Relationships

This Is Just My Face

Caroline Donofrio

Hello, my name is Caroline and I am not smiling as I type this…

Because I am not smiling, one might assume that I am upset, or worried, or perhaps just contemplative. Maybe I had a bad weekend. Maybe I’m really stressed about work or nursing a broken heart or silently grappling with a case of indigestion.

The answer is none of the above. I am just typing. And this is just my face.

I recently stumbled across a bunch of old photos and unearthed the above gem of me, age four, at Disney World. Look at that unbridled joy. Isn’t that what every child looks like when deposited at the kingdom of happiness?

I remember this trip and can assure you, I was happy. I had just met Goofy at a pancake breakfast! Cinderella hugged me! My mom let me eat Pringles from the hotel mini bar! Again I will sing my lifelong refrain: This is just my face.

There are many more examples where this came from. Blank faced behind a side table. Regarding a flock of ducks with a look of pure consternation. Looking perturbed to be heading to my first school dance. Discovering these photos was strangely affirming, as they answered a question that had plagued me for some time: Had something happened to make me this way? Had years’ worth of urban ennui found its way into my heart and caused my face to freeze up like an unfeeling garden statue?

No, apparently not. It simply was — and always has been — my face.

Appearances aside, most of the time, I am actually content. I regularly think things like, “What a nice day!” or “Gosh, how wonderful it is to participate in this mystery that is life!” But when thinking such things, I just happen to look like this.

I have a theory that if I were a man, this would be seen as a positive. People would say things like:

“That Larry, he’s so focused.”
“He’s so deep and brooding and dreamy.”
“An absolute terror to negotiate with! Always gets what he wants.”
“And you should see him play poker!”

But I am a woman. So I must be upset.

You know those old photos of James Dean or Elvis where they’re leaning on some vehicle, looking like a cross between deciding which sandwich to order and mentally doing calculus? This was considered attractive. Why can’t I be granted this same courtesy? Instead, I am assaulted with a bevy of concern and confusion.

“Are you okay?”
“Did I do something to upset you?”
“You’re such an enigma!”

This. Is. Just. My. Face.

As best as anyone can tell, the concept of resting bitch face (“A person, usually a woman, whose face appears unintentionally mean when it is at rest”) entered the scene in the early aughts. But as a facial phenomenon, it has been happening for centuries.

Joan of Arc? Bitchface. Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Bitchface. Sandra Oh? Total, unabashed bitchface. See also: Rihanna. Anna Wintour. Queen Elizabeth… I rest my case.

So I’d like to request a change in terminology. How about something like resting LEGEND face? Even, like, resting mystery face would be preferable.

My woman-face does not exist for the world’s collective amusement. I have things to do and life to live — and all kinds of thoughts to think. Sometimes I, too, look like I may be ordering a sandwich while mentally doing calculus, and that is okay. I am not a bitchface, resting or otherwise. I am just a face, standing in front of the world, asking it to love me.

There are a lot of things in this crazy universe to be concerned about. Climate change. Midterm elections. Whatever happens when we die. As much as is humanly possible, I remain hopeful. Though my face will never give me away.


P.S. On happiness and the five words that changed everything.

  1. Betsy says...

    So many responses here, but I don’t think anyone has yet mentioned the compelling spoken word poem by Olivia Gatwood: “Ode to My Bitch Face.” It’s one a series of poems celebrating things that one is “supposed to” feel ashamed of. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yGzMUzrgzA

  2. Gina Dwyer says...

    Oh gosh, You in this pic – adorable!!

  3. Rose says...

    I work at an elementary school and we got a new principal this fall. On the first day of school while I am helping load students on the bus our new principal says, ” You need to smile more. ” I responded, ” Oh it’s genetic my face doesn’t do that. ” I figure it would be left at that but no. He says, ” I am going to make it a goal on your evaluation. ” Beyond pissed and not hiding it I tell him, “Prepare for that goal not to get met.” For the following three days I have a variation of this conversation with the man who is now my boss. Finally when I can’t take it any longer I yell over the din of the cafeteria, ” I have never smiled because a man told me to!!! I’ve never walked up to a man and said hey change your face! ” That was enough to nip it in the bud but I still get angry just thinking about it. I am not a smiley person. I never have been. The thing I wish people understood about it is when I do smile it’s genuine. If I smile at you. I mean it. Legend face forever!

  4. MariaE. says...

    Fantastic post!! I am one who is the total opposite and I wish I could have my very own RBF face.
    Man = poker face
    Woman = RBF
    Why is it that even language is always putting us down???

  5. Jessica says...

    The thing that really eats me when people tell you to smile is that it subtly suggests that you are there to amuse them or something equally stupid. You don’t owe anyone an interaction. Most certainly not a smile when there is no apparent reason for one (and even when there is).

  6. H says...

    Oh my gosh I totally relate to this!!! I started a job recently, and people continue to ask me “is everything ok?” “you look worried” no……. just thinking about what I need to do next and making sure I’ve done all I’ve needed to (I’m in a waitressing position at the moment). I’m not stressed. I feel fine. Thank you for making me feel like I look like I’m having a bad day though? It drives me nuts.

  7. I, too, suffer from what I like to call “resting brunch face” (because, seriously, where is my food?) Even after 14 years, I still have to explain to my husband that, “I’m fine, this is just my face.”

  8. Daria says...

    Did you ever notice that women in ads or magazines are usually smiling or have their mouth (at least slightly) open? (seriously, does anyone have their mouth open while walking down the street, unless they have a bad cold?! ) I remember doing a test with the French and Italian ELLE magazines, and there were only 3 photographs where women had other mimics (which either came with glasses, or were Céline ads with angry women)

  9. Bettina says...

    This. Is. Just. My. Face. I say this so much its just funny. I still don’t smile at it!

    Thanks for this

  10. Shannon says...

    Thank you for acknowledging the sexism in the misconception that nonsmiling women are emotional or upset. People are eager to return the woman to her naturally pleasant and accommodating state. Thankfully, plenty of women set ‘em straight when they try. That’s where the bitch part comes in.

  11. AH says...

    I’ve been told to smile on multiple occasions, and mostly by strangers (usually men who think it’s some sort of come on????). Now I don’t care if I have “resting bitch face”. As the wise Tina Fey once said, “Bitches get stuff done”!!!!

  12. Shena says...

    My youngest is the same way. Thanks for this.

  13. Stephanie says...

    I was told to smile while I was having Braxton Hicks contractions while I was at WORK, while I was walking, while I had been on my feet for over 6 hours, while I was 8 months pregnant.

    • AM says...

      Smiling relaxes sphincter muscles, which helps with labor (and pooping, btw)! Never thought I’d be commenting that on COJ but there’s a first time for everything. (Probably not why the person told you to smile, though, which is 100% L A M E!)

  14. Andrea says...

    Wow, what a great article, I too have the same issue. All. My. Life. I’d get so tired of the comments especially “you look like such a bitch but then you start talking and you’re the polar opposite “. Glad to know others have this too!

  15. bisbee says...

    OMG. Yes…always…for YEARS!

    If I had a nickel for every time someone (usually a man) told me to smile…

  16. My face totally!
    It’s actually quite annoying when people comment about it. As if I’m supposed to walk around smiling like a creep all day long? Who does that?!
    Lol

  17. cfm says...

