How To Overcome Resting Bitch Face

Published August 11, 2015
The year I turned thirty my friend said, “You know, you move your face a lot when you talk. You should be more careful.” “What?” I asked, my forehead scrunched. “You’re going to have to live with that skin for the rest of your life,” my friend warned. Of course what she’d said was not news to me but it was jarring. What was I supposed to do? Talk without expression? No joy? No wonder? In all honesty, I didn’t give what she said much thought until not too long after, I looked in the rear view mirror of my car and saw (with horror) a vertical line (my first) beginning to form in between my eyes. It was a significant moment, if not traumatic, my youth fleeting. I started to pay attention. For a while I got caught up, buying into the idea that aging was bad, something to be avoided or slowed. But when I noticed lines around my mouth, something shifted. Maybe I’m crazy, but I like those lines. They’re called smile lines for a reason. Why would I want to erase them? This revelation was empowering. And that’s why the New York Times article, "Cursed With A Death Stare", aggravated me. This brand of journalism creates an unrealistic, unhealthy view and perpetuates a ridiculous notion: that we have endless reasons to be ashamed of how we look. I'd never heard of the term “Resting Bitch Face” or RBF until I read the New York Times piece and its condescending, anti-women agenda was enough to make me scowl. And just to be clear, I’m not blaming men. Women do it to themselves. In the article, Anna Paquin, 33, defined RBF (a woman’s face at rest—no smile) as looking like you want to kill someone. There are photos of celebrities (Kristen Stewart, 25, January Jones, 37 and Victoria Beckham, 41) who are accused of RBF. In my opinion, these women are beautiful. In arbitrarily labeling the look pejoratively (angry, irritated) we establish truth from a lie. Resting Bitch Face is a result of genetics, gravity and aging. There is madness in creating standards around age and beauty that are impossible to meet, expectations that leave us feeling bad about ourselves. In the article, Anna Kendrick, age 31, actually wonders, “What’s wrong with me?” And how’s this for insanity— If I smile, I get smile lines. If I don’t smile, I get accused of having an angry bitch face. One female doctor, an educated 51 year old women who did not have a line anywhere on her plumped up face, educated me about how as women grew older the corners of their mouths curled downward. I’d never noticed that before. She suggested that I become more aware and that I give a little (continuous) smirk to raise the corners of my mouth a bit. Was she kidding? She wasn’t. What she suggested sounded exhausting, unrealistic and overly self-focused. But this summer, at a party, it happened to me for the first time. Someone asked me what was wrong. “Nothing,” I said. “You look angry.” I guess what he saw was my “resting bitch face”, which we should rename “resting thinking face” because that’s what I was doing. And what actually makes my brows furrow is the idea that I have to concentrate on looking perky while I’m supposed to be resting.
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