of love, imagine it: You identify closely with your SL AV. You've invested blood, sweat, tears, lindens and all the tools of self-expression that you could ever need into creating this AV who symbolizes your actualized self, your core being, how you'd like to look, how you really ARE. Suddenly, the part of you that the real world doesn't get to see, well, in Second Life others can see it if you let them, because this AV you've created, it comes from your heart, it's crafted from your dreams. Your imagination and your emotions are the life force that runs through its virtual veins.
So here you are, this AV that perhaps in some ways represents you in the truest form possible, and you watch your AV in the arms of another one, being loved, held, protected and cherished. And meanwhile, if you're lucky, you're sharing thoughts, dreams, hopes or, hell, even mundane, "listen to what happened to me at work today" chatter with each other.
When that happens, I believe it hits the heart in a place that's never been touched before. I believe Second Life really is a place where your true self can connect with someone else's true self, and when that happens, well it can be so damn powerful that it makes a realist like me want to run away screaming.
Because when I'm in your virtual arms, for a while it fills me up with warmth and light and everything beautiful.
Then eventually we log off. I turn off my computer. And I'm left staring at this cluttered room, this messy turtle tank, this mountain of laundry, a calendar full of RL obligations, a list of deadlines, a stack of bills, the prospect of a date this weekend with a man who only knows how to send text messages and won't stop talking about his ex-wife.
The fantasy abruptly has come to a screeching halt and I'm left with the cold reality that currently is my life. And wow, does it feel cold.
I want the fantasy. And after an evening of immersing myself in that fantasy on screen, the absence of it can ache like a throbbing tooth. And don't get me wrong here: When I say I want the fantasy, I'm not particularly talking about that SL AV who lights me up inside. Like I said, I'm too much of a realist for that. Plus, I had that chance once, and I learned that meeting a significant-other AV in real life doesn't really appeal to me. The onscreen connection was too perfect. I just wanted to always remember it that way and not ruin it with the logistics and blahblahblahs of real life.
I guess I'm just trying to say that being loved in Second Life makes me want love — REAL love in its physical, mental, emotional and all its other glorious forms — like a crazy junkie in real life. A crazy junkie, running screaming through the streets, begging for a fix.
It's like watching 19 Meg Ryan movies in a row and feeling slightly starry-eyed and brainwashed by them afterward.
So yeah, it hurts. And as you can see from this poorly written blog post, it's hard for me to explain. I don't want to get in too deep in Second Life because the afterglow hurts. And I don't want to seek an SL relationship with the high and statistically unrealistic expectations that it could become something equally powerful in real life, mainly because I want an RL man who's the complete opposite of me, an active social guy who'll drag me out of my sometimes-shell and has never, ever heard of Second Life. I want lots of laughs, sex, frolicking, wine, debauchery, goofing around and no computers anywhere near us unless absolutely necessary.
Nope, beyond that lovely high when we're both inworld, I don't really get the appeal of Second Life relationships, which is why I thought it was ironic when the now-dissolved (*sniff*) CityZen put me on the love beat. Not only do I not get the appeal as it applies to me, but I look at some of my friends in SL relationships and I don't understand them either. I don't judge, but there are questions I want to ask without offending them, like, if you're happily married in real life, why are you partnered to someone in Second Life, sometimes for years and even to the extent where you're throwing anniversary parties? What about your real spouse? Do you still love him/her? Does your spouse know that you're in love with an SL AV? That your AV has a tag that says "So and So's Wife" or "So and So's Husband"? How exactly does that work?
Maybe I'm totally naive, but if I were married in real life, I'd like to think that I'd be so overjoyed at having finally found someone to share my life with that I'd love the hell out of that person. And if I were married in real life and discovered that my spouse was also "married" to an AV in Second Life, well, it would crush my heart. Just crush it. Because I know how true that SL love can feel.
The only relationships I can sort of understand are those people who are hoping to find SL love that'll one day blossom into an RL future. And my hat goes off to those people. They're braver than I am.
So no, I don't look for romance in Second Life. If it happens to hit me like a wrecking ball when I'm not paying attention, well, it's like being on a wild and somewhat bittersweet rollercoaster. When I'm on it, I'm a little scared and I know I should get off because eventually it's going to make me feel a little queasy . . .
. . . but then later I want to get in line and ride it again, just for those parts where you put your arms in the air and gleefully scream, "WEEEEE!"