Issue 6: The elderly, naturism and the two in tandem in SL

It’s often reported that naturism is an ageing lifestyle, with proponents of it often in their 60s and 70s. The oft heard call is that it doesn’t contain any young people.

Let me clarify that. Landed naturist clubs, that is, clubs that own their own grounds, may very well be an ageing membership, and they may very well contain few young people. But I don’t think this is true of the lifestyle as a whole. I think what is happening is that young people don’t have any sense of wanting to belong to landed clubs any more and rough it in woodland in gloomy Berkshire or Connecticut. It’s easier to hop on a plane and jet off to the sun, being in the south of Spain or France, or Haulover in Florida in a few short hours and simply indulge in the lifestyle without a rulebook to guide everyone.

I can’t speak for the US experience, but in Europe I find that the usual resorts, some with opportunities to be resident, such as Vera Playa in Spain, or Corsica, will have a sizeable older generation of naturists, with younger people, families and so on being short term renters of apartments for 1 0r 2 weeks a year.

It seems logical. Older people have the time, money and opportunity to up sticks and move permanently to another location. Their family will have flown the nest, and they can downsize a family home and take the opportunity to relocate to the warmer climes of Spain where the weather, the outdoors living and the elements of exercise (walking, swimming) are all good for their health. If there is simple logic in not wearing a sweaty, clingy, wet swimsuit for bathing purpose, the logic extends well beyond that practicality to adopting a healthier and often cheaper lifestyle.

My own experience is that there’s a nice mix of ages in Spanish, French and Croatian naturism. Young couples filled with young love and a sense of it being an erotic experience, through to families (such as my own) and on to middle aged couples, now free from the responsibilities of parenting and on to elderly couples.

One of the great things about naturism is that we all mix! While people can often seem compartmentalised in age groups, naturism sweeps that away, and I’ve had great nights out with elderly couples full of life while babies scramble around on restaurant floors and the inbetweenies tape their toes to, typically, singers plying a mix of 60s to 90s pop music. Not all of this is conducted nude, of course, but the naturism of the day seems to break down barriers that means textile evenings (naturists love dressing up for nights out!) retain this lack of age barriers.

And, of course, when we return to our naturism the following day by the pool or on the beach, we’re still mixing with and saying hello to people we met the night before.

Often, people don’t actually discover naturism until their 40s or 50s, too, when they’ve reached that age where they no longer actually care what others think and are comfortable in their own skins.

Second Life is slightly different, in that it’s the land of the eternally young, as a rule, and regardless of an avatar’s RL age, they tend to adopt a younger looking avatar. Perhaps a process of recapturing youth and reliving what they didn’t have first time out in RL? I don’t know.

We know there are concerns about age-play in SL, to the extent that younger avatars are almost non existent. Those who do adopt, say, teenage girl skins will find their role questioned at every turn. Quite right too, because there may be questionable motives about their adaptation of a 15 year old girl or boy. I’ve no issues at all with this aspect of life being marginalised out of existence, although there are times when I wish I could have the opportunity to hold the hand of a bot like addition -a wearable child, essentially- so I could replicate life as I experience it in RL…taking the hand of a small child through clothes shops or paddling at the beach. I am a Mum of two young children after all. And I say a bot-like addition, a wearable child, so that I control the add-on, rather than being party to some sort of sordid age-play. We can, if we choose, get pregnant and have babies in SL, without much hoo-ha, but then the newborns simply disappear.

So it’s refreshing that some adopt an older look, for no other reason than it provides variety. I suppose there is a capacity for age-play, and an abuse of it, within that too. It’s entirely conceivable there are those who fantasise about ‘the older woman’ or a ‘sugar daddy’. I’ve little doubt it probably goes on in SL.

My experience is that older avatars are, almost without exception, run by….older people. Because I talk to a lot of people in the context of this blog, and friend them, the conversation is often on fairly mundane elements of Second Life, as well as real life, and it’s often clear that the adaptation of older skins and avis is because people recognise themselves within them. They no longer want to pretend to be 25, listening to some banging techno over the audio feed of an SL club. Their interests drift towards their RL interests…gardening, reading, travel and maybe even naturism.

I”m not going to pretend I’m swamped with older friends in SL, but I do know some middle-aged folks who are running middle-aged avis in SL, and also elderly people doing the same.

With that in mind, I decided the core piece of Issue 6 needed to address this ‘age’ thing, and find out what makes these avis tick.

Ella

This is as much as Ella had in draft form, prepared for Issue 6, prior to her absenting herself from the blog due to personal circumstances. But we felt that gave us enough of a clue to how to proceed with it and finish the piece with Ella’s view in mind. The following is an ensemble piece from the three of us, addressing the ‘age’ issue in SL, and SL naturism in particular. Because it was the core piece, we’ve worked long and hard at it to get it done ‘right’, and that’s the reason why it didn’t get published in the main body of Issue 6 last week.

Pookes, Harry, Barbara.

‘Pops’ and Gladys demonstrate that naturism in SL can be for everyone

Barbara writes: I suppose that I almost qualify as SLN’s own ‘elderly’ person. I’m in my late 40s, so probably not that elderly, and maybe even average in terms of SL user ages. But I do utilise an avatar that properly reflects my age. The shape’s ‘filled out’ a little, gravity does take a toll, lol, and I began to get some grey hairs when I was in college. Being young and vain, I dyed my hair for a while but my boyfriend -Mr.Whelan now for more cares than he cares to remember I care to remember- liked it, so I eventually grew it out and turned white eventually, so that’s something my avatar reflects. Ditto the hair style. As women get older they generally begin to wear shorter hairstyles, so that too is how I like to keep myself looking in SL. The weird -or maybe not so weird given Ella’s observations above- thing is that men seem to like the avatar. Maybe sometimes too much 🙂 The simple fact is that I feel comfortable in the SL avatar I wear, having experimented with that younger look when I first came into SL, and this is how I’ll continue to run my avatar.

