So, last week I launched a new SL venture called Project EveryBody… and I issued my first challenge to everyone who wanted to participate. The challenge was fairly simple, at least in terms of requirements. I asked people to “be brave.” You can read all the details here.
I have big plans for Project EveryBody, and I’ve even bought a domain for it, with the hopes of translating it to the real world eventually. But for now, I’m content to see what it can do for us in Second Life. For now, here’s my take on being brave.
In March of 2009, I was out in SL at Redgrave. I’d taken the base avatar shape and made it my own… badly. I had no sense of proportions, but it was my shape, my (virtual) body. I was protective of it. One thing I had wanted, like so many, was to be some sort of idealized version of myself. I saw SL as a way to be things I couldn’t ever be in RL. Like, for example, leggy. My RL legs are short. I am not short; at 5’6″ I am taller than the average American woman. But I carry my height in my torso. It’s just the way I’m built, like my mother and grandmother before me. The shape I had created in SL was opposite that, and sort of the… Amazon warrior type, and certainly bigger in width and fat than most avies.
Well, back to Redgrave. Some assholes decided to taunt me in public and call Lucie fat. There was a LOT of uninvited commentary about my “fat” shape, and I was furious. Fat? What they hell were they talking about? These people clearly didn’t know what “fat” meant. But, truth be told, in comparison to other SL avs, Lucie was fat. And that’s okay because fat is merely a physical descriptor, not some sort of bad word. It’s like saying (in RL), I have brown eyes. Yep. I do, thanks for noticing. Now, in this case, they were being bullies and jerks about it, and I didn’t really know how to reply because the concept that I was being bullied for how my pixels looked was kind of mind blowing.
I didn’t change my shape because of their assholery. But, over time, Lucie’s shape DID change. Why? Well… I sucked at editing prims and sculpties and nothing.ever.fit. I was frustrated. Didn’t I already deal with this crap enough in RL? Why did I need to deal with it in SL, too? So gradually, Lucie “lost weight,” so to speak, and as she became smaller I lost a big part of who I – the person behind the avatar – was. I was actively working with an eating disorder therapist in RL when I began SL. I was learning to accept and love the RL me, regardless of size. And by shrinking Lucie, well, I sort of caved to a mindset I was so desperately fighting in the real world. When Standard Sizing for mesh came out, Lucie was between a medium and a small. But closer to a small. Instead of embracing the larger size, I shrunk her even more. For a long time she was a small, and occasionally, even an extra small. Now… you need to understand the secret thrill I felt. I’ve literally never been a small in anything. I was a big baby (8 lbs, 6 oz) and I was a BIG kid. Here, let me show you.
Guess which girl I am? Okay, yeah the only one with my face not blurred. But also, by far, the tallest, heaviest and overall biggest. And we’re all the same age. This is first grade. I wore a woman’s size 8 shoe by third grade. Nothing ever fit me right.
So, in SL… when I could be a small! Why wouldn’t I? And that’s a valid question, and it’s fine and fun to be in SL what we can’t in RL. Except in my case, it caused me angst, and played into an unhealthy mindset I’d worked too hard to escape.
I realized over time that I didn’t really feel like ME. So, I became a medium, but resisted becoming a large. If Standard Sizing has a flaw it is that the jump from medium to large is pretty freakin’ dramatic. If you look at the differences between small to medium and medium to large in terms of slider points, it’s significant. So, the jump from a small to a medium didn’t feel so major. But to go from a medium to a large? It felt like putting 60 pounds on my avatar in a few short clicks, and part of me resisted that for a year, even though another part of me secretly craved to make Lucie even more fuller figured. And then… then I saw this picture from Lauren Minuet.
While I vehemently disagree with the notion that to look like a “real woman” a person (or avatar!) needs to have “curves,” or that a thin, slender, or athletically built woman is somehow less “womanly” or sexy, I saw this picture and just fell in love. Lauren just oozes sensuality here, and it made me realize that, despite what I’d told myself, I could be a bigger, fuller figured, curvier avatar and NOT feel frumpy or somehow… less than. I could be more like the real me, the me I’d spent so much time working to love just the way that I am, right now, today. I talked to Lauren (who is one of the sweetest people ever) for some tips and advice (mainly I wondered if she was wearing a large or using fitted mesh – she usually wears large, though the dress in the above pic is from a store that doesn’t use traditional standard sizing). And I tweaked my shape dramatically. And I love it.
Going from a medium to a large should’ve been a huge transition, but it felt so… right – at least once I’d realized it was what I wanted, and opinions of others (and especially of my own inner voice that wants to hate on my own body, virtual or real) be damned. Sure, I’m often the biggest avie in the room, but that mirrors my real life, so it feels right. It feels natural. And it’s okay if I’m the biggest, just as it would be if I were the smallest. Admittedly, it can be infuriating to find clothes that fit my new shape properly (because it seems designers don’t always use the exact measurements for large standard sizing and/or don’t make alphas to work with their large sizes). And forget about poses! We need more curvier poses, people. And AOs. Please, AOs! But I digress. So what? These are minor details, minor inconveniences. I feel sassy, sexy and utterly luscious. I feel more like myself. And, not to sound like a McDonald’s commercial here, but I’m loving that.
So, for my “Be Brave” look I picked this outfit from Gizza because of the bold, vibrant and non-matchy colors. I used to dress that way as a kid in RL. At first people made fun of me (not that I cared), but this was the 80s and dressing that way became a trend not long after I first began to do it (which made me do it less, hah). I stopped wearing bright colors like this in RL years ago, and in part I realized it’s because I felt I shouldn’t try to stand out, that I should try to hide my fat body. Somehow, this carried over into SL. I’d bought this outfit in a “safer” color option, even though I wanted, desperately, the vibrant colors you see here. So right after I issued this challenge, I ran back to Gizza to grab the color I’d wanted all along (though they’re all pretty awesome). I picked the hair because I’ve always felt I “couldn’t pull off” these angled bangs sort of styles. The pose is one from Ploom, one of the stores I know of that does does provide curvy avie friendly versions of their animations, and the pose just says, to me, hey, here I am. Take me or leave me, but I’m not hiding anymore!
I also used a skin that I feel has a more mature face, Simone from Curio. I even got crazy and tried to find some tattoo layer crow’s feet, but I couldn’t find any that weren’t awful and cartoonish. I even made my Mon Cheri Falsies lashes brown instead of black so they’re not quite so dramatic and somewhat closer to a more realistic RL lash look (at least for me).
Finally, I have to leave you with a snippet of a song by Ani DiFranco. I love the entire song, and I’ve linked to a YouTube video below. But this particular part resonates with me very strongly (though that’s true of plenty of Ani songs).
I’m no heroine
at least, not last time I checked
I’m too easy to roll over
I’m too easy to wreck
I just write about
what I should have done
I just sing
what I wish I could say
and hope somewhere
some woman hears my music
and it helps her through her day
(For the record, if it helps men that’s awesome, too)
If you want to participate in this challenge, by all means, jump on board! And be sure to share your posts on the challenge page in the comments.
Note: I am doing a home decor post of this scene in the not-too-distant future, so I’m just doing fashion credits here, but feel free to ask about things if you’d like to know where they are from in the meantime.
Curio: Simone – Makeup 6 – Sundust
IKON: Promise eyes – Moor
Mon Cheri: Falsies lashes
Wasabi Pills: Betty hair – Cinnamon
Gizza: Suspenders outfit – Vibrant
Cae: Cupcake ring, Ascend bracelet
SLink: Mesh hands – casual & mouse, Mesh feet – medium
LVLE: Elena pump – Viridian
Ploom: Strike 1 – Curvy