My Battle with RBF

Choice Words by Dana

I always knew I was different. I've suffered this ailment for as long as I can remember and decades later, there's still no cure. In fact, it wasn't until I was in my late 40s that the condition I share with millions of other women was diagnosed as Resting Bitch Face (or “RBF”).

This is the name of the plight that describes how some women's faces in repose, appear to others. Like a bitch.

If this is you, you've probably been made to feel accountable for making others feel uncomfortable because you don't look pleased, contented or delighted at any and every given moment. 

"Smile! It can't be that bad!" Men – only men – would cajole me in passing on sidewalks or at work in office corridors. In bars or at parties, guys would say "You should smile more." These are comments that don't actually inspire the ego massage they're looking for. Want me to smile? Then say something funny. At the very least, don't command me to do something because you've got nothing else in your repertoire.

My face doesn't do that. Smiling.  I'm not mad or sad. But why would I smile? Even for pictures, I need to work one up, and trust me, without a qualifying stimulus, it's a forced product. "Say 'Cheese!" What kind? You want me to grin about pepper jack? 

I am not a resting bitch. Further, my active bitch is actually quite vocal and feisty. You'd recognize it and run the other way with your lunch money. Boyfriend. Job. Just KIDDING. I'm NICE.

So why does my face betray me in this way? 

Other women – no, even girls, from the time I was little – have assumed I was the meany that my face portrayed, and they steered clear, much to the detriment of my self-esteem. My face, in its neutral resting state, somehow has always seemed to give off bad vibes. Eesh. I could have played this to my advantage, but I had no idea until this "condition" – RBF – finally came out as a thing. 

Maybe I learned the RBF from my mother, who was extremely reserved, anxious in her interactions with others, and who defaulted to prim decorum. Is this who I am?

Mom's outward demeanor kept others at bay. Good strategy at the time, but grumpy is politically incorrect now. We are supposed to reflect positivity at all times, good thoughts, sending prayers, etc. And clearly we are supposed to do it in a way that the whole world can easily recognize by a perma-happy face. We are to overlook momentary frustrations and move on. 

Being offended is in; pick a topic: public restroom designations, 1944 song lyrics about the weather outside, mask/no mask while driving your car alone, and if something is not actually controversial, people will find a way for their sensitivities to be assaulted. Choose your angle, get bent, publicize your agenda! 

Being simply annoyed is out: Store is out of toilet paper, cold coffee, favorite food place not delivering, rude service, no service, products that don't work, tax brackets. These are considered petty, time-consuming and non-productive - suck it up and get over it.  

Is it the quality of irritation that governs my facial expression? I am not actually offended by NFL halftime shows where women in leather pantalettes pole-dance for worldwide audiences. I laugh and thank the powers that be that someone finally brought in the pole - the choreography needed a focal point. It annoys me that it took more time than actual surgery to do the makeup on these women and we all exclaimed,  "Wow! She's 50?! She looks amazing!  Trigger my scowl.

Somewhere between "make the damned turn already!" as I'm driving to my essential work and "I love your outfit," (not), my face is neutral – as is my mood – but it still seems to send the message to others to piss off. I know people whose smiles encompass any situation, surpass momentary frustration to invite, welcome and reassure, regardless of the immediate circumstance. They appear genuine. Why are they so damned smiley?

Since I am actually well-meaning and accepting, even though my face says "difficult" and "judgmental," I have been making a concerted effort to alter my natural facial response to certain external triggers:

  • My 11-year old daughter farts audibly and giggles: Do not scowl - Smile, express pride
  • Cat vomit on couch: Smile while contemplating (but not) stringing the cat from the ceiling fan
  • People at Starbucks drive through dithering for 10 minutes over their order: Smile and call 911
  • Twat who won't make a left at an intersection: Smile so hard I catapult my car over theirs with the strength of my goodwill
  • First-time users at the self-checkout: Smile and rest my purse on their produce scale

When all is said and done, we need to distinguish RBF with RJF - Resting Judgy Face. I am full-spectrum RJF. Like, if you're over 45 and you show up anywhere in body glitter, I will be judging. If you use the word "Expresso" for coffee, I will probably twitch a bit, and frown deeply. Observing a woman "in camel toe" is me pretty much imploding, my lips pursed in a cat's ass-pucker. Don't get me started on hoarders and people who say they enjoy sheltering in place. Christmas lights up before Thanksgiving or after mid-January? Certain RJF.

#restingbitchface  when in all honesty I’m #nice


Dana Gonzalez is the Chief Engagement Officer of Trust Beauty, LLC, author, social critic as well as being the Chief Executive Officer of:

1 Hip Hop Dancer who puts ketchup on Thai noodles

1 Tall, increasingly hairy person who enjoys Tabasco on cucumbers