Resting Bitch Face? : Please Don’t Ask Me to Smile

It’s even happened at the dentist.

Waiting, I was reading a book. My dentist arrived to get to work, and felt the need to comment on my facial expression. Apparently I looked intense. Reading books does involve the brain– and emotions, as well.

Was something wrong? He had to know. I looked angry.

I stopped reading and looked up, confused. No, I was fine.

Is it shocking that my facial expression corresponds with my thought process? I can hardly believe this is unusual behavior.

More importantly, why does it seem to bother everyone when I display emotions other than happiness? Strangers, especially?

It happens at the most random moments: very frequently, at work.

I’ll be walking along looking for clients to approach or straightening up my display. And suddenly, I will be asked, “Why do you look so serious?” Or people will comment on my expression. I’ll be told that I look angry, or asked, “What’s wrong?”

Nothing. I’m thinking. How else should I appear? Am I supposed to be levitating constantly on a cloud of happiness, with a pleasant expression– or even better, a totally blank one?

Most often, it’s men doing this. But not always.

One female co-worker will always ask how I’m doing, and it seems no answer satisfies her unless I’m at the very least, delighted. If I say I’m good, her response is always, “Just good?”

My answers have become shorter and shorter because really, what do I owe this woman? Nothing. Why does she always need me to be happy, or something BETTER than good? “Good” is a pretty satisfactory state, at least in my book. We’re not close friends, we don’t hang out. Just say hello and sometimes talk at work.

Apparently I, too, am afflicted by Resting Bitch Face. Notice this term is never applied to men?

Have you ever heard someone joke that a dude who looks serious totally has Resting Bitch Face? Probably not.

But when a woman is anything less than overjoyed, everyone notices. Even total strangers.

“Smile,” they’ll say.

Why? I’m stumped as to why it makes a total stranger uncomfortable if I don’t smile. And why they get annoyed if I don’t oblige.

If I want to share my thoughts with you, I will.

But I don’t want to be told how to feel, or pressured to feel something different.

I *do* smile– when I genuinely feel happy. If not commanded to, I may just smile first at a stranger.

I smile when something wonderful surprises me. When I enjoy a memory, when I’m dreaming about something that could happen– a possibility.

If anything, I’m proud to not be a constant smiler. Because I’m not faking it.

But just because I’m concentrating on a book, a task, or thinking about something– I don’t need to explain or apologize for it.

This street artist, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, launched a project I really appreciate: “Stop Telling Women to Smile.”¬†Please click and watch the video explaining what inspired it and showing the women she interviewed, who she then photographed and incorporated into posters she put up in places where they had felt harassed.

I don’t have Resting Bitch Face, and I’m fine, thanks.

I’m just a thinker.

A thinker whose face has changed with age to show the lines where her brow furrows, her forehead wrinkles, the outlines of her smile. I’m proud of a face that is no longer a blank, un-lined canvas, although I did enjoy it in my youth.

You’ll never find me courting Botox, trying to rewind time and freeze those muscles.

These lines make me human. They make me beautiful. They make me a woman who thinks and feels.

Don’t be ashamed of yours!

And remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology for your facial expressions.

What are your experiences with strangers talking to you or commenting on your apparent mood? Does it bother you or not?


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