One thing I do find is that many of the clothes offered in SL just aren’t me, or for my avatar’s age. Mini skirts? I don’t think so. Ugg boots? Ugh! Daisy Dukes? My bum’s definitely gonna look big in those! Lingerie is probably OK as I think that all ladies in SL have a drawer of sexier underwear for special occasions (by which I don’t mean racy evenings with the other half, although that can happen too, merely the black bra/panties sets worn with the black formal gown we sometimes need to wear, for example) although we would probably tend to utilise more in the way of functional ‘tidy whities’ -plain white underwear- on a day to day basis. Incidentally, is any designer in SL actually making ‘tidy whities’ as underwear? If they are, please let me know, as I’d love a really, really plain set of undies for the sake of realism. Fortunately, much of this decision making is taken away in the context of naturism. No choices to make much about how I look.

Pookes writes: I caught up with ‘V’, a woman ‘beyond pensionable age’ who sports an older avatar and is also a RL naturist. She spends a good part of the winter in her naturist apartment, ‘not doing much naturism’, she sighs. The milder weather, she says, is good for her than toughing it a cold, damp northern European winter, but it’s not really warm enough to indulge in everyday naturism. ‘We do have an indoor heated pool in our complex’, she says, ‘so I do take full advantage of that every day.’ Summers, she tells me, can be too warm, another disadvantage of growing old. ‘Energy wise, I can’t manage to do much in the full heat of the summer sun, and so my full time, proper naturism might be a week at the beginning and end of the season. The rest of the time I rent out my apartment.’ In the context of SL, ‘V’ manages to replicate her days according to her own RL times. ‘Yeah, I know’, she concedes, ‘it does seem a bit daft’. And so, logging on by day, she’ll merrily strip off if she wishes to lie under virtual sun and chat with friends. At night, as we’ve captured her here, she does ‘dress up a bit, just as I do going out for dinner when I’m at my apartment’.

‘V’ chats to Pookes in the balmy warmth of the evening

Why maintain an older avatar? As with others, the same feelings seem to persist with ‘V’ as persist in others: the older avatar feels more comfortable and something she identifies with. ‘I think you grow into your avatar. Initially it’s just a cartoon on a screen, but you eventually possess it, and to some extent it possesses you. I feel ‘right’ in the skin I wear. I wouldn’t feel right looking like a younger woman. It would feel odd, I think. Of course, I haven’t actually tried that since I adopted the older look. That felt right, part of me, while the younger avatar was simply a cartoon I didn’t feel connected to.’

‘V’ mans the BBQ while her guests watch her do all the work!

What is others’ attitudes towards her? ‘A lot of people think ‘wow, brilliant’ when they see my avatar and there’s a lot of questions about where I got the skin and so on. It’s an ice breaker, certainly. One naturist sim I visited, and which is closed now, were actively negative. They wanted young and beautiful. Me looking old and wrinkled kind of spoiled their idea of this beautiful sim.’

Yes! That is SLN’s intrepid photographer on the left!

And ‘V’s’ plans for the forthcoming year? ‘Pack my laptop, as I’m heading off for a couple of months. Other than shopping or meeting friends and dining out, I’ll occupy myself with a daily dose of SL and a RL dose of naturist swimming’.

Issue 6: Reinvention

One of the things I’ve found at this time of year is that my mind starts to wandering onto the topic of ‘a new look’. There’s just so many snowy sims you can visit, and it isn’t terribly warm being a naturist is the proliferation of SL snow, so I do begin to think about ‘a new look’ and reinventing myself for a new year. The blog may well suffer a similar fate with a total re-design, I’m not sure yet.

Reinvention doesn’t necessarily mean a radical overhaul. Essentially I’ll maybe adopt a new hairstyle, if I can find one I like, adopt a new ‘my outfit’ that places me in a set of casual clothes for shopping expeditions, I’ll change my glasses and so on.

Ella

This is the full extent of Ella’s planned introduction to a piece on reinventing the avatar, basically that with a new year comes a new look. We picked up the idea and opted to flesh it out for Issue 6.

One of our friends, Rosie, had decided on a total makeover for herself, so we grabbed a photo of her current avi look at Emotions Hair Salon while she opted for a new style. That took a while because we girls can be picky about how our hair looks.

Once she’d selected a style she liked we nipped on over to Not Buttons skins who have a selection of excellent, excellent free skins. Very natural and realistic free skins. Oh, and we got some new clothes to alter Rosie’s style, too. Total cost was, I think L$250, just for the hair.

After that, it’s back to the beach to enjoy a bit of sunbathing in the company of a fried, and show off her new look. We think she looks fabulous!

But what has this got to do with naturism? Our point is that some research into skins shows it’s possible to look fantastic for next to nothing when wearing, ah, next to nothing. Our skin is our main item of wear, our birthday suit, in naturism, and it’s something we can do well to choose carefully. Incidentally, while wandering Emotions with Rosie, we encountered an absolutely gorgeous nude avatar casually choosing hair. You go, girl!