It happens almost every time I meet someone new. After meeting a few times and getting to know a new person the same inevitable conversation occurs:
Them: (head cocked slightly to the side, confused smile on their face) “Ya know, you’re….different than I thought you would be. From when I first met you…..”
Me: “Hmmm, how do you mean?”
Them: “Well, ya know, I just thought you’d be….well, when I first saw you I just thought you’d be…like….ummm…”
Me: (starting to pick up what they are putting down) “Oh, you thought I would be mean, right?”
Them: (uncomfortable shrug) “Weeeellll….kinda. I mean, you are so NOT, for sure! I think you are hilarious/sweet/nice/other complimentary adjective now. Like, now that I know you and all…”
Me: (sigh) “It’s O.K., you can say it. Everybody does.”
Why, you might ask, do people seem to just hate the hell out of me on first sight? Surely you must picture that I publicly kick puppies or eat the souls of little babies as a party trick, right? I don’t actually, and much like yourself right now I used to be very confused by this whole scenario. What in the actual hell is wrong with me that literally every friend I have has told me at some point that, upon our first meeting, there was something about me. Something they couldn’t quite place but it definitely wasn’t warm feelings. I used to be shocked when people told me this.
“What the- why?” I would ask, indignantly. “What was I doing? What did I say?”
They never know what it was exactly, and I used to wrack my brain trying to figure it out. There must be something seriously wrong with me, I would think, to have this happen so often. It started making me paranoid.
Now when people say it, I chuckle because I’m pretty sure I have pinpointed the reason:
Resting Bitch Face.
It’s a thing. And I’m pretty sure I have it.
Exhibit A (see above) That’s me, in a photo I just took- without looking at the screen, mind you, so that I wouldn’t alter my face in any way- attempting to make my face as devoid of expression as possible. That face is my default setting. You see the problem here.
I had never heard of Resting Bitch Face until a couple of years ago; in case you still have not, I offer the following definition, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Resting bitch face, also known as RBF or bitchy resting face, is a term for a facial expression (or lack thereof) which unintentionally appears angry, annoyed, irritated, or contemptuous
I wasn’t sold at first; I mean, c’mon, is this even real? Or is this just more bullshit invented to make women continually feel badly about themselves? Turns out, it’s real, and is possibly even backed by science. It’s apparently organic; isn’t that just fantastic. Am I truly, by nature, predisposed to appear to be a real world Regina George from Mean Girls?
Upon further thought, yes, absolutely I am. It’s straight up in my genes. My mother had a resting bitch face to beat all resting bitch faces, seriously. The poor woman went through life with people constantly asking her why she was mad because unless she was smiling, she looked pissed. Which was ridiculous because you would be hard pressed to find a kinder, sweeter person than my mother was. She just had an angry looking resting face. She had really thin lips that would settle into a single, hard line, and she could look straight furious while simply watching T.V. You could never tell if she was actually mad or just concentrating. I’d get nervous and several times a day be like, “Mom? Why ya so mad?” She’d always give me a wide eyed, startled look and say, “What? I’m not mad.” All. The. Time. Pair that with the fact that I look like my father, who someone once described to me as looking like “a bad guy in an old western” and frankly, did I ever even stand a chance? Mom’s angry resting face + Dad’s “mean eyes” = Me, RBF: The New Generation.
I just, in general, have a face that doesn’t exactly scream “sweetie pie”. Case in point: I used to do a lot of acting and theater back in the day, and I was definitely type-cast, time and time again. I am almost always cast as one of two character types: the villain or the seductress. I auditioned for Grease my sophomore year of college, visions of maybe getting to play Sandy hopefully dancing in my head. Ha! Not gonna happen. I was, of course, cast as mean girl/slut extraordinaire Betty Rizzo. Which was awesome, and the most fun part I’ve probably ever played; I’m not sorry. But it just goes to show- I’m never the heroine, not even once have I been. Coincidence? I doubt it; I look like a freakin’ villain even in real life. My director even chuckled when I mentioned my casting of Rizzo over Sandy being unsurprising to me. “Sandy? You?” he guffawed. “Never even crossed my mind! You’re just such a Rizzo, ya know?” Oh yeah, I know. I will always be the wicked step-mother to some bright eyed girl’s Snow White and for the most part, I’m cool with that.
My resting face isn’t the only problem, though; I even have to be careful how I smile. If I don’t do it right, I look like a conniving super villain who’s plan for world domination is finally complete. Not kidding. If you follow me on social media you have probably noticed I have the exact same smile, with my face tilted just so, in every pic. That is not an accident. I have managed to master a “photo smile” that, while not exactly friendly looking, is fairly benign. So at least I have that going for me, which is nice. The resting face, however, is still an issue.
So, what is a self-diagnosed Resting Bitch Facer supposed to do about the situation? I am much in the same boat now as when I realized my Basic Bitch status- am I a lost cause? Am I doomed to always appear evil on first sight? Do I even care? Is this a problem or not? I’m probably more worried about it than anyone else is and really, why am I? At the end of the day, I’m not really as mean as I look. You might think I’m gazing at you, plotting how I plan to murder you and hide your body in the woods somewhere, but, rest assured, I’m not. (Usually) I’m often just lost in thought, trying to remember if I left my curling iron on at home or wondering if La La Land is as over-rated as everyone says it is (it has to be, right?). I’m sort of bad about mentally checking out while in social situations; I don’t mean to, but my brain wanders off, out of my control. Ergo, my blank stare is bound to be a thing for the rest of my life, so I’ve thought, just maybe, I can fix it.
Now, I can’t really change my face but I have tried to change my resting face, and let’s just say this is one instance where I think the cure is worse than the ailment. Now, since I’m aware that my blank face provokes others, I’ll find myself trying to relax my face when I think it has gone too blank. But I don’t really know how to do that so I wind up making a series of faces that are more alarming- raising my eyebrows up and down, trying to put a slight smile on my face but worrying it’s too much, so I stop, but then smile again, but then stop, until someone finally says, “Ummm…are you OK?” Oh, I’m fine, just being a paranoid lunatic about my face right now. I think I’d rather look like a bitch than a psycho, so I’ve tried to stop doing that. I have a friend who always has the most calm, serene look on her face- I stare at her, wondering how she manages it. I can’t copy it, believe me, I’ve tried. Like a tool, staring at the mirror, trying to make my face all Zen-like. Behold, the awful result of that little experiment:
Yeah….that’s me, attempting to look calm and friendly. And oh holy shit, I think this is worse! There is nothing about that face that is any better; I mean, damn. I can’t even describe it, I just promise I’ll try to never to make that face again. I manage to look equal parts judge-y and clueless in this photo. Ugh, I need serious help.
So, in summation, I think we can all agree I’m a lifelong RBF sufferer. My attempts to fix it are futile and it’s just my lot in life. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing; all it usually takes is one pointed look to make people I don’t want to talk to go away. That’s a bonus! But it also makes people I might want to talk to go away, so there is that. Hmm. Well, I have no answer or solution, I suppose acceptance is the only way to survive RBF. And really, the world might be a boring place without faces like mine. How boring would every movie be without people who look just sufficiently evil enough to play the bad girl?
Yep, even my smile suggests I might cut you.