Please Stop Telling Me To Smile
I have chronic RBF. It’s a terrible disability that causes people to look at me funny, makes me unapproachable, and intimidates even the most confident. So, what is chronic RBF you ask? Chronic is…well…chronic (that part, I presume you know), and RBF stands for Resting Bitch Face. Yep, you read that right. Props to the drunk girl in the bar bathroom that probably thought that one up. Very clever my friend. (I say friend because if she was drunk, and I was drunk, and we were both in the bathroom at the bar, we are now eternally friends.)
RBF is a very serious problem if you couldn’t already tell by my insistence to trail it along behind the word “chronic.” Chronic makes it sound more scientific, medical even and a little less like I blame all my social issues on my eyebrows. Yes, they might be stupendously shaped and effortlessly arched, but they truly are the root of many awkward encounters. It all boils down to that arch—that damn arch makes me seem marginally villainous, possibly rude, and sometimes like I just got a whiff of the milk my roommate left in the fridge for too long. In fact, if you were to ask each one of my closest friends what they thought of me when they first met me, they would quickly admit that they didn’t like me. In some cases, they were scared of me, and not because I did something to them or said something nasty because that would actually make sense. But, they didn’t like me because they thought I looked mean. Yep, they just straight up didn’t like my face. It wasn’t until they actually started to get to know me that they realized there is much more hiding behind my ominous face caterpillars. News flash!! I’m not rude! I’m a nice person!
Aside from the terrible (and when I say terrible, I really mean AMAZING) arches, I will admit, I rarely smile. Obviously, this could be another major factor in my chronic RBF affliction. Well, in truth, it’s not that I rarely smile; it’s just that I’m not one of those super bubbly people that always smiles and naturally emotes happiness (i.e. rainbows and unicorns and glitter and giggling babies). I have a close friend like that, bubbly. Her name is Kelsey. Everyone loves Kelsey. And I mean everyone loves Kelsey. I have always wanted to be more like Kelsey and less like Cruella De Vil. Alas, I have found my new mantra, “more like Kelsey, less like Cruella.” But, I’m sure you’re thinking, “just smile more,” like it’s that easy!! It’s a tale as old as time, and a feat my mom fails to let go of.
It all started when I was in middle school. Oh, what a time! I pretended I hated the Jonas Brothers even though I was totally singing Year 3000 in the shower, sk8r bois were God’s gift to women tweens, and any left-over allowance went straight into the Vans Warped Tour piggy bank. Every afternoon when the school bell rang, I would rush out to the carpool line to meet my mom at her car. I guess one day my chronic RBF was really prominent, and Michele (my wonderful mother) had finally had enough. Before I could even get into the car, close the door, and buckle my seat belt, she was already complaining about how pissed off I looked. The fact that it was actually just my natural face wasn’t cutting it anymore. She said something about how I always looked so angry walking toward her car, and I should start smiling as I walked so other people (teachers) didn’t get the wrong idea about my home life. I tried to make a conscious effort to smile more often, but like any other self-inflicted resolution I’ve adopted, it couldn’t be sustained.
That wasn’t the only time I was told I needed to smile more. My senior year of high school, I needed a little extra cash to keep my car filled with gas, so I got a job as a hostess at a popular wings restaurant in my hometown. My manager would sit at the bench near the door and stare at me anytime a new patron walked in. I guess she wanted to get an idea of what our customers were seeing as they walked in. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to put a victim of RBF, standing right inside the front door, to give the first impression of the whole damned establishment, but they should have been fired. If I had a dollar for every time my manager (or anyone else for that matter) told me I needed to smile more, I wouldn’t have had to work there.
Even now, as an adult, I notice my RBF getting in the way of life: professional relationships, new friendships, and you might as well kiss the possibility of romance goodbye. It’s not that I’m an ungrateful misanthrope and have a heart made of icy coal, but to be completely honest, it’s just not even a natural reaction to smile: not when I open a gift, or when I make eye contact with someone I find attractive, or even when I get a glowing compliment.
My colleagues tell me that I don’t show emotion and that, SURPRISE, I should smile more. Okay people! I get the point!! The muscles in my face need some serious personal training (now that’s some personal training I can actually afford). After hearing that dreaded sentence one time too many, I have decided to give myself a little homework. Instead of tucking my chin and keeping my eyes down while I walk to work, to the gym, or to Trader Joe’s, I have decided that I’m going to start smiling as I go. And, guess what I have found out! I’m a mouth breather.
Proof that I do smile…sometimes.