How awful would it be to have people telling you that you have bitchy resting face?
I can tell you from experience that it’s worse than having a passerby on the street say, “Cheer up!” or “Smile!” I can tell you that, from experience, because it happens to me more often than I care to recall. Having someone tell me I have bitchy resting face is actually even worse than my kids asking me if I’m mad when I’m not mad at all. It’s worse to be told I have “bitchy resting face” because it automatically puts a judgment on me I’m not sure I like all that much. Let’s be honest here. It’s a judgment that makes the viewer of my face feel better about themselves while making me feel sort of horrible.
I’ve seen the video that sparked all the BRF comments and I guess I thought it was funny at the time. There are some very funny moments in it, I admit, and yet at the same time I had trouble connecting to what exactly was funny. It felt familiar, that’s for sure. It felt on point. And so I started to say it too, trying to make light of something about me that clearly makes other people uncomfortable. I suppose what makes people uncomfortable is not being able to read my emotions just from the look on my face. Or more specifically, reading them (incorrectly) as angry or sad. Anger and sadness make people uncomfortable. I get that.
It wasn’t until I had a conversation with my daughter in the car and I asked if she was feeling all right that I questioned the label. She looked sad to me. She said, “Nope. I feel fine!” then smiled. I responded with, “Oh, you’re like me. You just have bitchy resting face!” She was offended and said. “No. This is just my face.”
There’s nothing like having my 16-year-old daughter school me on good thinking. I knew immediately she was right and I knew it because I felt this surge of relief run through my body. I don’t have bitchy resting face! Whew!
If you’ve never been misread like this then it may be hard to understand why I was relieved. It may be hard for you to understand why having someone tell you to “smile” or “cheer up” when you feel perfectly fine already is such a burden.
The thing is, when I’m deep in thought, or tired, or walking down the street, when I’m writing, when I’m concentrating, when I’m making grocery lists in my head, even when I’m thinking of butterflies and sunflowers, I am resting my face. My lips are turned down a bit. My brow might be pressed together. Maybe I’m squinting. Sometimes even when it feels like I’m smiling, it doesn’t look like I’m smiling. I’m not bitchy. This is just my face.
I feel as though I have spent my life trying to fit into someone else’s definition of what it means to be a fully functioning member of polite society. Maybe we all go through this, but I have often, if not always, felt outside the norm, outside the box. And you know what? I’m finally fine with being outside of it for the most part. It’s taken most of my adult life.
After years of struggle and identity seeking and random comments from strangers about my perceived emotional state, that comment from my teenage daughter hit me like an arrow to my insecurities. In that moment those insecurities burst and scattered like water from a filled balloon and I realized that I don’t have to play that game. Those people who need to label my resting face to make themselves feel better can feel free to call it what they like, but I don’t have to subscribe to it. And if you’re like me and have a face that operates like mine? You can call it bitchy resting face if you’d like. That’s your own call. But I don’t have to label myself that way. Labeling it that way just paves the path to my feeling awful about myself. I don’t have to do it. I can just love my face the way it is, free of the “bitchy” label.
So thank God, I don’t have bitchy resting face. This is just my face.