First, let me tell you a little bit about how I was born.

I appeared suddenly, in a striped, long-sleeve top, jeans, and a prefabricated hairdo, at the top of a hill down which clumsy people walked repeatedly into large, wooden signs. My fellow new residents often shot streaks of glitter at inanimate objects to try to make them do things, and many of them were locked in a spread-eagle pose, their eyes looking into the distance.

This is the infamous welcome area of Second Life, where new residents and new avatars of veteran residents emerge blinking into the eternal noon of an early summer day in some beautiful locale to try to learn to walk, change their bodies, dress themselves, speak, and of course (my favorite) fly.

Once I found out I could change my appearance, I locked myself into that awkward appearance pose and spent a long time at it. A long time. Exactly how bulbous, on a scale of 1 to 100, should the tip of my nose be? How should I arrange the volume, back length, side fringe, and other features of my hair so that I had the long, brown hair I was most comfortable with and no bald spots? How large should a girl make her breasts if she doesn’t want to compete with Dolly Parton but has emerged into a world where D is a small cup size? And exactly what shade of green were my eyes supposed to be, anyway?

Despite many enhancements to my appearance after that (two skins that I use depending on the virtual time of day; various hairstyles for long, brown hair; two shades of green eyes; and so on), I’ve barely changed my shape since that first day. Many other residents swap shapes at will; I’ve always been most comfortable being one, specific, recognizable Kate.

Kate 1.0. This is after a lot of tweaking and some free clothes, but no aftermarket improvements. Most newbies don’t spend quite this much time on their appearance. My focus on trying to achieve a precise look was to be a herald of things to come.

That first day, my avatar seemed fine to me. As I began to wander Second Life, I didn’t notice any enormous difference in how I looked compared to the other residents. Now, after less than two weeks, I can spot a new resident immediately. Their features are out of focus; their hair looks like it’s made out of clay; and they don’t know how to look you in the eye. Oh, and they have no genitalia.

I would like to say in no uncertain terms that while it is embarassing to be put in an avatar with out-of-focus features, it’s downright cruel to follow that up by withholding basic anatomical equipment. As a resident of Second Life, you may spend your time sculpting or designing hats or destroying warriors in exosuits and therefore have no need for those particular parts. But certainly you should have a choice!

Next: In Which I Wander Blindly