I’m grateful to our roving reporter Geoff for introducing me to avatar Tisha, another one of those real life naturists who also uses Second Life.
Tisha, or Tish, is a former high-flying banking executive who decided, as her 50th birthday approached, that she was facing burn out. With money in the bank and ‘the sort of decent pension you would expect someone in banking would have’, she quit life in ‘the city’ (the banking district of London), and the city of London itself for a small holding in Ireland.
‘Ireland was almost ideal’, she says. ‘The people spoke English, it was quiet and slow moving and I was de-pressurising rapidly after a period where the stress levels made me feel ill. I lived there for two years in the sort of picture postcard cottage you see, grew vegetables, sold them in the market, and re-discovered myself. Or more accurately, discovered myself for the first time.’
The vegetable plot, she says, was simply a framework for the day. ‘I didn’t need to sell anything, or do anything, but it gave me a focus for my day. That was great from spring to autumn but there’s not much gardening in the winter, so I started thinking about the things I always wanted to do. Painting was something I loved at school, so I reconnected with that. I even managed to sell one or two.’
Her daughter, then at university in London, came to visit.
‘The change in her was alarming. I’d left this quiet, middle class girl in London and she came back to me having discovered herself. Dreadlocks, a tattoo, baggy clothes in reds and oranges. I was thinking ‘this isn’t the daughter I raised’, until I realised that actually, her values were very much in the style in which I’d raised her. We’d eaten healthily in London, a vegetarian diet, we’d cycled, gone for walks in the park, I listened to less mainstream music from the 70s. I realised that I was just a bit of a hippy in a different frame. The business clothes, the power shoes, the big salary and whatever else were more of a facade, certainly not the real me. I was a hippy too, and had raised my daughter in a hippy sort of mindset, just with the trappings of the middle class framing it all. Living a lie, pretty much’.
There was also her daughter’s use of cannabis.
‘Yeah, I’d used it a bit myself at university. It got passed around. But that wasn’t something that was part of my life over the years. I didn’t smoke cigarettes. But she lit up in my cottage and of course the smoke got to me and I was thinking ‘I’m having fun here, let me try it’, hahaha’. Sitting by the fire, with no television, her daughter produced her laptop and logged into a game she’d discovered, Second Life. Her daughter logged in and showed Tisha the avatar she’d created a year before, and which she’d coincidentally called Tisha because it was the first name she could find that hadn’t been used by anyone else. She thought her mother might like to while away time on winter evenings playing this game, particularly as the avatar had been abandoned in favour of an alt avatar, now her main avatar. So Tisha was gifted the Tisha avatar.
‘It seemed like fun. It certainly gave me a bit of an outlet in the evenings, and I’d log in fairly regularly and explore Second Life, but the internet service on the west coast of Ireland, in a rural area, was pretty slow, so there’d be nights I just couldn’t get on, others where it would be running slow, other nights where it was OK. If I got an OK night, I’d play Second Life for a couple of hours. If it was slow, I’d go and do something else. I wasn’t an SL addict.’
The one thing that wasn’t ideal about Ireland was the weather. ‘It seemed to rain a lot, so I made plans to move elsewhere. Somewhere sunnier. After looking at property in Portugal and Spain, she settled on moving to France. ‘I spoke a bit of the language. A bit more than tourist French, but not fluent. So the language barrier wasn’t so hard to overcome. It was sunnier a lot of the time, and the lifestyle wasn’t so much different to Ireland. Relaxed, easy going at a sedate pace. Perfect.’
Tisha moved into her new home about three years ago, an absolute wreck at the time, she says, ‘and still a wreck, but a cosy, habitable wreck’.
Naturism, she says, was something that ‘just happened’ in the French sunshine.
‘I was back to growing vegetables, I was working on the cottage, learning new DIY skills and doing stuff myself. I was outdoors a lot and working away clothed. But it’s hard work under that sun, so I was doing some work in my veg plot one day and I could feel my T shirt sticking to me. I’m out there on my own, with the neighbour’s house maybe 200m away so I took off the T-shirt for comfort. No, the sweat’s still running into my bra. So that came off too, hahaha. After that, topless gardening was pretty much normal if the weather allowed’.
Had Tisha been inclined towards (semi) nudity before this?
‘No. Never thought about it.’
