Sticking Up For The "Snobs"

My last Blog post was about The 5th Annual Snowflake Ball, in which I went into a lot of detail about the history and logistics of the Formal Ball. But...I did not really talk about the emotions that I felt last Friday night, and the emotions that I feel in general about some components of light Victorian role play in the Second Life Steamlands.

I want to explain how last Friday night felt to me on an emotional level. It was deeply, deeply moving. As I mentioned to a friend earlier this week, I feel like The Snowflake Ball was an actual world snow globe. I stepped into it, and then it shook and shook and shook, rather like Denver Hax's Wild Cavorite Ride from last autumn's Caledon Harvest Festival. And then it stilled and I watched all of the snowflakes drift down and fall into new places. My head and heart felt clear and good. Sometimes you find change in your life happening gradually, but at other times it feels like a giant gear suddenly turns and then...CLUNK. You are in a new place. Last Friday night gave me the "gear" feeling.

Taking part in the formal balls, the imagined Victorian past and the pomp and circumstance are all things that I adore. Yes, I love that stuff! It's just who I am! I love dressing up in beautiful gowns. I love decorating my homes with furniture etc from the late 19th Century. I love dancing at a ball to Classical music. This is why I moved to Caledon 4 1/2 years ago. Because I value these things.

We, as humans, are complex. We have many-faceted personalities. I am just as much Gabrielle Riel if I am wearing a velvet Victorian gown in a tiara, a Flapper dress with feathers in my hair or a skimpy contemporary club outfit with wild makeup. I've missed being Victorian Gabi (also known as The Duchess of Carntaigh).

Over the last several years, I've heard people from different quarters complain that they can't stand "fussy, prissy" events like this. Ok then. There is absolutely no rule that says you have to participate. Live your Second Life in the way you see fit. Yet in spite of no one forcing anyone to do anything, I've watched and listened to people criticize, berate and slam the people who find enjoyment in the Victorian events.

I am now taking a stand on behalf of every person in the Steamlands who has suffered under this criticism. Suffered to the point where people have felt like they could not be open about the fact that they enjoy "fussy, prissy" events. People whom others have called snobs.

If you are someone who hates this stuff so much, why on God's Green Earth did you decide move into a 19th Century, Historic, Victorian or Steampunk community? If you do not like it, do the equivalent of changing the channel...and leave. Leave or stop complaining and judging others.

While I am tossing out Drama Bombs, here's another one. I am going to stick my neck out on an ever-heated, related topic:

I am proud of my title, The Duchess of Carntaigh. Do you know why? Because I EARNED it. I was one of the first 4 people in Caledon to lease an Open Space (now Homestead) sim. I had no clue that Des was going to call those sims Duchies. I had no clue that he was going to "declare" me a Duchess. There was no history, no baggage and no damn silliness about titles!

I have always felt that people in SL have the right to call themselves whatever the heck they want. For some people it's about their own personal role play.  Lady Amber Palowaksi came to Caledon with her own backstory as the Baroness Bauerhoff. She created her title herself, and then she was kind and helpful to all she met. She acted like a lady, and therefore people called her Lady Amber. In my opinion, she deserved that respect. Both for her own personal role play, but also for her behavior and contributions to the community.

There was a huge backlash against the use of titles a few years ago, and there still is a lot of grumbling about it. The reality is that I sometimes use my title. I sometimes go by the Duchess of Carntaigh. I also go by Prim Minister, General Director and just plain Gabi. If you know me, then you know that I am fine with any of those "titles". I have never looked down on people who do not have or do not use titles. Ever.

I am proud of my title because it represents years of personal role play, history, work, community, friendships, collaborations, successes, failures, tears and joy. And I will not allow anyone to even attempt to make me feel badly for using it in the manner that I do. My title IS NOT meaningless. I earned it. If you aren't into the title thing? That's fine! But getting on your high horse and sniffing about how you hate or reject titles? All that behavior does is to reflect poorly on you.

I did not intend for this post to become quite this...feisty. I just feel like it's time that someone "stood up for the snobs". Some of us like light Victorian role play. Some of us like formal events. Some of us use our titles. You can play right along with us, or take your own path, whatever works for you. But I am done standing by while some people act like bullies by complaining about, berating or criticizing others. I can take your garbage, so send it my way and leave people that are just trying to live their Second Lives as they see fit alone.

Ok. Warrior Gabi is done speaking. Now it's time for me to transition back to the positive and personal feelings from The Snowflake Ball.

Last Friday night was beautiful. I spent it with the people I love doing something that I love. I hope that those of you that attended felt the same way. One of the best things about the Steamlands is that the people are smart, fun and funny. You could really see that last week. Last week during the ball, Eva said something about being a hopeless romantic and I told her that it clearly ran in the family. It's just who we are! I loved being able to revel in that again.