    Very interesting and insightful essay! Great comments too, as usual.
    I like your photo, and it did not occur to me that you look unhappy, for whatever it’s worth. That girl looks just fine to me- pretty, calm, thoughtful, perhaps a bit quiet. An interesting kid!
    Words have such power, and it is a very good thing to challenge how we use them. Legend face is certainly kinder terminology, if we insist on having a way to quantify and describe someone’s physical appearance. I wonder why do we do that though? As if everyone is a contestant on project runway and we are judges. I intensely dislike that term “resting bitch face” (do people actually use that term in everyday life?). I dislike it with the same intensity that I dislike racial epithets. What a shallow, cruel, and hurtful thing it is to pass judgement on someone’s worth and character based on an arbitrary perception of their physical appearance. For all our talk of women supporting women, it is idiotic stuff like this that makes me wonder if we aren’t our own worst enemies.
    Thank you for gracefully shining some enlightenment on a much needed subject.

  18. Beth says...

    This is so true! Just let faces be, and if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone’s face, don’t say it!!

    For me I blush very easily and every time someone HAS to comment on it. Someone inevitably says “Wow, your face is going SO red!”.
    Guess what, I already know! It happens when I’m hot, cold, stressed, nervous, embarrassed, excited, sad, angry, even the slightest bit out of breath, drinking alcohol, etc…….
    If it’s summer they’ll insist that I have a really bad sunburn, even when I try to tell them I’m just flushed.
    It also makes it near impossible for me to hide strong emotions which is rather annoying, but it’s just the way my face is and I have learned to love it regardless.

    • H says...

      oh my goodness Beth. I had someone once comment on that as well! I do blush easily, but they said I was blushing at someone I was definitely NOT attracted to nor did I feel I was blushing. But when they said I was blushing…. of course then I started blushing!!!!!!!! It was so so so annoying….

      I have also had people think I’m sunburnt because my face gets SO red when I’m hot… I’m like nope… this is just my face… lol

    • Sasha L says...

      Hi Beth, me too. I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older it’s a little better. I’m not sure why but I just seem to blush less. There were times though, where I just wanted to crawl under a rock, with someone saying “you’re face is bright red!!” And then everyone turning and staring and commenting as well. Wtf is wrong with people?!?

      This falls under one of my life rules: just don’t make personal remarks. Don’t comment on people’s appearance. It’s harder, but find a way to converse with others that doesn’t really on needless comments about appearances. We are so much more than that. This rule applies to *why aren’t you smiling” bs also.

    • Capucine says...

      There is a French movie you must see if you blush all the time! It’s older, mainly about a florist who blushes when she’s attracted to someone. The title escapes me, but it has Audrey Tatou before Amelie in a supporting role, she’s one of a few beauticians in a side story, and the male lead was a model for Chevignon. Leave it to the French to create something infinitely subtle and evocative about something as mortifying as blushing!

    • E says...

      Beth, I feel you. I have a fair complexion and I also blush/flush easily. I work in sales and I meet with clients often, and I’m so self-conscious about it. It’s not a pretty/rosy cheeks blush — it’s deep red patches all over my face and chest. Often the anxiety over whether I’m flushing is what brings it on! I tend to think it’s gotten better as I’ve gotten older, or maybe I’ve just become more accepting of it, but sometimes I wonder if I chose entirely the wrong profession.

  19. Kara says...

    Love this post! To every commenter saying how important facial expressions are to communication, Caroline didn’t say she never smiled. She just has a non-smiley resting face. I’m sure she has a variety of facial expressions when talking with someone.

    I, too, have RBF. The one positive thing I’ve experienced is (besides “smile more” comments) I rarely get bothered by anyone in public. I feel for my female friends who have resting approachable faces! I also have what I’ve dubbed “resting Daria voice.” My natural tone apparently sounds bummed, so I have to consciously up my enthusiasm just to sound neutral.

    Speaking of kids not smiling in photos, when my son started preschool and the teachers would share candid photos from their days in school, I noticed that the kids were NEVER smiling. They all pretty much had RBF, so it was a bunch of photos of two year olds looking serious and pissed while playing. Just as cute and funny as you think it’d be!

  20. Eliot says...

    YES. Every single day I have a professor stop his lecture and asks, “Eliot, is everything ok? You look worried/concerned/upset/confused.” My answer is always, “oh, that’s just my face. I was born with a furrowed brow.” I promise, if I am any of those things, I will let you know without hesitation. This is just. my. face.

    • Jess says...

      I had a professor do the same thing for years!!! When I was about to graduate I told her this is just my face. She says no, I really think it’s different this time.

  21. Jessica says...

    My husband and I met at a rock-climbing gym, and he very soon after we began dating he told me he introduced himself because he “had to figure out what wonderful things were marinating in this woman’s head”. As a person who has been constantly “scolded” for “looking too serious”, I think this might be been the moment that I first began to fall in love with him because he saw me. Not my RBF.

  22. Abesha1 says...

    People don’t have to smile.

    People do have to remember that other people may have feelings about that.

    People shouldn’t do a lot of things, like make assumptions about other people because of how they’re dressed for example, but like it or not, that’s what people do.
    That said, I do think “Why?” is an excellent response to many, many unwanted questions or opinions!

  23. Alison Briggs says...

    I love this!! I smile when necessary, and honestly pretty easily, but not always! If I am reading or writing an email, or just thinking, I most def have RBF! And thats ok! It’s my face! Women do not have to look happy all the time! And for that matter, we do not need to laugh at all ‘jokes’. A co-worker yesterday was concerned that I did not laugh or come back with a funny quip when he ‘joked’ about something with me. It wasn’t funny. I wasn’t upset by the comment, I knew he thought it was funny, but I in no way felt the need to smile and laugh, just to stroke his ego.

  24. Lauren E. says...

    HA! Daria was my nickname in middle school. I’m not angry. This is just my face.

    I’ll also say I never realized my “resting” face is stony and angry until I saw myself on camera. Nothing is more telling than video footage where you’re unknowingly in the background watching or listening to someone. YIKES.

  25. Sara says...

    sounds like my life, although in Europe we just call it the “Slavic face”

  26. Julia says...

    YES Caroline, thank you! A male co-worker today asked me several times in a row if something was wrong without letting me even answer and say “no! nothing is wrong!”

    He finally asked if I was sure and if I wanted a hug. NOPE. We do not exist for the world’s amusement! So good. Will repeat that now when I need to.

  27. Anne says...

    I usually don’t comment but I loved this. And I think I understand you a little more. AND I think I understand my relationship with the world a little more. faces be faces (to draw upon an old cup of jo standby)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      faces be faces! yes! :) :) ):

  28. Gema says...

    So, I have to confess: I frequently tell my husband he should smile more. Hear me out. He is 6’4″, 240 pounds, (read, massive) and handsome. He is very intelligent, well spoken, and he’s the boss at work. He doesn’t have a conceited bone in his body nor an ego, but people VERY frequently assume he’s cocky because he’s just staring with a blank face and looks uninterested or at least unaffected. People are often intimidated by him. Admittedly, when we first met, I thought “this guy is SO full of himself.”
    I advise him to smile more when public speaking and around the office. It puts people at ease and make an audience or your staff more open to what you have to say. He really does find that smiling helps with those things and isn’t waaay outside his comfort zone.
    Granted, this is different than what women go through in several ways, but just thought I’d share his experience.

    • Sharon says...

