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Thursday, May 26, 2005

THE LONG ENGAGEMENT OF LAURA SKYE

Being a follow-up to "Watching the Detectives"...

In their first lives, Dave Barmy asked Laura Skye to marry him more than two years ago, in the month of December 2003. She'd agreed to do so at the time, but some things happened since then, which required him to ask again. Namely, they both got Second Life accounts, and then he paid for the services of an in-world working girl, and it almost brought their real life partnership to an end. That’s all covered here, but at the time of its publication, Laura had only let me know that his act of online infidelity had almost ended their live-in relationship.

She hadn't told me how it scotched their wedding plans, too.

“Sorry,” she tells me now. “I thought I had told you. I broke it off, that was part of the arguments.”

When I meet up with Laura in-world, the young British woman is wearing a sexy cowgirl outfit, two-stepping to American country music on the dance floor of Club 69 in Redear (137, 35), a nightclub where she also performs as live-voice disc jockey, as “djsea_breeze”. (“Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8am EST time, and Saturday at 4pm EST and 6am Sunday EST.”)

But before any real world nuptials went down, Laura Skye decided it was time for them to marry in Second Life. It is possible through the company website to designate another Resident as your “partner”, so that anyone who cares to look up your in-world profile will instantly know which Resident (if anyone) you are committed to. And though they play SL at separate times (they only have one working computer at home), they selected each other as “partners”. Until, that is, she caught him cavorting with the working girl, and decided she’d had enough of that. So she went back to the same web page, and filed for separation.

That was before the private detective confirmed Dave’s trustworthiness in Second Life-- and, perhaps, in their life outside, as well. In any case, Laura re-designated him as her in-world partner, and sent out 3D wedding invitations to their friends.

“I just felt it was the right time,” she tells me, “we seemed to be getting on a lot better.”

They hired April LeMay, who has been running a Second Life wedding service for just a few months, but before that, operated a similar service in another online world for over a year. (“Then I moved here and started Wedding By April,” Ms. LeMay explains to me, “and we are now known as D!Vogue LeMay Bridals. Same great service, just new name.”)

Thing was, since they only have one computer in their home, Laura and Dave couldn’t be online at the same time, to go through the ceremony together. So they asked Jenna Fairplay to stand in for Laura, and be the bride for the service. (In other words, a roleplay wedding in which one of the members actually roleplayed her role by proxy.)

“I know it seems [bizarre],” Laura acknowledges, “but it all worked out in the end.” In the home they share, she watched the proceedings over Dave’s shoulder, while Jenna said her vows for her. She even cried, at April’s opening invocation:

In this book of life, today you close one chapter and open another. Together, you, Dave and Laura, commit here and now to share all that you are and all that you may become… From this day forward, may each page bear the word of love.

And she thinks Dave got a little misty, too. Laura even invited Markie Macdonald, P.I., the investigator who confirmed Barmy’s monogamous bonafides, to the wedding, but Laura forgets if the red-haired private dick attended.

All that done, a month later, Dave asked her to go through the real thing.

“It was more of a conversation,” she tells me. “Just said we should book the wedding and get married, basically. And I said ‘Yeah, sounds good’.”

So they'll wed in early July, two years to the day they met. The service will take place at their local government registry office.

“There’s going to be a party in the evening," she says, "and we can’t afford a honeymoon right now. But doesn’t matter for me, I’m really happy.”

I ask Laura Skye what it was like, to have her relationship tested in Second Life.

“It was very hard,” she answers. “Makes you really think about real life matters. To try to learn to trust. To try and remember it’s only a game.”

UPDATE, 5/26: Private detective Markie Macdonald IMs me an update on Dave and Laura's wedding, and the state of her investigation business: "I did get an invite," she tells me, "but couldn't make it, would have loved to have gone. Business has been steady, since the story I peeked at nearly three new cases a day (had about ten staff one day) but now has got a bit quieter, maybe one or two cases a week... I can handle that better, to be honest."

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