“Our dreams are a second life.” ~Gerard de Nerval
By JMB Balogh.
I know it sounds unbelievable but it took me two years to discover the ballroom dance scene in Second Life. What I found was another strange world inside the Second Life world.
It started when I became friends with a woman who loved to dance at Frank’s or Sweethearts and insisted she needed company while she waited for someone to ask her to dance. While she explained the mechanics of the dance balls (like, “don’t forget to turn off you AO”) she never did explain the mysteries of how to attract a dance partner. I certainly had the appropriate clothes, an attractive shape, good skin and hair. But while she was up on the dance floor with a partner in the wink of an eye, I languished hopefully at the tables and chairs thoughtfully provided by Cloud 9 for their clientele. Did my red hair turn them off? Did blondes like my friend have more fun after all, even in Second Life? Big boobs? Big butt? What was the secret?
Consider what the dance scene in Second Life is like for the male avatar. There are two females for every male in SL, and since traditionally the male asks the female to dance there is absolutely no reason for a male to stand around and not dance.
But stand around they do, in the area I came to call the Meat Market. Every ballroom seems to have one, where visitors, both male and female, congregate before finding a dance partner. There is little activity in local chat, other than the hostess greeting the various patrons as they arrive. (What a soulless job that must be!) I always assumed that all these silent, motionless people in the Meat Market were engaged in IMs to each other, negotiating partners for the serious business of dancing.
Why did these male avatars come to a ballroom if not to dance? They certainly were surrounded by a surfeit of choice. Of the two or more hopeful females for every male in attendance, most were beautifully gowned and coiffed for a night of dancing, but still, infuriatingly, the group of men stood around, as if waiting for a bus.
And so, night after night I returned to Cloud 9 or Sweethearts, as being chosen as a dance partner had become a personal challenge for me. Waiting around was deadly dull, so I became an avid profile reader–everyone’s, not just the men. For the occasional newbie who didn’t yet have a profile picture I would take one as best I could in the crowded area and send it to him. Then I would spend the next ten minutes explaining how to put it in place. Gotta love those newbies!
I found that on average most females had something of interest in their profile but many males do not seem to consider the profile important. So I seriously considered offering my services as a profile consultant to those who had hardly anything written. I envisioned wandering around with a clipboard and pencil, asking twenty or so pertinent questions. From those answers I would create a proper, interesting profile for them, and one I would like to read. I mean “27 yr old Male living in the USA” does not cut the mustard with inveterate profile readers. Although those avatars more than two years old with basically empty profiles except for a dance group or three I came to consider dancing alts. I assumed, and hoped, that these men had fascinating Second Lives as builders or scripters or rental magnates but used an alt to go out and find some action for a night of relaxation. They would need no help from me.
One night I was at a birthday celebration beforehand and arrived at Sweethearts with cake and fork in hand. Mmmm! Perhaps this would make me stand out from the crowd of gorgeous females. I took a seat at the bar, in my beautiful gown– eating the cake with my fork for an hour or more without a soul taking the slightest bit of notice. Back to the drawing board!
Soon I thought, why wait to be asked? Can’t I IM a male and start up a conversation? I find most men are not very imaginative in their approach for a dance. “Nice dress. Like to dance?”, often followed, unfortunately, by “Where are you from?” and then “How old are you?” Seriously fellas, you can’t do better than that? Well, I believed I could. I perused the profiles, avidly looking for a “hook”, something of interest to start a potential conversation with that male avatar. Whether it led to a dance became almost secondary; it was the conversation that was important to me.
After all, what is dancing but animated conversation? It’s a social thing. Oh yes, the music is part of it, but you can’t do much about the music, nor about the dance animations besides choosing one. But the conversation is completely controlled by the two people involved. That first conversation, the initial connection, is the subtle exploring of another’s mind. Do I have anything in common with this person? Do I wish to know them further? Could this person be a mere passing acquaintance or become a friend?
This proactive approach did lead to some interesting conversations, some disasters–and one of the most embarrassing experiences in my Second Life. I noticed an interesting profile of a man in the Meat Market who had a very unusual name and owned an art gallery and furniture store. It was a profile just filled with delicious “hooks”. No dancing alt for this man. In I waded and our conversation proceeded extremely well for almost an hour. Finally I asked tentatively if he would care to dance? He said “oh, I have been dancing with someone for the past half hour”! I had been too absorbed in the conversation to notice he had disappeared from the waiting area. Totally mortified, I apologized profusely and told him he should concentrate on his dance partner, and I closed off the conversation.
Of course I did get asked to dance occasionally, and I found several sometime-dancing-partners who would pop up in my chat box every few months and invite me to dance with them. But on the whole, I found the whole dance scene too demoralizing. The time I spent there was only a few months, and I moved on to other interests in Second Life.
And in general, I never found the club scene much to my taste either, though I did enjoy Toby’s Juke Joint Blues Club until it closed a few years ago. It was just a comfortable place with good music and a sort of line dance set up for singles so you never felt out of place.
If you are a male reading this, remember: when you visit one of those places like Sweethearts or Frank’s, please ask one of those lovely ladies to dance. You will make someone’s day, and who knows? She might be your soul mate. You’ll never know unless you ask.