I’m Not Angry, My Face Is

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I am a sufferer of RBF, or Resting B*&ch Face. 2015-10-11 09.53.50 Urban Dictionary defines it as, a person,
usually a girl, who naturally looks mean when her face is expressionless or relaxed, without meaning to.

 

Anyone who knows me, knows, I laugh at  literally the smallest things. They also know, so I’ve been told, that I have an amazing smile. (Shoutout to pops on the braces ones and twos.) Yet, as a result of not smiling like a psychotic clown all day, people tend to think I’m scary. Imagine that. 

Here lies 5 sad truths of a person suffering from RBF.

1. People think you’re mad. All the time.

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By-products of this are, people are afraid to approach you. People think you’re impolite even when you say, “please” or “thank you.” When you actually are angry or sad, people don’t care and think it’s nothing new. People assume you hate the world and are always having a bad day. No one believes you when you say, “I’m not mad.” When arguing a point, people often think it’s important to say, “calm down” or “don’t be mad.” I can tell you living in a VERY social culture, my scowl was a bit intimidating. But, having integrated, and constantly running into my little friends ( I am basically the Pipe Piper of Niños), I pretty much smile once every five to ten minutes.

2. You will end up apologizing, many times in your life… foryourface.

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By-products of this are being told to smile more often. Or as my momma would say, “fix your face.” My face is in no way a correct representative of what’s actually going on under my cranium and yet, I have to apologize for your assumption of it. This does actually occur. My teachers often ask me, “what’s wrong?” and, my favorite, “are you sick?” Nope, I’m not. This is just my face.

3. People think you’re judging them.

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Nope, I’m just listening. This is my listening face. I have yet to formulate any opinions. Also, as a result of this, people do not know when you’re joking, being sarcastic or serious. I have so often said, “I am not funny. I tell the truth and for some reason, people think I’m joking.” Thankfully, this doesn’t happen often because my minimal level of Spanish, often renders me speechless. I am often observing, everything here is so different and my face of neutrality is apparently normal for foreigners. 

4.  You have to channel your inner cheerleader if you really want to make a good impression.

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Do you know how hard it is to smile all DAY!? It’s hard. Your cheeks will start twitching. It’s also super exhausting to be someone you’re not. I have to practice my “thinker” face to make sure when I am merely listening I appear engaged and giving considerable thought to what you are saying. Even though I WAS ALREADY DOING THAT. My face won’t cooperate and you will get mad. I am so tired when I get home! I literally, lay in my room emotionless because my face has been stressed to the limit of actively working my brain to understand Spanish, convey the proper response in Spanish AND on my face. #aintnobodygottimefodat

5. You think I’m a female dog angry black woman… by default.

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It’s sad but true that women are held to higher standards than men. Men who scowl are perceived as mysterious, sexy, but even in jest, women are called names for the exact same thing. It’s seen as something that should be changed, not accepted. It demeans women as objects. They should always be pleasant to look at it. But the expectation is doubled, if not tripled being black. I am automatically categorized as an angry black woman, because RBF notions tend to feed into racial biases

‘And that perception can have profound—and often deadly—effects. According to a report about implicit bias research from the Kirwan Institute at the Ohio State University, a 2003 study found that whites with relatively high levels of implicit bias perceived black people to be more threatening than white people. What was the basis for such a perceived threat? The facial expressions of black people.

White faces with similar expressions weren’t attached to the same negative value judgments otherwise projected onto black people. As a result, the study highlighted, black people were incorrectly understood as angry, which created a rift in the formation of any kind of familial, working relationship—because black people get implicitly labeled as defiant or untrustworthy. ‘

I’m not being a witch. I’m not being bossy. I’m simply giving instructions and my face happens to be attached to the place where words come out. It’s hard to be authoritative at this height (5 foot nothing) while smiling. People barely take the fairy nymph serious so I can’t afford to show you teeth and lead. It’s a juicy contradiction. Here, because stare at me, just waiting for me to do something different. 9 times out of 10, they don’t understand me soooooo I’ve yet to be called bossy. They treat me as an exotic pet. I can practically hear them mentally thinking as I would at the animal behind the glass, “Do something!” 

Listen. My face, is my face. It’s kinda hard to change. As a matter of fact, in about 20 years, I’ll still be looking the exact same way, because smiling gives you wrinkles. Although, at any given time my face may convey annoyance, boredom, apathy or anger, chances are I am none of those things. I implore you to speak to the next person you see casually scowling. Engage them with a smile, smiles re contagious. I am not the first to acknowledge this is a major problem for women, but I am the first to acknowledge it for my viewpoint. RBF isn’t a choice, it’s my way of life. Embrace it. 

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