Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bitchy Resting Face

There is a YouTube video written by Taylor Orci and directed by Behn Fannin making the rounds of social media. Called “Bitchy Resting Face,” it chronicles “a disorder that affects millions of women every day.”

It’s funny. Well, to me anyway, because for as long as I can remember, I have been subjected to casual queries and full-blown interrogations as to why I am mad, glum, depressed, etc., etc. My history of wearing a lot of black probably didn’t help the situation, but hey, it’s not my fault that black happens to be appropriate for practically every occasion, episodes of bitchiness or depression included.

For as many people I know who walk around smiling like a toothpaste ad, there is an equal number of my acquaintances who are afflicted with Bitchy Resting Face. I relate to my non smiling friends, maybe in part because I completely understand when they look mad but aren’t, and the ensuing aggravation when people keep commenting on it.

Although I was kind of a moody teenager (who isn’t, really?), I’m pretty sure I was not as perpetually pissed off and bitchy as my face apparently portrayed me to be. Not when I was a kid, and not now. Even when perfectly content, I get the questions about being mad. I’m just not one of those people who can walk around all day every day with a smile plastered across my face. I’ve tried. It looks more like a constipated grimace than a genuine smile, and I’m pretty sure it’s scarier than my Bitchy Resting Face and my “get the hell out of my way I’m pissed off” face.

Even the photos of me as a young kid look serious. Shy. Thoughtful, even. The fact is, I was self-conscious as all hell. As my classmates blossomed into womanhood all around me, I lived with daily worry that my own bosom would never develop because I slept on my stomach and refused to wear undershirts in first grade. I spent fifth and sixth grade tormented by female classmates with chests that bore more resemblance to Playboy centerfolds and Maxim cover models than 11-year olds, and who delivered daily torture (today it’s called “bullying”) over my dream worthiness to pirates (sunken chest) and carpenters (flat as a board and skinny as a nail). These girls shoved orange peels down my shirt while chanting they were “adding to the cause.” Trust me, there was a LOT going on behind my early non-smiling Bitchy Resting Face, and cultivating a lovely smile was not as high on the agenda as surviving sixth grade.

Ample photographic evidence exists that even when I tried to smile for a photo, it usually looked fake. While attempting to smile (especially during my teens and 20s when I was engrossed in fashion magazines and fantasies of being a model or a wealthy tycoon’s wife), I was also worried about crinkly eyes, smile lines, my super prominent cheekbones appearing even more prominent, showing the chip in my front tooth (earned at age 8) and later the repair to the chip in my front tooth (finally at 17). YOU try smiling with all that going on. The inner life was affecting the outward appearance. But I wasn’t always mad, I was usually just thinking. Focused. Trying to not trip over cracks in the sidewalk. Riding the mood swing between wanting to totally be invisible and desperately wishing to be noticed.

During a short stint as a beauty pageant contestant (two pageants, one crown) I had to resort an insider trick -- Vaseline on my teeth. Try it. It’s freeking disgusting. The feeling is so nasty you’ll do anything to avoid closing your mouth over your teeth. Ta da! A smile, but not exactly practical for daily use.
Regular "Wasn't expecting a photo" Resting Bitchy Face.

Thankfully, some of the baggage of my inner life has been shed, and I’m slightly less self conscious (or no longer give a crap). Thanks to the proliferation of camera phones and digital photography, there is a small reservoir of recent photographic evidence of me smiling. These may be directly liked to an indulgence in beer, wine, or good old fashioned hard liquor (friends have said I am one smiling, happy drunk) but I’ll take whatever breaks I can catch. And now there is the comfort of the official recognition of “Bitchy Resting Face” and my sisters in faces.

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