      I hear you! And I have caught myself judging attractive well dressed men as cocky without them ever saying a word! ;-)

  29. Camille says...

    When I was in preschool my teacher asked my parents to come in.
    “Is your child okay? Is she suffering? She constantly looks like she is going to burst into tears.”
    “No, she is just focused.”
    To this day I still have managers checking in on me when I start focusing too hard ;)

  30. Rachel says...

    Yep. Totally have a resting mystery face too. I’m also a terrible flirt. I’m pretty sure it’s why I had to have a mutual friend convince my husband-then-crush that I liked him, and it still took weeks before he asked me on a date. LOL.

  31. Jamie says...

    Yes! Resting Legend Face it is!

  32. Silvina says...

    Thank you for writing this.

    When people (men) ask me what’s wrong with me, I answer “I’m working, why should I be smiling?”

  33. Julie says...

    This is me too. I get so angry when strangers (men) say “Smile!” But a happier story: My now-husband noticed me walking around our campus dorm for a year before we actually met and started dating. (I didn’t notice him, hah!) He later told me he thought I was cute, but never said hi because he thought I always looked angry. I wasn’t. It was just my face. Good thing we eventually met through a campus activity!

  34. Natalie says...

    AMEN!

  35. Jaimi B says...

    I am a person with the OPPOSITE problem. Feeling sad? Everyone knows. Feeling enamored? Everyone knows. Feeling disgusted? Everyone knows. My husband says he fell in love with me because I told stories with every part of my face, and sometimes people tell me that I’m an engaging speaker or presenter because my facial expressions add texture to the story. Recently I’v been thinking about strategies to better control my emotions-are-plastered-on-my-face reality. Someone suggested meditation as a way to better separate my emotions from experiences. Now I’ve read this essay and I’m thinking…actually…f*** it. My face–and its myriad expressions–is a gift.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! it is a gift. i love this: “My husband says he fell in love with me because I told stories with every part of my face.”

    • Ali says...

      I’m the same! I often look over while watching tv to find my husband watching my reactions rather than the show itself

  36. Sasha L says...

    Carolyn, I applaud your refusal to conform. I like your face. It’s weird that we have the idea that we should all be wandering around smiling at all times, women especially. Save smiles for genuinely happy expressions of joy, right? Also, your writing is one of those for me. So although I was frowny face @ the content, I was smiley because your writing just does that!

    I had a boss once, during a tense discussion, tell me my face was telling her that I was having feelings about what she said, even though my words were not. I was so floored, stunned and actually offended. It felt like this weird invasion of privacy that she was sitting over there cleverly deciphering what she thought I was thinking and feeling. I left that job soon after, for many reasons, one of the biggest ones was I felt I couldn’t trust her. From then on I’ve had this creepy feeling that maybe my face is betraying me. I know it’s lovely to say, be honest! Share what your thinking! Be authentic and tell the truth! But hello, I would’ve been fired on several occasions if I actually did any of those things, and actually needed the job, so……. I’m still on a mission to try and get my face to only be as honest as my mouth.

    • Hard worker says...

      I can completely relate to this sense of privacy being invaded. My manager has accused me of looking ‘a bit pissed off’ when I’ve been working like a lunatic, solving juicy problems and taking it all in my stride. I feel like she’s living in the 1800s and expects me to wear pale pink, curtsey and thank her for the opportunity. Instead of feeling valued or appreciated (when I provide great value for money as an underpaid, high output employee), I feel used up and patronised. It’s quite liberating when you realise this is all someone else’s problem, though! I too will be resigning soon, for the reasons you outline xx

  37. Krista says...

    I could never understand when shy, nerdy unpopular me was sometimes described by others as “intimidating.” But along came cell phone cameras and the answer was hilariously clear – RBF (though I didn’t have a name for it at first). A haughty, intense, confident-looking RBF. The disconnect between my face and my internal monologue is incredible (and cracks me up
    regularly). I have passed RBF onto my sons, and I adore it. Like our internal contentment under a semi-scowl is a happy little shared secret.

    • KSM says...

      Almost all women with RBF, that I have met, have had a very sharp sense of humor. You sound wonderful and witty.

  38. lisa says...

    You so eloquently touched on one of my biggest (& it looks like it is not just mine) pet peeves. “Are you upset” … no this is just my face.

  39. Jessica S says...

    THANK YOU. I love this. And I could read Caroline’s writing all day long.

  40. N says...

    As someone who is an observer/reader of people’s emotions through faces, this tendency to not show any emotion is hard for me to understand and so thank you for this post and I agree that random strangers/catcallers asking for smiles is straight up creepy and none of their business.
    BUT, if you are someone in the workplace or who I don’t know very well or hang out in a more relaxed setting to know your RBF, I must admit it leads to a preconceived bias of being unhelpful, unpleasant or straight up arrogant. That followed by curt replies in the name of being professional creates a negative image and the appearance of a dour personality which leads to professional blow backs. We are programmed to be nicer towards sunny people and while you might be a very nice person indeed, your face is the first impression anyone has of you. Just something to be cognizant about while working with strangers.
    On your off-days, it is truly no-one’s business what your face looks like!!
    Oh and at work, the reputation totally applies to men also. People might not openly dislike a “serious” man, but in reality, you do tend to gravitate towards more pleasant men who don’t appear angry all the time.

  41. CN says...

    You look mesmerized and in the moment … embrace it . Besides your way with words say more than a facial expression ever could.

  42. Carrie says...

    Not many things more annoying than having someone (ALWAYS A MAN!) tell you to smile.

    • Robin says...

      Or “Smile Sweetheart”

  43. Megan G says...

    It’s amazing to read how many women have experienced this! I didn’t know it was an issue for me until college, when I’d frequently be told I looked mad and I would in turn become very confused. I soon tested my theory out by just looking at people with a straight face and asking them what emotions they would assume I was experiencing. Always angry. And always, I would say, This is just my face! Just.my.face.

    Equally as annoying to me is being asked if I’m ill should I dare to leave my house without makeup on. *gasp* No. THIS IS MY REAL FACE.

    • Yes, me, too! I can’t believe how many times I’ve left the house thinking I was looking pretty great that day (good hair, good clothes, whatever) only to be asked, “Are you okay? You look so TIRED.” No, this is just my face.

    • H says...

      omg…. being called tired is my BIGGEST pet peeve. And it strangely only gets told to me when I’m without makeup…. hmmm. Nope just not wearing makeup!!!!!!!!! so annoying. I actually find it so strange when someone says that to me, I’d never say that to anyone! If they are tired they surely know it and don’t need to be told, and if they aren’t well, that’s just not a nice thing to say to someone haha. It doesn’t really help the situation either way

  44. Alyssa says...

    I LOVE this! I have a very focused face, especially when I’m thinking. I’ve also come to realize that when I am smiling for a photo, I have to work extra hard to smile bigger than I would think to otherwise I just looked exhausted and unwell. :)

  45. Libby says...

    Just this weekend I went to a store and the man helping me had a kind tone and kind words to say but he never smiled once- or frowned- but just had a rested face. And I felt confused by it- I wondered if he was annoyed at me or the job or if he was faking being kind to the best of his ability with energy only to extend to his words but not his expression. This post helps me understand that people don’t have to smile to be happy, and it helps me to be more careful to not impose expectations on others because they are easy for me to fulfill. Thanks for sharing this.

