Failing the Test

Some of my blogs are light-hearted, some are more serious. This one hurts. This one hurts physically and emotionally. Maybe I shouldn’t even be writing it now while everything is so raw. Maybe I should wait until I gain perspective. That presupposes that I WILL gain some understanding.

Botgirl Questi opened an exhibit last week. Due to RL happiness, I was unable to make the opening. I wanted very much, however, to get there and check it all out. I knew from the start I probably would NOT try the Avatar Transformer. In her blog, Botgirl says: If you don’t think you’re identified with your avatar then I dare you – I double dare you – to step into the Avatar Transformer at Botgirl’s Identity Circus. LOL. I KNOW I identify with my avatar. I don’t need to lose her AGAIN to know that. I think that is really the source of my reluctance for THAT particular feature. I lost myself and needed Kate Linden to rescue me. I still have so little confidence in my ability to put myself back together that I wouldn’t risk it for a whim. Or is that all rationalization? 🙂 Doesn’t matter.

I confess that while I love reading Botgirl’s blog, I find a lot of her posts/insights unsettling. I didn’t want to go on my own. So I prevailed on my friend Dale to accompany me (Dale himself being part of the show). When we arrived at the tent we were pleasantly surprised to see Botgirl herself. I’d never met her and was very happy for the introduction. I did indeed pass up the Avatar Transformer. 🙂 Went inside and was looking at all the exhibits. The poster included here should be internalized in everyone. Those of you who know me in RL know that I think of this as don’t “expect” of others and don’t have “shoulds”. 🙂 And you all know who I credit for that wisdom.

So I browsed and read. I turned around and saw Dale with Majic. Magic is Botgirl’s chatbot. She is also part of the exhibit. As Botgirl wrote in her pre-exhibit post: One of the exhibits I’m most looking forward to will give attendees a chance to cuddle with my chatbot. Sharing a romantic animation with an attractive yet empty avatar is a great way to get a feel for the power virtuality has to induce an emotional or even physical response. Dale and Majic were chatting and cuddling quite happily. Majic initiates a conversation if you come within her local chat range. She will answer you each time you speak. I laughed and continued reading. Afterwards I asked Dale what it was like to make-out with Majic. He answered that it was fun, she was a sweetie and she never complained. And added “you should try it”. Botgirl agreed saying I should experience it directly.

I balked. Big time. I have no idea what it says about me or what it “really” means, but I did NOT want to go cuddle with Majic. Just like with the sky diving – I began having tightness in my chest and could feel the blood pounding in my temples. That was just ridiculous. The more I tried to make myself move forward, the less luck I had. We had some minor discussion about it: why did I not want to, both saying I didn’t HAVE to. Finally I walked up to where Majic was reclining. I got all the way up to her, extremely stressed out, and she says “By the way, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?” As Dale said, great timing Majic. I turned and retreated. I simply could not bring myself to join her. I stood there watching, stressing, wondering. The logical part of my mind was baffled at my resistance. What’s the big deal? What could happen? Just go and cuddle and be done.

Finally I steeled myself, walked over, clicked and cuddled. Dale was sitting on the floor watching, Botgirl was standing there watching (or so I presumed). But Majic needed me to talk in order for her to talk. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I still couldn’t even think why I would want to cuddle with an non-sentient creature. There is no “there” in a pandorabot. I fumbled through a few sentences and responses and then jerked myself away. Yeah, I’ll confess – I looked over and we were in a somewhat explicit position (fully dressed). That probably was the proverbial straw. But it was as much an excuse as the reason. The whole experience was awful. I tried to type “unpleasant” but that doesn’t even begin to describe how miserable I was.

Botgirl asked if it would be easier or harder if it was an avatar connected to a real person instead of to an AI server. No problem on that question at all: easier. Why??? It’s easier for me to cuddle with a total stranger than a robot? Why does that seem out of character? But there is something that totally repulses me about cuddling with Majic. I can cuddle my stuffed animals, they don’t cuddle back. I can cuddle my pets, they do cuddle back, without any conversation. I can anthropomorphize all of those. So what’s wrong with a robot? I don’t know. But even thinking about it I experience stress symptoms.

