I am not proud of the fact I haven’t had a date since Gretchen, a barista at Jack’s Coffee, finally caved in. Perhaps she was bound to an ancient code of coffee servers that demands they go on a date with a customer if he spends more than $1000 a year in the shop.
Gretchen was my first date since the divorce. And like my marriage, the date quickly turned into a disaster. Let’s say I got a little carried away with the sake and ended up blubbering about 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons ruining my childhood memories.
Still, I was ready to get back to dating even after waking up the next morning and slowly piecing together the horror of my drunken antics of the night before, kind of like that movie Memento (“This is Gretchen, don’t believe her lies”). The problem is finding a woman who isn’t repulsed by your collection of empty soda cans and your aging father who wakes up in the middle of the night shouting about militant-socialists trying to send him to a death panel. Thank you, Glen Beck, you have successfully brainwashed my already unstable war veteran father. Not that I wouldn’t send him to a death panel if I had the chance.
Initially I was just curious to see if I could actually meet women that way. Were there any women interested in an over-the-hill game journalist? I doubted it, but what the hell – for all I knew the entire crew of The Escapist were at PAX-E doing bodyshots off of Richard Garriott’s pierced navel. I deserved to have some human contact, too. And no, I’m not resentful they didn’t invite me.
On Wednesday, bored and curious, I created an advertisement on a dating site. As I expected, there’s always some jerk who will make fun of my name. I am used to that, but when one asshole started suggesting that I was fictional – an April fool’s joke – I decided that I needed to find a more anonymous way of experiencing human contact. One of my random instant messenger contacts suggested that I check out Second Life, possibly insinuating that I was a giant failure in real life. Dick.
You might be thinking “What the crap is wrong with you Marion? Why would you ever enter that den of sexual deviancy?” Let me just say that my only knowledge of Second Life before I actually loaded it up was that both Al Gore and NPR have a presence there. For all I knew, the MMOG was full of liberal hippies, and, at the very least, I could get a scripted hug and a whiff of virtual patchouli oil.
My journey into the social MMOG began last Thursday, when I finally worked up the courage to create a Second Life account. Right away, I was struck with how good the graphics would have been if I had just been magically transported back to 1998 and I was playing a low budget PlayStation 2 game.
Some suspension of visual disbelief and a short tutorial later, I was ready to get started customizing my avatar, Mephistopheles Sinewave. He was a tall dark fellow with no hair, save a tuft of black fuzz protruding from his forehead which I had no clue how to remove. As I tried everything to make my character balder than me, I accidentally detached Mephistopheles’ head completely, dealing with the hair predicament effectively.
I tried to Google a way to restore my missing appendage, to no avail. My attempts to ask other players for help were equally as useless, the first few people I walked up to simply ignored me when I asked, “Help me, I’m missing my head.” Perhaps they thought I was roleplaying?
Eventually, I ran into a beaver wearing a latex body suit. He asked me if I was into vore and gave me a card for a club he said would help me. I wound up visiting the club, but I really didn’t like what was going on there. Not at all.
I decided that I had enough of wanton limb hacking and snuff. Needing an excuse to ignore the horrific flood of brutal text, I quickly buried my nose in a ten-page tutorial. I retrieved my head and decided to look for a less deviant area of Second Life. I probably walked around for an hour saying hello to passersby with no one even looking in my direction. Finally, in desperation, while standing on a rainbow marshmallow horse farm, I shouted the world’s least used pickup line ever, “I am not looking for sex, I just want to talk to someone who won’t impregnate me!”
Almost instantly I received a reply from a fine young woman named Delilah Parkour, “Hey honey, you looking for a date?”
“Kind of – I just need someone to talk to – my friends are out of town and my dad is off his anti-psychotic meds again.” I was hoping that she wouldn’t immediately ignore me, like I would have had our positions been reversed.
“Why don’t you tell me about it? Only 600 LS,” she said, referring to the game’s currency.
“What’s that?” I asked, suspecting that I already knew the answer.
She emoted a chuckle, “You’re new here, aren’t you?”
I resented the implication. “You’re a prostitute, aren’t you?”
I regretted typing it instantly. She had been the only person kind enough to talk to me in this wasteland of hot pink, lime green and teal signboards. If she ignored me now, I might as well just give up on human contact for the entire weekend.
But to my surprise she answered me with, “Do you want me to be?”
“Can we just talk?”
“Uh-huh, once you pay me.”
As I was entering my credit card information, I realized how bad this would appear to anyone who didn’t fully understand how lonely it can be when you haven’t known the touch of another human being for a long time. I mean, I’d spent money on much worse things. There was that waffle press that’s still in the box, and a bunch of cashmere scarves that fell apart only a week after I bought them.
After paying her, we talked for over 30 minutes. I mostly discussed my divorce and all of the other subjects that my friends stopped listening to long ago. Delilah really understood, at least as long as she was paid. All in all, it cost me about 12 dollars for her time. I felt a lot better when I got that shit off my chest, and I found comfort in knowing that she was bound to secrecy by the prostitute-client confidentiality agreement.
I went into Second Life not knowing what to expect, and emerged scared as hell of all the dark scary things people don’t dare share with anyone offline. It isn’t likely that I’ll return.
I’ve decided to give this local knitting circle a shot instead. My friend Jim says the male to female ratio at those things is awesome, plus I need a new scarf.
I seem to have lost all of mine.
Marion Cox wonders if you have any friends who are into bald, middle aged game journalists. (Call me!)