  46. Humans are highly social animals. Whateryagonnado? (shrugging)

  47. Kyli says...

    For me, it’s more than just my face. It’s my brief (efficient) emails that are considered curt. It’s a dry delivery interpreted as negative or humorless. And it’s introversion that’s determined to be an antisocial personality. I’m fairly certain that I’m a Brit stuck in an American workforce.

    • Sala says...

      If you ever look at Myers Briggs profiling, you may find you come up as (T)hinking rather than (F)eeling as a type indicator – I’m like you, to the point, no social fluffing in emails and I’m a total T…but British, so can get away with it ;)

    • Meredith says...

      Amen, Sister.

    • sasha l says...

      Kyli, I’m an introvert as well, but a pleaser. So even though I try not to, my texts and emails are strewn with happy faces etc. It’s pathetic. And I’m sure annoying, but I can’t help myself.

    • Kara says...

      Sasha L, that’s not pathetic (or annoying)! It’s just your communication style. Email/text communication is tough no matter where you land on the spectrum of styles, and there will always be someone who finds fault with the way you do it. Do what makes you feel comfortable.

    • Sasha L says...

      Thank you Kara

  48. Laura B says...

    I am on the opposite end of this, I have a pleasant resting face that (apparently) lets people know that yes, please DO come up and talk to me or ask a question or ask for directions when I am simply minding my own business. No, I wasn’t smiling at YOU, sir, it was not an invitation for unwanted commentary.

    Why can’t we all just let people’s faces just be faces doing facey things?

    • Meghan says...

      HAHA! Yes, me too. Someone once said my mom has the type of face that “if you’re a kid, lost at the mall, you’d want to go to for help.” I think I inherited that, too and get come-ons/unwelcome conversations. I’ve heard, “Hey, smiley!” more than I can count from strangers. At the gym, I intentionally put on a RBF, maybe now, I’ll be more conscious of keeping my PRF (pleasant resting face). Just let my facey thing happen naturally. :)

  49. cj says...

    so spot on! You have a way with words, Caroline. I hear these comments about my 4 year old daughter who does not smile for pictures. I have been told she looks angry. Yes, she has a boss face. I hope one day she grows up to be as confident as you are and does not feel the need to flash a smile if she does not want to :)

  50. Abbey says...

    I worked in a bar for a few years in college and I cannot count the number of times men would say ‘you should smile more.’ I would usually just smirk at them and carry-on, but on one particularly busy Saturday I turned around and said ‘Yeah, and you should talk less, but we are who we are right?’
    I like to think we will all have fabulous skin as we age due to fewer laugh lines.

    • Jill says...

      Love this! You rock Abbey!

    • Victoria says...

      Lord, that is the best response, Abbey. I wish I had had that the previous million times a man told me to smile. Next time!

  51. Joaquina says...

    Great topic, Caroline! Unfortunately, I’ve had women (as in more than one!) tell me, “smile!” or some semblance of that irritating remark.

    Just last week at Costco an older, very posh looking woman, told me,
    “life is great, you should smile!”. I was SO tempted to follow her and say,
    “my dog just died of cancer, please don’t tell people to smile”.

    As Caroline wrote though, many of us feel just fine and don’t walk around with a visibly happy face so my hypothetical come back wouldn’t have done the trick. I think the more we talk about these annoyances, the more we’ll bring awareness to them.

  52. Tayler says...

    I think my face normally comes across as “pleasant” and never too serious, because I’ve never gotten comments from friends/family/coworkers. But I hear it all the time from random men as I’m walking around New York! I’ve lived in 3 major cities (Boston, DC, and NYC) and for some reason it happens so much in New York. Bizarre.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it’s often a flirty remark, a way to engage without seeming like a catcaller.

      but your face doesn’t exist for men’s enjoyment! your walk to work isn’t a performance! you don’t owe anyone an interaction, you’re just living your life and walking around.

  53. megs283 says...

    I have one of those very pleasant resting expressions, one that inspires people to ask me for directions or cut me in line at the store. However, my toddler has resting LEGEND face, and it drives me batty that people tell her to smile, or remark that she doesn’t smile, etc. Her expression is hers to manage, and she does a fine job!

  54. lynda says...

    I am just a face, standing in front of the world, asking it to love me.
    Oh what a good movie reference- perfectly placed! love it!

  55. Jess says...

    I hear you. I go through this too. The worst are the men who pass me and say things like “smile, it’s not so bad!” I never said anything was bad, it’s just not my job to smile at every person. Eye roll.

  56. Meg says...

    Yes!! Shout out to Broad City for giving me something to do when this happens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTAG2yAOzAU

    Sometimes it takes men a minute to understand what you’re doing and it is always hilarious to watch them figure it out…and worth it. I have found some men get very angry if you do this, but most of them laugh! :eyeroll:

  57. Tania Dunlop says...

    Caroline, this article really resonates with me – thank you! I loved your writing style already, but, wow, this one is just perfect.
    Such hypocrisy in this world, and I realize these are first world problems, but the constant expectation that women need to smile is …. UGH. We don’t expect men to be smiling all the time, NOR do they get questioned if they aren’t. RBF is really a pet peeve of mine – most likely a term coined by a man. Actually, 100% coined by a man.

  58. NN says...

    YAASSSS.

    I discovered (pretty recently) that when I *think* I’m smiling, I look neutral, and when I think I’m neutral, I look pissed. What do I look like when I’m actually pissed? THE GATES OF HELL, i guess

    • Sasha L says...

      Lol. Do people work really hard to keep you happy? Do children run screaming? Do dogs yelp and tuck tails? Sounds like a super power to me!

  59. KB says...

    This has been on my mind lately as I was recently bartending in between jobs and my manager, with customers present, kept needling me to “smile!” I politely reassured him that I smiled when appropriate, but was concentrating on doing the other parts of my job well (focusing on mixing drinks). After a few times of this, I informed him that David, the other bartender I was working with, rarely smiled and wasn’t asked by him to smile. He said, “but David looks good when he doesn’t smile.”

  60. Kate says...

    I had a boss once who used to call out my resting bitch face in meetings (in front of everyone).

    I desperately wanted to reply “oh please. My bitch face never rests!”

    • Cindy says...

      I am going to use this response in the future. Thank you for equipping me to be mighty!

  61. Maureen says...

    This kind of flat affect face often means that feelings are felt but not expressed. If there’s no visible expression of joy, happiness, contentment etc how is a partner/friend etc to know without asking? And if you can’t read a facial expression because there isn’t one…well that lack of one will often signal depression or at least lack of positive feelings.

    btw, the sign of a real smile is in the eyes not the mouth.

    • h says...

      Seriously? I’m (and, I would venture to say, Caroline is) perfectly capable of not smiling without being depressed. Come on.

  62. Katharina says...

    That is so good! Love the message, your writing and face, Caroline!

  63. What’s annoying is this “resting bitch face” only applies to women! Why is the burden always for women to project sunny pleasantness at all times? We’re also thoughful and reflective deep thinkers too, darn it!

    • Joy says...

      WORD. It’s just another way to police women…like all the talk about women’s voices. UGH.

  64. JP says...

    ugh yes! I’ve been called cold, unfeeling, boring, mean, and a host of other negative things – just because my face doesn’t look like a cherub fairy’s. It’s even come up at work, which (like you said) would never ever happen to a man. In relationships and friendships, I’m always asked if I’m ok. I’m fine! Except for all of you people commenting on how my face looks.

