Why I Stopped Apologizing For My Resting Bitch Face
Please stop asking me why I don’t smile more often!
Am I An Arrogant Bitch?
Friend: When I first met you, I thought you were this rich, entitled, arrogant bitch. But, hey! Turns out you are not half as bad.
Me: (Pause for a minute, startled by this seemingly innocuous declaration by someone I consider a very good friend) Oh well, I get that a lot. Sorry! I guess there’s something about my body language. . .
Friend: Yeah, you seemed very uptight.
Me: Hmm. maybe I was just shy? Not sure
This is a conversation that I have unfortunately had with many people over the years. For the longest time I had blindly believed in the oft repeated adage, “first impression is the last impression”. So, after having this same conversation over and over again with different people, by the time I reached my early 20s, I started to believe that there was something seriously wrong with me. Whenever such an exchange took place, I just blamed my body-language or the fact that I felt awkward around new people, always apologizing and feeling like shit. It had come to a point where it seemed like I was reciting my lines from an invisible script. However, no matter how hard I tried, I could not, for the life of me, figure out what exactly I was doing that was putting people off. In my head, I imagined my features distorting into an ugly mass, my body contorting unnaturally and my eyes blazing fire. For surely, to elicit such a reaction from people, I must be taking on a monstrous form whenever someone approaches me?
Even my husband, probably the most amiable person I have ever met, seemed to think that I hated him for the first one and a half years that we were studying in the same class. While I, au contraire, found him to be extremely polite and sweet and thought that I was always nice to him even though we hardly ever talked in those initial years. What could be the possible reason for this vastly different perception on both our parts? Who was wrong in this case?
Then one day, as I was lazily browsing the internet, I came upon an article that talked about how women are always expected to smile, to be chirpy and pleasant, and to behave like they are having the best goddamn time of their lives. Women are not allowed to have a lousy day and even if they do, they must never forget their role as the beacons of propriety, beauty and dignity. Any woman who opposes these rules and looks like she might be indifferent or even bored in a specific situation is instantly considered as any or all of the following: bitchy, aloof, vain, selfish, self-absorbed, or my favorite — arrogant. I don’t remember who wrote the article or where I read it, but I will always remember the new term that I learnt from it -“The Resting Bitch Face” — the singular phenomenon that was apparently causing all these issues.
The top definition for Resting Bitch Face as per The Urban Dictionary is a person, usually a girl, who naturally looks mean when her face is expressionless, without meaning to.
Hooray! I Am Not A Bitch, I Just Have A Resting Bitch Face
This knowledge instantly altered my world-view. I finally knew what was wrong with me. I researched the term and found out more stories about this mysterious affliction that seems to be the root-cause of the torment faced by many young women across the globe, like me. Apparently I was not supposed to feel guilty or sorry about having a face that was naturally devoid of expressions in the absence of the proper stimuli. I found out that many women have the same tendency as I did, to retreat within themselves and forget the world around them and we DON’T do this deliberately. So, we should never be apologetic about it. My Resting Bitch Face is normal, natural and more common than I would have guessed. I was elated! I was finally able to reassess all those conversations I had had with different people, including my family, and was able to realize that I am not to blame if society has systematically given rise to certain rigid behavioral markers on the basis of their expectations from my gender. I am the victim here.
So please, next time you see a woman who appears rude or impassive, I implore you not to jump to any obvious conclusions and try to look at the situation more objectively and maybe ask yourself the question — “Would I make the same assumption if this was a man?”