When last I covered identity and appearance here on Evans Avenue Exit, I focused on the things that remain constant when people change appearances, the “cues” they give to their identity. This time, we consider the flip side: how about the things that change?
To be sure, changes in appearance are nothing novel in SL; when one can change one’s entire look as easily as one changes one’s socks, some people allow their appearances to flow like water. Others stay rooted to one basic form, with only minor variations. I posit that these alterations have one of two possible rationales:
- People change to allow them to express “different sides” of their personality.
- People change to allow them to better express their basic personality.
I’ve seen two examples of the latter recently. Triste has included wings in his “standard” appearance, as well as a Victorian formal outfit. Yet both of them seem to fit his personality, bringing it into sharper focus. Perhaps the wings better give him the air of someone dealing with the supernatural, as he does in his role as minister. (They serve a practical purpose as well; they hold the script that displays what his music stream is playing at any given moment.) And Danielle has darkened her standard skin color; it’s a change from the “peaches and cream” look she had at our wedding, but not a particularly jarring one. I’ve opined that it gives her an exotic look, like a dusky tropical maiden, or like a Vietnamese lady I knew back in college. She’s still the same Danielle, just in a different hue. (Of course, pregnancy has changed her looks, too…but pregnant women always look beautiful, in RL or SL.)
On the other side, Torley has so many aspects to her (his) personality that it’s hard not to think of each of them as different individuals, representatives of a great “Council of Torleys” drawn from the farthest reaches of space-time. The “Tollie” avatar she recently used (as documented by Yours Truly here), for instance, seems to represent a “protective” aspect of Torley, taken to its logical conclusion as “Marshall Tollie.” Yet her other aspects are always coming to the fore, sharing a moment in the sun and moving on. Yet this is only the most dramatic example; lesser examples, such as my friend Matt’s flirtation with furrydom (as documented by me previously) exist.
I’ve dealt in both sides of the equation myself. Some of the changes I’ve made, such as the prim hair and the Natural Skin, have allowed me to look “more like me” to myself. Other changes, such as my “dangerous outfit” and the various “Goth Erbo” looks, have allowed me to go directions I wouldn’t have gone in RL. (At the extreme, I have a lion avatar, that Danielle thinks of as “Simba” while I think of it more as “Aslan.” I haven’t used it much, which is probably a shame…) And “Default Erbo” isn’t as much of a default as it once was; often times I pick my outfit with a white shirt, khaki tie, and khaki pants, and my gray pinstripe suit is always a hit (especially last night, when I got the right “look” for The Gin Rummy’s opening by combining it with a snazzy fedora). And, often times, instead of my Bent, I’ll be wearing the Superman pendant that Danielle found for me…encouraged by the fact that she calls me “Superman” often. And this despite the fact that I’m all too Clark Kent-ish a personality…:-)
I could go on and on for hours about this, I suppose (and already have done, in fact), but I suppose the fact of the matter is this: Identity, like everything else in SL, is what you make of it. And appearances, while they offer cues to our identity or identities no matter what, can mislead as much as they assist…they may be anything from a profound statement to a conversation piece. Two of Miyamoto Musashi’s principles from The Book of Five Rings are useful to keep in mind: “Learn to see everything accurately” and “Become aware of what is not obvious.” As you journey through Second Life, keep those in mind, and you can’t go far wrong.