  65. Lisa says...

    One hundred million percent. If I could count the number of times I’ve been asked if I’m okay (by well meaning friends and coworkers) or why don’t I just smile (by random usually male strangers, who I silently tell to f off), I’d be a very rich lady. I personally am very wary of people who walk around smiling *all* the time, same as I feel about people who say they don’t like chocolate. (And yes, I am jaded.)

  66. Ruxandra says...

    Thank you! It feels nice to be remind it’s okay to be yourself, even it that can sometimes translate to “resting bitchface”.

  67. Kayleigh Rose Kavanagh says...

    I cannot even count how many times someone has commented “you look pale” or “do you feel ok? you look sick” . . . . no. . . . that’s just my skin and face . . .

    • Erin says...

      I get that all of the time too! I don’t enjoy it.

  68. Kate says...

    I can so relate to this! I was in high school when a (female) teacher told me to smile more because “your face lights up.” I hadn’t been aware up to that point that there was anything “wrong” with my face. I am a happy person but even though I may be thinking happy thoughts on the inside (“It’s such a beautiful day! I love October!”), I look very serious. This has helped me to be taken seriously in my job as an attorney though, so there’s that.

  69. Emily says...

    I know this isn’t exactly what you are talking about, but I just wanted to give a big high five to photographs of unsmiling kids-or anyone, really. People don’t smile All. The. Time. Why do they have to smile for photographs? Who made that rule? One of my favorite photos of my kids is this one where only one of the three is kind of smiling:
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BetRO4OF3KJ/?taken-by=emilyfrances

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, what a beautiful shot, emily. thank you so much for sharing.

    • Libbynan says...

      Totally agree with you Joanna…..fabulous picture. My entire life I have been considered a very “serious” person because of my RBF. Now I am a “mean old lady.” Never have cared….still don’t. I smile when I feel like it and I’m told I have a very nice smile. When I choose to use it is no one else’s business.

  70. Patricia Wellman says...

    My husband regularly tells me to smile when he’s taking pictures of me. I get so upset cause I just wanna be. Thanks for confirming it happens everywhere.

  71. HH says...

    Generally, I smile. However, I smile with my mouth closed. This, like not smiling, receives criticism. So many times people (mainly men and mostly during photos, but not always) have told me to “smile with your teeth showing.” (An ex even repeatedly told me I was “weird” for not showing my teeth. Well, I’d rather be weird than be with him so…) In any case, I don’t feel the need to bare fangs to express delight. This is just how I smile. Maybe I will tell the next person who says this to me that “Mona Lisa doesn’t smile with her mouth open and neither do I.” ;)

  72. Bethany says...

    I read once that cultures that smile more are the most diverse, because smiles are one of the nonverbal ways we can communicate when there are language barriers. Just like speaking, talking, communicating is emotional and mental work, and silence is needed to recoup after all that, I feel the same about nonverbal communication. I just need to rest my face sometimes. That said, my face will always give me away. I wear everything I’m feeling in the muscles of my cheeks and eyebrows, side eye, and wrinkles in my forehead.

  73. Rachel says...

    YES! All the yes!

  74. Jenny says...

    Resting LEGEND Face! Thank you Caroline!

  75. Rachel C says...

    wow I feel this deeply.

  76. Holly says...

    At the age of one a lady came up to my mother in a store and said to her…” isn’t your baby haughty looking” (haughty defined in the dictionary as arrogant, superior, or disdainful)…. I still look like that…but I promise I’m not actually like that…ITS JUST MY FACE!

  77. Laureg says...

    Caroline, your story and the comments are so affirming! I have this. Or, am this. With the same childhood pictures to prove it! I’ve always hated how people are all “You need to smile more! Just smile! Why so serious all the time?” I look back at the pictures of my childhood self, and that tiny girl was a thinker! I was usually processing my environment and was fascinated watching people, how they interacted, what was going on and trying to figure it all out. Fast forward to today, I’m a behavior analyst, and a pretty decent one if I say so myself, in part thanks to the early start. So, being carelessly capricious would have never worked out for me :)

  78. Meredith says...

    I’ve never connected with a piece of writing more .

  79. Dana says...

    TRUER WORDS HAVE NEVER BEEN SPOKEN!

  80. Elisabeth says...

    God, I love your writing, Caroline.

  81. Sheila says...

    Excellent Notting Hill reference at the end there!

    Girl, I feel you. I have resting LEGEND face also. I remember an old roommate telling me that when she first met me in college she was afraid of me and thought I was a bitch. Lovely. I am a CLASSIC introvert, so I much prefer sitting back and observing whilst not talking if stuck in a crowded space. I also get told to smile more frequently, often by total strangers. I am determined to reach my destination (usually the “you should smile” comes when I’m walking down the street) and not get lost or killed in the process! Oddly enough, my dad never smiles, I must get some of this from him – but he has NO WRINKLES and he just turned 68 years old and is TERRIBLE about applying sunscreen. So maybe when I’m 68 I’ll have similar luck, and if it comes from minimal smiling…well, I’m OK with that!

  82. Caitlin says...

    All of this. I’m a teacher and as an introvert who often has to put on an energetic face (not my default) so that the students are positive and energetic, it can already be exhausting. Walking around campus just now, I had a female student tell me, “You look dead inside.” I immediately said in a nonchalant tone, “That’s not a very nice thing to say to a person. I don’t have to smile all the time, right? I know you meant well, but next time reconsider.” I know she may have meant to show empathy or connect, but it’s so bizarre that we’ve been programed to think that it’s an okay thing to say to women.

  83. Natalie Chartrand says...

    This is fantastic! So beautifully (and comically) written :)

  84. Laura says...

    I think I have my RBF to thank for getting me through an entire pregnancy without a single unwelcome comment or belly rub from a stranger. My face says, “Just grocery shopping while pregnant here, no need to comment.”
    I hope this effect carries over into parenting as well. I hear the unsolicited advice can get pretty tiresome.

  85. Rach says...

    This is great. I’m really self-conscious about how I look and am constantly told by strangers, friends, my boss at least every other day, “You look tired.” I’m not tired. So I have started to say (somewhat confrontational-ly I guess) “Nope. This is just my face.”

  86. Sasha says...

    This is brilliant! Another RBF.

  87. Dee says...

    I’m a freelance music teacher so I’m always running around the city with a guitar on my back and bags of tambourines and whatever else two-year-olds like to play with. I work with babies and young kids so I’m naturally quite playful and happy, especially when working. But when I get on the subway between classes/gigs I sometimes think it must be comical how depleted and miserable I must look. But no! I just need to recharge, and for me that happens to involve staring vacantly into space and slumping over for maximum comfort!

  88. Jessica says...

    Yes!!! When I was in elementary school my teacher would often l stop class to ask me what was wrong and tell me to smile because I looked so upset. When I told my mom about it, she said to me that it’s just the way my mouth is naturally shaped that makes it seem like I’m sad/unhappy. Then she stopped talking and let her mouth relax to show me she had the same exact mouth. To this day it’s made me feel better about it and it’s like a little secret joke between us. Sometimes we make the “natural” face on purpose to each other when we’re really not amused ;)

    • MM says...

      Hah! I love this. A super sweet inside mother-daughter joke entitled “Dueling Natural Face”! Plus, kudos to your mom for letting you be you.

  89. Bonnie says...

    Thank you, Caroline! This is wonderfully written and so validating. People are asking me why my three-year old daughter looks sad. “What’s wrong with her? Why doesn’t she smile?” I know she is a happy girl – that’s just her face.

