The True Story of RBF

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I’ve grown up with people (let’s be honest – mostly men) telling me to smile more.

“It can’t be that bad.”

The assumption that I was upset or angry or sad constantly happened over and over again as a kid, a teen and then as a young adult. And the absurd part is that people – strangers – regularly had the gall to say it out loud. And, to top it off, tell me “it” wasn’t that bad.

Well, okay, then. Thank you for that unsolicited advice.

When I was a kid, I would always try to right myself. I’d pull up the corners of my mouth, flash the whistleblower a smile and let out a half-laugh that allowed them the satisfaction that they were right. It’s not that bad.

 

But I wasn’t sure what they were talking about, really. I was fine. I was literally moving about my day, deep in thought, or sometimes not even thinking about much at all, and I wasn’t sad or upset or angry. I was just me.

By the time I was in high school and college, boys by the dozen loved to tell me they were “scared” of me because I looked so serious. Their brains obviously couldn’t articulate it at the time, but they were intimidated by my non-bubbly face and chose to tell me about the “scare” I gave them.

All it did was make me feel like a square-shaped person trying to fit into a circle-shaped hole. I didn’t fit into the mold of what guys liked or wanted. I was harsh. I was mean. I was angry.

It took me a long time to finally hear about RBF. (ICYMI: Resting You-Know-What Face.) It’s funny because it sounds like an acronymed disease that you’re plagued with for a lifetime of sickness. But for quite some time, it actually felt relieving: it has a name. The fact that my face looks upset when I’m simply living life was something others “lived with” too. And I could finally just tell the men who asked “What’s up with her?” or “Smile, hon! It can’t be that bad.” that – oh! – I’m not upset; I just have RBF. Ha. Ha. Ha.

But look, I’m not trying to get on a feminist high horse here or anything, but is there a name for a man who looks upset? Do we just call him things like “determined,” “concerned” or “serious”?

We don’t pull him down to a level of a rude male slur that “explains” why he isn’t happily go luckily trotting through life. No, we reason his face to match something positive, impressive or admirable.

But not women. Us lucky ladies who have been asked – no, told – a zillion times to “Smile a little more!” have been subject to such comments because we defy what is societally comfortable for what women should look and be like on a day-to-day basis. Pleasant. Happy, even. Smiling. Content.

And if our faces show otherwise, we make people uncomfortable. That’s why RBF is RBF.

I used to do that half-apology, half-ownership thing. “Haha. Oh, no! I’m fine! I just suffer from RBF.” But now I’m more apt to just say, “I’m happy,” or “I’m fine,” and leave it at that. Because why wouldn’t I just leave it like that?

If you’re someone who has told a random female to “smile” a little more, please reevaluate what you’re saying/doing. You don’t know this person.

If you really want to know how someone is doing, just ask.

“How are you today?”

Start there.

For my RBF ladies, keep doing your RBF thing. Let your facial muscles fall as they may. You’re fine, just the way you are.

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A content manager and writer, Laurie has a love of connecting with people through her words. She has a degree from UConn in History and Native American and Indigenous Studies and had the plan of working in a museum, but ended up teaching for nearly a decade instead! In addition, Laurie was a barn rat growing up, and has fifteen years of experience riding and training horses. While Central Florida has been her home for ten years (and loves it - hello, Disney!), she proudly identifies as a New Englander and will forever root for the Patriots and Red Sox. She’s the wife of a lawyer, mom of an elementary schooler, stepmom of a high schooler, and dog mom to a quirky Shepherd mix named Eleanor. Connect with her on Instagram @aladywholoveswords

1 COMMENT

  1. Enjoyed reading your latest. you and I have to sit down together some day…would love to get to know you better. wish we lived closer. lots of love, Gr. Grammy Mickey!

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