Do you remember seeing that fake PSA for Bitchy Resting Face? Well, my name is Liz, and I have Bitchy Resting Face, or BRF. It is a serious affliction which causes me to look unapproachable, unfriendly, or down-right mean. The corners of my mouth naturally turn down; it’s not my fault, really.
Admittedly, the BRF thing has gone a little too far (and has since seriously cooled down #latetotheparty). I mean, we’ve now diagnosed dogs with this unfortunate condition. Incidentally, Karma has BRF too. I guess people really do start to look like their pets. Or is it that we gravitate toward potential pets who look like us?
It is my personal belief that living in cities significantly contributes to the rise in cases of BRF. Taking public transportation and walking around a lot, you encounter people and situations you’d just rather not, on a daily basis. And some of us visibly broadcast this unsociability. It doesn’t so much bother me; I’m used to my face. But it sometimes bothers others.
There’s a regular at the bookstore where I used to work who came in one day and said to me, ‘Hey, Liz. I saw you walking earlier, and I honked, but you didn’t see me.’ My response was, ‘It’s not that unusual for me to ignore people who honk at me on the street.’ (I know this post is starting to sound like it’s going to involve @everydaysexism or #YesAllWomen or #DudesgreetingDudes, but it isn’t.) A few months later the same customer came in and said, ‘Liz, I said ‘hi’ to you earlier, but you ignored me.’ So, I felt the need to explain my BRF and that I tune most things out when walking down the street, because, I don’t really want to invite more instances of ‘Yo I got a big dick! You want some?’ or the woman loudly yelling ‘e-BO-la’ in my face. (I suppose, this post is @everydaysexism and #YesAllWomen and #DudesgreetingDudes adjacent.)
Walking around Boston or taking public transportation, I feel like my BRF is justified, understandable, even. But when I first meet someone or am consciously trying to make a good first-impression, I really overcompensate, because I’ve had more than one person say to me, ‘You know, when I first met you, I really thought you were a bitch.’ And, generally, that’s not the kind of persona I want to project. In an interview or on a date or at a party with people I don’t know, I smile and laugh far too much to sound intelligent or credible or interesting. My entire vocabulary falls out of my brain and I smile and ramble, just trying to be pleasant and approachable. I forget things about myself or opinions I have and just blather and try not to let my face go neutral. I can feel myself doing it, and inside my head I’m telling myself to stop being an idiot, and my face just doesn’t listen.
Maybe that’s it. It’s more than just BRF, it’s that I can’t control my facial expressions. Like Will Ferrell’s SNL character, Jacob Silj, who couldn’t control the volume or pitch of his voice, except me with my face. While I’m ok with my BRF and general, projected air of indifference, it doesn’t exactly convey confidence or dependability. Of course, it doesn’t help that my BRF is compounded by my Lonely Sarcastic Guy-esque quality. On a number of occasions people have commented that they can’t tell whether I’m being sarcastic or not. This is why I so often feel phony in social situations; because my normal, neutral state is that I’m not a people person, which, typically is not the way to get people to like you. So I fake it. And I know I’m faking it, and then I worry that others can tell I’m faking it and then why am I trying so hard? Aren’t I supposed to be ok with who I am? Which I am, except other people probably aren’t. And, meanwhile, while all this is going through my head, I’m trying to hold a conversation, the thread of which I have now completely lost.
On a related note, I’m thankful for the friends I’ve managed to somehow coerce into being my friend despite my BRF and sarcastic voice affliction.