  90. Caitlin says...

    So as a child, I had no idea how to smile in photos. Like the physical act was a complete mystery to me, requiring brain-body connections that I clearly lacked. Kindergarten through 4th grade school pictures were all resting boss faces. I remember thinking I had a giant grin plastered on my face each time, and would tell my mother that this year I had nailed it. Only to be proven wrong weeks later…

  91. Kerry says...

    Here’s the thing — the RBF or whatever we want to call it just deepens with age. Gravity is making my “permanent scowl” even scowlier.

    I kinda like it, it makes me seem way more badass than I often feel. And when our scowls suddenly turn to grins or laughs, it takes people by surprise, which I also kinda like. “BOOM, CHECK OUT MY SUNSHINE!”

  92. Jojo says...

    I’m 47 and I can’t tell you how many times in my youth that I had to deal with “Just smile!”. Usually it was at a bar or a party and it was always uncomfortable. Why is this a RBF? Why can’t it just be your face? It’s OK for guys, why not for women?

  93. I actually love Caroline for this post – brilliant!

    Rebecca

  94. THIS! I got so tired of men telling me to smile that I came up with a response, “I see your used to telling women what to do.” I don’t apologize for the unfriendly, over the top response, and I also don’t apologize for not smiling. This is just my face.

  95. JS says...

    SAME!! And making other expressions is kind of exhausting. So let my bitch face rest 😂

  96. Jean says...

    THIS IS MY LIFE!!! For my whole life (and I’m 57 now) people have asked me if everything is ok/are you upset about something/you look angry about something/are you ok? And all the time I’m just fine, but if I’m not actively smiling people assume that I’m livid about something. That’s just my face.

    Even my own daughters will regularly ask “Are you ok mum?” because they think I’m unhappy. I’M NOT, IT’S JUST HOW I LOOK!

    I’ve finally accepted that I don’t have resting bitch face, I have active bitch face.

    Thanks Caroline….by the way, are you ok? ;)

  97. MK says...

    I was recently at Target and a complete stranger came up to me and said sarcastically, “Wow, you look THRILLED to be here!”
    The thing is- I completely WAS thrilled to be there. It was a Sunday morning, and without my two year old in tow, I was free to wander the beauty section in search of face masks. The face this person saw (and felt the need to comment on, WTF) was me in a peaceful shopping reverie.
    Completely cosign that this is a sexist double standard.

  98. Dvluu says...

    I always love Caroline’s writing but this especially speaks to me. While growing up working in my parent’s deli customers would say, “Why don’t you smile?” As a kid I thought to myself, “Strange, why would I smile at you? You’re nothing to me.” This is in the setting of being raised by a Dad who told me girls shouldn’t smile at strangers. When I did my medical residency the evaluations were often peppered with “she doesn’t smile that much.” My inner thought, “Why would I smile? This shit is hard.” It only got worse when I moved to California (land of sunshine and mandatory perkiness) where my pulmonary fellowship advisor told me I needed to smile more. I finally gave into peer pressur so people would get off my back. Fake it until you make it. But what I should have said all those years is “This is just my face.”

  99. YES! I, too, am blessed with what I liked to call “Resting F*ck-Off Face.” And I do mean blessed. I think my stern face has kept me from a lot of unwanted interaction from strangers (like one commenter below said, NOBODY touched my belly when I was pregnant!). Although I did get reprimanded at a job once for not smiling enough, and “seeming sad” as I walked around campus (I was a high school teacher). My answer? “THIS IS JUST MY FACE.”

  100. N says...

    I feel your pain. How about if strangers just stop commenting on people’s face or other aspects of their appearance! To the strange man who recently told me I’d be “so cute without glasses”: I don’t CARE if you think I’m cute! Who even ARE you??

  101. katie says...

    Maybe a month ago at Costco a middle age employee told me to smile as we walked past each other, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since, my automatic reaction was to smile and brush it off and that pisses the hell out of me thinking about it. I’m such a people pleaser I can’t have a second to myself not to be “on”.

  102. SAME! This is fantastic. And the reference to Notting Hill? Genius.

  103. Sarah J says...

    Yes. One thousand percent this. I also have dark puffy shadows under my eyes. Always. I am not (always) sick, or on drugs, or anything else that people have spontaneously questioned me about (on the street, waiting for a train). It’s just my damn face. Every one has one and if I was a man you wouldn’t bother me about it.

  104. Cherie says...

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  105. Tara says...

    On another note, my husband often tells me I have a “tone” when I am actually working really hard to keep a neutral voice during a disagreement or not sound like a nag. After about ten years of marriage, I finally had to say, “This is just my voice!” I may have had a tone then…

  106. Rae says...

    Caroline, you are a GEM. I too have a resting face, though mine is “resting approachable & competent face.” I am asked for advice and directions from strangers ALL the time. It doesn’t matter if I am abroad where I don’t speak the language or in my hometown, I am the one to ask. And no matter what the location — I am the last person you should ask as I have no sense of direction. None. The directional competency that I project? Doesn’t exist.

    Despite my approachable and competent appearance I am still told by men to smile on the regular.

  107. Rita says...

    While I think it’s ridiculous to tell someone to smile and also acknowledge that women are specially expected to have smiles on their faces, the truth is there is extensive scientific research that links the physical act of smiling to positive impact on one’s health (lower stress levels or increased levels of endorphins, for example). Also, the positives effects that a smile triggers in other is not a mere social construct – babies react to smiles and learn to smile (not just grin) at a very early stage of their development.

  108. Olivia says...

    A friend of mine is tiny and has RBF to the point people are scared to approach her in fear she’s angry. It’s kinda funny.

    I will say if I saw a man who similarly never cracked a smile, I would probably think he was a jerk or frightening instead of some positive objective :) haha

  109. Noelle says...

    Actually my husband has this problem and people CONSTANTLY ask him “are you ok?” “did I do something to make you angry?” and on, and on. He’s like…no…it’s just my face.

  110. **TOTAL APPLAUSE**. This is fantastic, timely, well written with lightness but realness, and complements so beautifully the elevated thinking that is changing the FACE of our gender [limitations]. I love this. xo

  111. Michelle says...

    I love this post! Just the other day I had an elderly man in line at the coffee shop insist that I smile. He said I was making the line “gloomy.” There were – without exaggeration – 11 construction workers (all male) in front of me in line and none of them were smiling. He was a kindly old guy, so I was polite. But it bothered me that, presumably because I’m female, it was my responsibility to make the atmosphere of the coffee line pleasant; to be pleasant to look at, even. Why not encourage the 11 equally surly-looking, caffeine-deprived dudes in front of me to smile, as well? (The more time I spend thinking about gender politics, the more B my RBF gets!!!).

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! your face does not exist for the pleasure of men!

  112. Erin says...

    When I was a teen, I had “resting sad face.” People were constantly asking me what was wrong or if I was okay. I don’t get that much now, but I must have “resting weird face” now because sometimes as I’m processing a thought, apparently I make an odd enough face for whoever is near me to ask what I’m thinking about and exclaim that I have an odd look on my face, haha!