Dale asked me if it would have been easier if I’d been there alone. I’m not sure. Given how upset I was afterwards, I was glad they were there. But would it have been easier? Maybe. I wouldn’t have known what to do (talk to Majic) so who knows what would have happened. Not that I was able to say much anyway. There wouldn’t have been witnesses to what I see as my failure.

I feel that there was some major significant life test here. I have no idea if there was, what it was, why I think that. All I know is that I felt this was some sort of trial. I got halfway there by actually starting. But I failed miserably at the process. As if there were a “right” way to do this and I had no clue. Dale and Botgirl seemed to be able to do this without it being an issue. Even now, hours removed, with events in between to soften the recollection, I can’t imagine cuddling with Majic. I can’t imagine anything I’d want to say to Majic. Do I think it was like talking to myself? to a mirror? No, I can do that. Mirrors don’t answer back. Majic would. Is that what is upsetting me? That she talks and I would take her seriously, read meaning into her words? I don’t think I ever got that far in thinking about it. I wasn’t doing much thinking at all. Rampant emotion definitely was running the show. I certainly got a “feel for the power virtuality has to induce an emotional or even physical response”.

Majic and all the exhibit will be there 2 more weeks (closing Oct. 19). I will have that much time to decide if I want to try this again and get it “right”. I don’t like failing. Even if I don’t go back and cuddle with Majic, I’d at least like to determine why not.

Burning Life

Many many people have blogged about Burning Life and posted wonderful pictures. I’ve been over there three times this week. I’m planning to go back again this weekend before it closes Oct. 5, RL permitting. No one else has posted what has been MY favorite lighthearted exhibit (to date). So here it is, Lorimae’s Blue Cat House, although I think of it as Cat and Mouse. 🙂 (074-Art, Burning Life (Micro) (174, 39, 24) )

Channelling Imelda Marcos

Confession time. I channel Imelda Marcos. I LOVE shoes. I REALLY LOVE boots. Now in FL sometimes atomic reality interferes with these loves. My foot and the shoe aren’t compatible. My wallet and the shoe aren’t compatible. But in SL – oh, I am in boot and shoe heaven!!!! I was prancing about in my brand new Lola boots the other day, having agonized over which pair would be my treat for that particular shopping trip. My friend S pointed out that for $20 I could buy most all the boots and shoes I wanted. I said that I understood that but she was SUPPOSED to be admiring my self-restraint! She laughed and ask Why self-restraint? I told her because it was good practice. 🙂 More importantly – buying boots is like eating fine chocolate. You want to savor the experience. You want to taste every last little molecule. You don’t want to blunt the effect by hurling some other sensation on top of the chocolate sensation. Mmmmmm. Draw it out. Enjoy it. Let it linger on your tongue. Same with boots. 🙂 Get one new pair. Buy an outfit to show off the new boots. Wander about. Strike a pose. Dance. Make those boots one with yourself. 🙂 Oh yes, my boots are akin to a spiritual experience as well as a totally sybaritic pleasure. Shoes are good too, don’t get me wrong, but to REALLY make my day – give me a new pair of boots!!!

So now I wake each morning and I want to wear Ahuva’s boots!!!! I look in my closet and there are boots, but they are not as nice as HER boots!!!! I want my SL boots in RL!!!!! I NEED my SL boots in RL!!! I can’t stand this deprivation anymore!!! I WILL succeed! If I don’t respond to your emails or IM’s or your phone calls you know where I am – I am googling boots! 🙂

Serious Matters

There was a RL lawsuit brought about an SL issue. Many of you know about, maybe some of you don’t. I was watching a video on it again the other day on YouTube. This time I also read the comments posted on the site. The original post and comments go back a year. I am amazed at the contempt, derision and hatred expressed by people who appear to know NOTHING about SL. What IS it about people that makes them so vehemently opposed to anything that is different from what they do or believe???? The abuse and obscenities and disgust expressed are totally out of proportion. I am not an activist. I tend to believe that it is my job to live a “good” life and by doing so, help spread positive karma and repair the world. But sometimes I feel one must stand up and be seen to be doing the positive. To that end, let me direct you to Gender Freedom Day in Digital Worlds. Let us show those who hate mindlessly, reflexively, that there can be a better world.