I'm Gabi. I'm the Prim Minister. I'm the General Director of Radio Riel. And I am the Duchess of Carntaigh.  Forever and proud of it.

~ The Nightingale


Ceejay Writer said…
Good for you! I have NO problem with all the trappings of the society you've chosen to find your bliss within. I think I'm better suited to a more pedestrian existence in SL, but that's my own choice - I could certainly have striven for a different social status. I have, in fact, changed the focus of what I consider 'home' in the Steamlands, at with no small amount of soulsearching. Truly, I am very content being a burlesque dancer, coffee house barista, and *eyedart* purveyor of secondhand goods. It suits my soul... and being a duchess suits YOUR soul. Brava for us both!

My only quibble might be with your use of the word 'snob'. A handful of friends use it freely, and I am often tempted to say " You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

I won't burden you with a cut-n-paste of the definition of the word, you're smart enough to know how to find that. And really, I do not see you in the definition's disparaging light. Thus, I challenge YOU to revel in your status and title, but to find another word to describe it. *grins* Just a dare from your local burlie girl and panhandler!
Gabrielle Riel said…
Thanks Ceejay! :-)

I am using the word "snob" in a very derisive way here. It's the word that I have been accused of being many a time.

And I'm not. I know I'm not. You know I'm not. Same goes for the other folks who enjoy light Victorian RP.

I'm not a snob, but I am a Diva. In the best use of the term. And a Burlie Girl can be just as much of a Diva, in the best use of the term as a Duchess!
I speak from the experience of someone who spent, quite literally, a couple of years just visiting Caledon not realizing I could join in and actually dwell here. As a scientist I feel I live just off the cusp of high society, yet at absolutely _every_ event I have attended my fellow guests have been nothing but warm and friendly. Even at the Snowflake Ball (which positively transported me!) I had a brief but wonderful time never feeling my stature, species, language or occupation was not welcome. It escapes me who originally said it, but true manners really are the art of putting others at ease and most Steamlanders are well versed. At the Ball I danced with two of the loveliest ladies in the Steamlands and got a raincheck from dashing Jager! Should, in the future, anyone cast aspersions on the way my friends and I choose to enjoy ourselves, I'm certain I'll develop a sudden case of selective deafness and I recommend that happy affliction to anyone looking for a simple solution.
Ceejay Writer said…
I know for certain you are not a snob! *laughs* It's a word that I, for my own reasons, dislike - and I knew if I called you on it, you'd take the challenge in fine form. Now then:

From the Online Etymology Dictionary....

"distinguished woman singer, prima donna," 1883, from It. diva "goddess, fine lady," from L. diva "goddess," fem. of divus "divine (one);" see divine (adj.)."

I think I see enough Gabi in that to give a thumbs up. ;)
Eva Bellambi said…
There was a time when I would have cringed (and even stressed to the point of trying to prove folks wrong) at being called "snobbish", but I have learned - as you have - that so often the term is bantered about by folks who merely need to actually experience the warmth of these formal occasions to understand WHY we work so hard on events.

Anyone who has been to one of our formal events has hopefully shared the glow & wonder of real emotional response that we have. I do this for others. Now it is not entirely an unselfish thing, because hearing others rejoicing in the music and camaraderie brings me MUCH pleasure.

Yes, I enjoy my RP as Eva Bellambi, the Lady of Skye, the Duchess of Loch Avie. Equally, I enjoy being Eva the distiller, or Eva the intelligence director, or Eva the Fellow of the Royal Society. The brilliant thing about SL, is that we can explore all these things and more. This level of creativity is really what keeps me coming back in world again and again.

I'll happily keep doing my very best to create events that make people happy.

I think Diva-ness and romance run in the family, Gabi. :)
Rhianon Jameson said…
I agree completely that people who don't like Victorian society should find a different spot in Second Life than a Victorian-themed area. It defies reason to hear someone say that he or she doesn't like Victorian attire, or addressing people formally, or any of the other trappings of Victoriana that we take for granted.

On the use of titles, though... I hope you can see what makes people uncomfortable. It's one thing to roleplay the Duchess of Carntaigh - no one is forced to participate - but the title convey with it a sense of rank. In an RP environment, some are duchesses and some are of humbler origin, but we're all equal once again when the RP is over.

But 21st century people tend to be more egalitarian than our Victorian ancestors, and the idea that there are "ranks" in Caledon (or elsewhere in the Steamlands) outside of RP - that there are the "insiders" with rank and "outsiders" who are lesser beings - rubs some people the wrong way.

To be clear, I'm not speaking for myself. I know that Des and Kami conveyed titles for the duchies. I also know how much time and effort you've put into Caledon, Edison, New Toulouse, Radio Riel, and so on. Furthermore, I know that none of the dukes and duchesses I've encountered have insisted on the use of the title; everyone has been very accommodating and polite, particularly toward newcomers. But I hope you can see where the tension lies.