  113. Tiffany says...

    YESSSSSSSSSSSSS
    This. Is. Just. My. Face
    I can remember times when my performance at some task was excellent and yet I would receive negative feedback about how not cheery I looked while doing the thing. I waited tables for a really long time and would often have the highest sales and very happy customers but would also get regular criticism from bosses about how often I was not smiling. I once had a boss tell me that when they hired me they thought I would be more “cheerleadery.” I had to refrain from first pointing out that “cheerleadery” is not a word; and second, that their assumptions were not my problem. It really created some inner turmoil for me when I was younger. Now – I really just don’t give a damn.

  114. Jeannie says...

    I love this post! I remember going to the movies with a bunch of girl and guy friends in high school. It was a comedy and I thought it was hilarious. When the movie was over, the guy sitting next to me asked me why I didn’t like it. I told him that I had loved it! He then complained that my face was totally impassive throughout, that I had just sat there like a statue. I guess that is just my face, too!

  115. Gina says...

    SAME. A guy even wrote in my high school yearbook that I needed to smile more. I have resting focused face! Just let me live!

    • Lauren says...

      Resting focused face – LOVE IT. Also, same.

    • Lisa says...

      Ugh. F*ck him.

  116. Thank you for this well written piece. Another double standard thoughtfully presented. I would often get asked about my daughter’s happiness or lack as she as growing up because she wasn’t showing her thoughts joyfully on her face. I hope she has your confidence as an adult to always be herself regardless of how others want her emotions to show.

  117. *raises hand* Fellow lifelong RBF-er here!

    This resonates so much with me, particularly the “did something happen to me?” sentiment. But nope — looking back at photos of myself as a child, I was ALWAYS stone-faced. Sure, one could argue maybe the sun was in my eyes or something, but really and truly it’s just how my face looks. Though I will say, after years of my mother telling me I always looked so unhappy in photos, I think — come teenager-hood — I just started making RBF faces on purpose. A bit like a suit of armor. I also attribute my RBF to why I was never really bullied, I could walk through life generally free of street harassment, and how I was able to actually sit at bars and enjoy a solitary drink usually undisturbed. I have many friends with resting I’M SUPER FRIENDLY faces, and boy they are never left alone. I argue RBF pros definitely outweigh the cons! :)

    Also: the other person’s comment about RBF standing for “Resting Boss Face” has my heart now.

  118. witloof says...

    OMG yes. Tell me to smile at your own peril.

  119. Amy says...

    Couldn’t love this more

  120. Lindsey says...

    There is a writer (I believe Jessica Valenti, but someone correct me if I’m wrong) who has on her autobiography page: “My bitch face never rests”.
    I must confess I have used this on several occasions.

    • Perfect!

    • riye says...

      Ha ha ha! Mine either! :-D

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! love this.

  121. Jen says...

    I feel you all. My face rarely conveys what I’m feeling. Next person to tell me to smile gets punched in the throat!

    • Kate says...

      I’m with you! I usually feel happy until someone tells me to smile.

  122. A-F’n-MEN.

    I will give this one plus for the supposed RBF- no stranger talked to me or creepily touched my belly when I was pregnant.

  123. Jenny says...

    thank you for this!

  124. Marie says...

    This post speaks to me very, very personally. It sounds that like you, I have also worn the life-long “resting bitch face,” which as you so rightly say, is just my face.

    But for me the worst part is the harassment. Does this happen to anyone else? On a weekly basis, I get cat-called by guys on the street with the typical “Hey girl, why aren’t you smiling,” or, “Hey girl, smile, it’s end the end of the day!” What gives men the right to think they can talk to a female stranger like that? (Women almost never accost men in that way – and if they do, I can honestly say I’ve never witnessed it.) I always ignore it and keep on walking. And even though I know logically that the people issuing these cat-calls are crass, manner-less individuals who don’t intend any malice and certainly don’t actually care about why “I ain’t smiling,” I still take each one very personally. Like, what business is it of yours why I look this way or why I’m not smiling? And what if I am upset about something – what gives you the right to call it out publicly like that? Who do you think you are to bark at me with your rude, macho, unsolicited commentary?

    Any helpful tips out there for dealing with this? Any witty, one-liners I can keep in my back pocket as a standard response?

    • TJ says...

      ‘Mind your own face’ is my suggestion.
      Or ‘Don’t you have anything else to worry about? I do.’

    • Emma Bee says...

      Yes! In need of snappy comebacks, please help!

    • Andrea says...

      I wish I could post a photo! The Broad City girls use their middle fingers to force their mouths into a smile and it is amazing. Maybe not for everyday but on occasions where you are feeling extra annoyed lol

    • Lindsay says...

      Geez, are we looking for ways to be offended 24/7 now? I feel so bad for people who can’t just be understanding. Do you think those men were trying to bother u? They were probably trying to cheer you up and be nice. Yes it’s annoying but so are a million things, focus on the goooooood!!!

    • Bridget says...

      I second this– who has witty response?

    • Elisabeth says...

      I just turn to them very earnestly and ask, “Why?” They usually get all flustered and I LOVE IT. (In a situation where you feel safe, of course.)

    • kaye says...

      @lindsay– i really hope you are kidding and i kind of can’t believe your comment made it through moderation, if i am being honest.

      Yes, those men are bothering her, because they bother her. Male Gaze and the toxicity of the constant barrage of these sorts of comments is demeaning and completely unnecessary–perhaps take a moment to practice some empathy, read some bell hooks, and stop making people you don’t know feel bad about being harassed as they attempt to get through the day.

      To the original poster, Marie: I have found that even my smartest one-liners rarely land and oftentimes the response back from them can be more violent and threatening, because these men feel it down to their bones that it is their right to say to you whatever they want, whenever they want–so I just keep moving and repeat to myself a favorite quote or think about my favorite things, and am thankful to have not been raised to be such a toxic person and hope that one day they learn (as cliche as that may sound.)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, marie! i hear you. i find it maddening and infuriating.

      did you guys see this video of a woman walking around NYC for 10 hours?
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1XGPvbWn0A

      why it’s important for men to stop telling women to smile:
      https://www.huffingtonpost.com/erika-hardison/its-important-for-men-to-stop-telling-women-to-smile_b_9655246.html

      jessica williams’s brilliant explanation of why being told to smile is not okay:
      https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/reports/news/a29390/jessica-williams-flawless-response-catcalling/

    • ann says...

      “Nope.”

  125. Bethany says...

    I feel this on a cellular level.

  126. Rhonda says...

    I always get that same comments. I am a Nurse and I guess I should be smiling when I am trying to save someone life in the ER. Or smile as a patient is yelling at me because they don’t get the medication they are requesting. I am tired of people asking me what is wrong or are you tired. I was also told I should think happy thoughts to bring a smile to my face. I am happy, I just don’t walk areound life with a huge grin. Thanks for sharing your post, it made me smile 🙃😁

  127. Annelies says...

    Woah. This is such a familiar refrain for me. I’ve taken to adding “Yeah, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m just thinking…doing my job…being a person”. And once, to a repeat offender: “My face is none of your business.” That one felt good!

    • Marie says...

      “My face is none of your business” is going to be my new mantra. That’s really, really great.

  128. Becky says...

    AMEN.

    • Joy says...

      omg i need that shirt.

  129. Gina says...

    How timely. I have had to tell a concerned classmate twice in the last week that I’m not at all angry, “this is just my face.” And I have many photos of both me as a child and candid photos of my dad to prove that not only is it just my face, but I inherited it as well.

  130. It’s always so interesting to see the challenges that each of us uniquely faces! I have the opposite problem – my emotions are always displayed completely fully on my face (often to my detriment). I’ve worked for years to control this tendency and appear more neutral!