And just so no one misses it:

Gender Freedom Day in Digital Worlds

This leads me to something else that has been bothering me for a few days. At first blush, when you read what I am going to say, I think I sound like I am in the “hate people who are different than I” camp. That isn’t my intent. I am trying to work out a very strong visceral reaction I had to something in SL. It may be that I am still “in the box” and haven’t yet embraced true diversity. So if you think that I am wrong, and that there is a positive spin on this next story, please let me know. Actually, I would be very grateful if you could convince me that there IS a positive spin.

The other night I tp’d into the dressing room to change outfits. The system was incredibly laggy. Before I had even finished rezzing, the other woman in the dressing room, Sadie, offered friendship. I declined. I wrote back thanking her for her offer. Before I could even explain why I was declining (I like to know someone first) she sent the offer again. I declined again and explained why.
Sadie: well my birthday is on sunday and im turning 13
AH: really?
Sadie: si
AH: you are 13 ?
Sadie: turning

At that point my system crashed. When I logged back in, she was gone. I changed outfits, headed over to the benches. I mentioned this to the folks there, one of whom was a Land Officer, who suggested that I should file an Abuse Report.
AH: i’m not sure she really is 13
AH: i think it was a game
Person1: Ewwwwww, playing an age game in the CR
LO: someone doing age play is also against the TOS

It so happened that night that many people came to the benches in child avatars, which for me simply intensified the experience. I confess – I became totally creeped out by the child avs. I was uncomfortable and was not enjoying interacting with my friends when they were wearing those personas. Here’s why….

I remember being 12. It was a difficult time – all that adolescence stuff happening. Cliques. Peer pressure. Budding sexuality. I think maybe 16 was a little worse, but 12 wasn’t so great. If Sadie really IS 12 turning 13, I can’t imagine a single positive, happy reason for her to be in SL. Nothing. SL is, in my opinion, geared for adults. Certainly within the NCI sim it is for adults. A 12 year-old girl has no healthy reason for dressing like a full-blown woman, and going out to interact with adults who will treat her as an equal. All I can imagine is some lonely, sad, friendless girl with low-self esteem, who needs to find virtual friends because her atomic life is bleak. Or this is a child who has been abused and so feels that she has lost her childhood and is an adult. I had so much to do when I was 12. It was hard emotionally (teenage angst), but jumping ahead and trying to be an adult would not have been the answer. I had music, gymnastics, physical friends, family, pets, books and riding. There was still so much atomic world to try. There was so much social interaction to master. I LOVE SL. You know I do. But I am not 12 years old. I have lived life. I have experienced love, death, joy, tragedy. I can move at ease in the atomic world. To me – 12 years old is simply too young to be trying to pass yourself off as an adult in an adult environment.

What if Sadie was playing a game? That to me is even worse than believing she meant what she said. I am squarely in the box on this: I believe that adults taking sexual and/or emotional advantage of children is wrong. No mincing of words on this. I can accept most sexual variations and preferences as long as they don’t involve harming another. I firmly believe that an adult having sex with a child is harm, no matter strongly the adult may believe that the intention is good. So if Sadie was an adult playing an age game, why? Is this another form of griefing??? Because it certainly disturbed me. Each time I think of this incident I am upset.

So. There you have it. If you can help me ease the disquiet in my soul, I would appreciate it. And if you show up for Gender Freedom Day and take a stand for tolerance , the world would appreciate it. And if these two requests are contradictory, all I can say is that I am a human being, full of emotions, trying to live a life that does not harm others, a life that helps to repair the world. I try the best I can.