With her daughter having graduated from university, she came to visit her mother’s new home for the summer, ‘and stayed. It just sort of happened by accident that she was back living with me for a while’.
‘I’d not logged into Second Life for a year or more. I had too much to do fixing up my new place. The internet connection was better, much better, but my computer time was confined to email or the news or sourcing things locally, like builder supplies, you know?’
Her daughter’s arrival resulted in Second Life coming back onto Tisha’s agenda. ‘The house was OK now, the vegetable plots sorted so time was now a bit more freely available. My daughter was still playing it and sort of had this whole, separate fantasy life she’d built which was, in some respects, mirroring our real lives. She’d log in and do a yoga session in Second Life with others and the advice she’d get from other avatars would be something she’d apply to real life yoga.’
Part of the advice was to do her yoga nude. ‘I didn’t even know that was a thing’, Tisha admits. ‘But I’d come down for breakfast and she’d be outside, doing her yoga nude under the sun. Eventually I said ‘look, when I’m working on the vegetables I take my top off, is that OK with you?’ and she said, without blinking an eye, ‘why keep a pair of shorts on?’, hahaha’.
‘It was a bit strange at first, just being fully naked out there, and not any less strange wandering around like that with your daughter there. But it became surprisingly comfortable surprisingly quickly.’
Her daughter, who had adopted the avatar name of Rainbow Gathering* for her alt at the time she’d gifted the Tisha avatar to her mother, was now looking for work in France, and the two of them drove to Beziers and Montpelier -the nearest cities- one day (about 90 minutes by car) to research apartment rental costs and the availability of jobs. On the way back, Rainbow turned off the main road to a beach called Frontignan, a naturist beach. ‘Let’s swim’, Rainbow told her mother.
‘Being naked in my own vegetable plots was one thing, but here in public it was a case of me saying ‘no, I can’t do that’. But the beach was lovely, there was a mixture of families, couples, single men, single women all fully nude and just enjoying the beach and the sea. Eventually I thought ‘sod it’, and we stripped off and ran to the sea. It was a marvellously invigorating experience. It sort of felt like I was now plugged into the earth around me. Does that sound strange or hippy like?’
No, not at all. I can identify with that feeling. I feel it every day when I’m on holiday having my sunrise swim.
‘I think, from there, I’ve sort of become a naturist full time where circumstances allow. I’ve only ever got clothes on if I’m going to the local markets, or shopping. If I can be nude, I will be nude.’
Do you have dreads in RL? And if you do, how does rural France react to that?
‘I do have dreads in RL, hahahah, and rural France is OK with them. The people are awfully sweet around here. They buy my vegetables at the markets around here and people seem to like them because they’re organically grown. Better taste. The French love their cooking, so I do have a regular clientele who buy carrots or whatever from the back of my van. I don’t need to be selling vegetables and earning 40 euro a day, but it’s the link to a purpose on a day to day basis and also social interaction.’
Trisha says that she regrets not having discovered a one-ness with her own, and others, nudity much earlier in life, a story I hear again and again from late naturist bloomers.
Does she feel that she might like a more social form of naturism, in the company of others?
‘I don’t think it’s necessarily important. It’s enough to feel comfortable in your own skin in your own surroundings. Anyway, there are times when I do have that social naturist aspect to my life now anyway. Rainbow and her friends sometimes come up and stay at weekends. We don’t all immediately strip off and sit around naked for 48 hours, but her friends seem to have a remarkably casual approach to it. So we may sit in the garden with a meal and if it’s hot, some or all clothes come off some or all of the people present. It just happens.’
A rather interesting life story, I think you’ll agree, and not the ‘usual’ sort of naturist experience. It goes to show that naturism can be a uniquely personal experience, and something that you can do yourself, in your own surroundings. Home naturism, practically a branch of naturism all of its own, and something we’ll be posting about soon.
*Rainbow Gathering, Tisha’s RL daughter and SL player, adopted the name ‘Rainbow Gathering‘ in relation to the temporary camp/festivals that carry that name around the world. I’ve been speaking to her also, and another Naturist Profile on Rainbow will follow in due course. The interview with Tisha was conducted via IMs & notecards before being edited into some sort of narrative structure, and I finally met up with Tisha, in world, on Saturday morning as pre-arranged in order to take some photographs.