    • KC says...

      YES. I have “face that surfaces every single thought that runs through my head”, which is especially problematic because my brain runs several tracks at once, so in conversation, if part of my brain briefly tries to figure out the etymology of a word just used and if the conversation itself isn’t supplying anything in particular for my face to emote about, I’ll look partly quizzical despite there being *nothing* in the conversation itself to look quizzical about. (ditto for sudden twinges of pain; no, I am not angry with you, it is IBS wrenching my innards and you don’t want to hear about it; or no, I’m not dubious about what you just said, I’m just trying to find a new position for my foot which fell asleep)

      This fortunately isn’t a problem for “emotional” conversations where the conversation itself is providing continual facial promptings, but still. Augh.

  131. Sharon says...

    I’m sure many women remember hearing as a kid, “you look so pretty when you smile,” Blah! why are others so concerned about how we all look?

  132. Susie D says...

    Yes, yes, yes, Caroline! What a well written piece. Saving this one for a future reminder for myself ;)

  133. My husband and I had a conversation the other day about how I’m not the kind of person who laughs out loud at a comedy show. He’ll be laughing his ass off with tears in his eyes. and look over at me, and not even a smile, but I swear to you I’m laughing on the inside.

    I had a guy in high school tell me to smile.. and I was like… Im not just gonna smile for no reason…..THIS IS MY FACE. I like… Resting Boss Face. =)

  134. Julie S says...

    This is great! I’ve always had this squint to my eyes which has caused noticeable wrinkles between my brows- I look a little angry when I’m not smiling.
    But while the comments about this anger I do not have does get old, it has definitely helped keep away some approaches by men that I wouldnt want- so that’s a perk!

  135. Kate says...

    Yes!! I get asked all the time at work if I’m OK… just thinking, thanks. ha!

  136. Megan says...

    Recently I was in a movie theater, watching a movie (as you do) with apparently a very intent expression on my face, and my boyfriend asked me if I was okay. Like… I AM WATCHING A MOVIE. I don’t even think it was a particularly happy movie. I don’t want to have to police my own face 24/7. Sigh.

  137. Snezana says...

    I call myself stern-featured. I don’t like bitch-face. I have been told to smile by men more times than I can count, and it always drove me nuts. It happens less now, probably because the stern features are getting even sterner looking with age, or maybe because men have less compunction about harassing a younger woman that a middle-aged one. Also, we have a weird cultural thing with smiling, and with everything smiling or not-smiling is supposed to mean. Excessive smiling is the excessive exclamation mark use of the face. (or, !!!)

  138. Alexandra says...

    We must be related. I can’t count the times people have said to me over the years (although getting less frequent the older I get, I think when you are over 40, you are not required to smile anymore): “Are you okay”? “Why do you look so serious?” “Smile, it’s a beautiful day.” Most of my childhood photos show me with a rather serious face and yes, I had a wonderful, happy childhood. I am not depressed and there is “nothing wrong with me”. It’s just me. Thank you for the article.

  139. Patti says...

    Friends/family have often asked me if I’m sad. Nope, just using my frown muscles for my facial excerise. Great article!

  140. “Resting LEGEND face” lol I love it. Sometimes people thing I’m too serious and I say, “No, that’s just my face” now I will say, “No, that’s just my resting legend face.” Lol

  141. Laura says...

    I can relate! I’m not a bubbly person, but most of the time I’m pretty content. Apparently my face does not convey that information. ;-)

  142. leynafaye says...

    It’s great that your face looks, er, upset even though you’re not (yay for happiness!), but if you WERE upset – that should be just fine as well. The “smile!” directives women all too often receive from strangers on the street aren’t just about making women look presentable, it’s also about the unreasonable expectation that we should be happy all the time. if you’re not, that’s okay, too.

  143. elinor says...

    Yes to this! At my old job, a male coworker would walk by my desk every morning and tell me to smile or ask why I was sad. I wasn’t sad or angry, I was just focusing on my work. Who grins at a computer while working, anyway? That’s just stupid. I finally made that very point to this coworker, and he never commented again.

    • C says...

      “Who grins at a computer while working, anyway?”

      Hahaha. I wish I would’ve thought of that response many years ago.

  144. Anna says...

    Well, all I can add is that I’m proud to share the same facial expression with you, Sandra Oh, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Rihanna and all the other awesome ladies out there. x

  145. Eloise says...

    We share a face but you have a much better way with words.

  146. Taylor says...

    I emphasize though I have the opposite problem!!! I am entirely too approachable. People tell me their life stories in Starbucks lines, I am stopped and asked for directions whenever I go anywhere! I’m not nearly as nice as my face makes me seem! Whenever I walk anywhere I put in headphones and try to frown a bit but it truly doesn’t work.

    I also think it works in reverse too–I’m not taken as seriously, I’m often tasked with more outward-facing roles in my job (customer servicey stuff
    ) rather than hammering out logistics. I often wish I had started my job in a fouler mood, because now whenever someone reads me as not as smiley or energetic as usual they think something is wrong with me, so I often feel like I have to be “on” all the time–it’s exhausting!

    • Katie says...

      I’m the same way! I call it resting smile face 😂

    • Robin says...

      I think I have a similar situation. I hear a lot of life stories, and strangers are constantly talking to me. It can be nice to have people paying attention to me, and I suppose it’s better than being invisible, which my grandmother talks about. But for the most part, I dislike it when strangers pay attention to me, especially men. I’m never sure if I should put on a Resting Boss Face and avoid eye contact, in which case I feel really mean. Sometimes I wear shabby, baggy clothes to avoid attention, but if I do that I just feel like crap. If I wear nice, attractive clothes, I get unwanted attention, even if I’m fully covered up with a winter coat, jeans, boots, and a toque. There’s no winning really, but it’s a minor complaint. A first world privileged people complaint.

    • Lisa says...

      This is me. I have resting helpful face. Something on my face tells people to come up and tell me their life story, ask me for directions, ask me to save their place in line, ask me what time it is, etc, etc, etc.

    • Sisu Garcia says...

      yes! me too!! always super approachable and then whenever i do feel less than happy it also feels like i must ask permission to be able to be upset

  147. Samantha says...

    I like to refer to it as “Resting Boss Face.” So carry on with your bad self. ;)

    • Leilani Funaki says...

      <3 this

  148. KATHY L says...

    And how about this gem: “You’d be so pretty if you just smiled once in a while.”

    • Sarah says...

      On the show The Good Place, there’s a joke about how there’s a special place in hell for the first man who told a woman to smile. I had to explain to my husband why it was funny. Sigh.

    • Brittni S. says...

      I can’t count the number of times a stranger has walked up to me and said “just smile.” Nothing makes me want to smile less. There is certainly a special place in hell for the first man who did this.

    • Once when I was pregnant with my second baby I was waddling down the street in extreme discomfort. I had sciatica, and round ligament pain, and heartburn, and at that very moment my son was pushing his feet with all his might into my side while I was concentrating hard on not vomiting. A man on the street looked at me and said “Smile! You’re pregnant! You should always be smiling!” I wish so much that I could have transferred everything I was feeling onto him, if just for one minute.

    • Natalie says...

      AH! I’ve experienced this so many times, including once from a customs officer at the airport and many times from men at bars when I was younger. I found it infuriating – my facial expression doesn’t exist for their enjoyment, sorry! :-)