I’m going to go on a limb and say you’ve heard of a resting *$%#! face.
She doesn’t mean to look like she’s angry when she’s happy. She isn’t trying to appear standoffish. She’s stoically beautiful, or profoundly intimidating or both.
I have envied these women. I’ve hit on these women. My shy, amazonian sister is one of those women.
Then, there is the other side of the spectrum. The antonym of a resting bitch face.
The resting kitten face. A term I recently started using to describe my visage when my facial muscles are geared into neutral. Here are the signs of a resting kitten face. Regardless of how I am actually feeling, I always look like I want to talk to you. The corners of my mouth naturally sit in the shadow of a smile. My large round eyes appear insatiably curious, even when I am reading a grocery list. Much like the resting bitch faces wonder why no one approaches them, I wonder why do people always approach me?
Another side effect: I always look a little naive. It’s like my moisturizer brand is Innocence by Lolita. Even though I am a top scholar from Berkeley. Even though I am a woman who's lived all around the world and speaks multiple languages. I am subtly infantilized in my day-to-day life. Strangers shower me in insulting pet names like ‘sweetheart’, ‘honey’, and ‘cutie-pie’.
When I stand up for myself, people are violently shocked. I looked so friendly just a moment ago. What happened?
Of course, the occasional unsolicited sweetheart or shaming of anger is a part of any feminine experience, regardless of gender. Appearing feminine can inspire certain reactions from society. However, as a resting kitten faced woman with a resting bitch faced sister, I have the luxury (is it a luxury?) of seeing how much more often I get treated like a pet or a child as opposed to my sibling. It is a staggering amount.
The result of the kitten-face visual package is that other humans feel they have an unspoken invitation to talk to me.
I’m read as non-threatening, and women I don’t know will sometimes become protective of me. I describe it as a big-sister-savior complex, where a new female acquaintance feels a protective urge to coach me out of this innate kitten-ness. It is as if, in the (beautiful, and profoundly important) #MeToo era, women give me a look from across the room that says, you don’t need to act like that!
I get why this happens. We all make assumptions based on the appearances of others, even when we are doing our best to remain open-minded. My resting kitten face often makes me look like I’m staring in the most recent iteration of ‘damsel in distress’. Even though my film is actually called, The Princess Saves Herself In This One. (side note, that is actually the name of a wonderful poetry book by Amanda Lovelace.)
In realizing, and then naming, my resting facial expression, I found a newborn power in my own femininity. The innocence I seem to project used to upset me. It would remind me of all the times I’d been underestimated, or casually bull-dozed in social settings. It would make me relive the circumstances when acquaintances or strangers would forget standard social boundaries. Without a label of my own to classify this aspect of my identity I was just reduced to a little girl in some of the most demeaning and invalidating ways.
Having a resting kitten face means that you have a perceived softness. I say perceived because kitten faced people are not weak, small, or desiring to be made into your pet. Kittens have strong spirits. I know what I like, and I enjoy communicating that. I am not afraid of confrontation if I feel I’ve been disrespected, and I will let the people I care about know right away. When an acquaintance disrespects me, I no longer provide them with the privilege of my time. Silence is one of my favorite responses, kittens don’t waste their time folks.
Lastly, the one thing I now love about having a resting kitten face is that people do often underestimate me. I enjoy breaking stereotypes.
Like I mentioned, having a kitten-face makes one appear non-threatening. People often forget the other defining qualities of kittens. We are quick on our feet. We are agile. We are adaptable. Most importantly, kittens have claws.
Have you ever approached a kitten in real life that didn’t know you very well? I’d wager you received a quick and deep cut to remind you to respect that young cat’s space. A non-verbal reprimand from a cute, furry little creature that refuses to be subjected to such a callous imposition.
This is what I love about having a kitten-face. Yes, we are approachable. Yes, we are darling. My goodness, we appear so naive and cute it’s easy to forget: kittens have claws. Mine get sharper every day, just don’t give me a reason to scratch you.
Nadège is a sexuality scholar and spiritual mentor who uses her knowledge to bring warmth to heavy topics. Stay up to date with all her sexy new discoveries here.