comments 15

The Power of Resting Bitch Face

The walk from my apartment in Washington Heights to my junior high school was no longer than 15 minutes. Yet, every morning I would have to go to the building across from me and wait for this tardy girl so that I could walk to school with her. I don’t remember having any conversations with her, because we were completely different people. I hung out with the skaters and she hung out with the hood rats. All I remember is that her apartment smelled of vapor rub, old magazines and slow death.

Fun fact: From the age of 25 the number of newly formed cells in your body is less than the number of cells that die and every year the dissimilarity grows (much like the economic disparity in America). No need to fret, just start a revolution and moisturize… #themoreyouknow

Anyhow, I kept telling my parents how insufferable this morning routine was. The girl was a morning person with conversation topics I had no interest in. I wasn’t a morning person and preferred nonverbal communication. Also, being a valedictorian with perfect attendance, I hated arriving to class late, especially when it wasn’t my fault. So after almost a year of having to walk with her to school I was able to walk alone. Just me and my music.

The walks to and from school became the best part of the day for me. I’d walk alone to school every morning and with a huge group of friends on the way back. A group so large that we had to stop for headcounts every other block. My home life sucked, but the outside world was beautiful.

Yet, it seemed like every week or so in the morning, some asshole walking the opposite direction would tell me to smile. The first time this happened to me, I smiled. I thought the guy was just being nice and I was young so seniority ruled. However, the more this happened, the more I thought about it. I went from thinking that they were being considerate to thinking that they were a bit rude but had good intentions, to being just plain irritated at this. Who the fuck are these men to tell me to smile?

I began to notice that no one ever told my male friends or brothers to smile. Why aren’t men or boys told to smile? Most men look like they are ready to punch a wall or already have punched a wall. Hide yo kids, hide yo walls. But it gets brushed off as men putting on a tough appearance so as to not become prey. I was told that it was just “natural.” When you grow up in an environment where almost every one of your male friends has gotten jumped, you just let them own their experiences and leave it at that. So again, I began to brush off the joker-esque comment.

Until another man told me to smile. This time I snapped. If men get to own their experiences for appearing tough then why can’t I, as a woman, own mine? As someone who consistently fears getting violated by the other sex, ironically the sex that is constantly telling me to smile, I have a right to not look friendly.

Machismo doesn’t benefit anyone. It doesn’t allow men to experiment and hinders women from feeling safe. But here’s the thing; machismo is an invisible shackle, much like the invisible cage of beauty standards women have to live with. Women have to be nice, pretty and enthusiastic at all times or we’re considered bitches. It is ironic to me that women are called female dogs when we refuse to act like house pets.

In my years of being on this earth I have learned that the nicest people not only can be the most wicked, but often are. Yes, Taylor Swift, I am looking at you. Being nice and being kind are two different things. All kind people are nice, but not all nice people are kind. Nice is easy, kind requires some elbow grease, whether through working on yourself or helping others. But this article is not about the myth of nice. This article is about resting bitch face and the men who want to change it with their intrusive comments. Owning RBF is revolutionary, because only women are told to smile. So if I look disinterested or ‘not nice,’ I have the right to look that way and sometimes, I just fucking am.


  1. I feel you here. I encourage everyone to smile more and love life in your own way… But it’s not a thing to tell someone to smile, but to just say Hi or Hello. Everyone can choose how they want to look and there is nothing wrong with that.

    • Exactly, its no ones place to tell someone how they should look, because sometimes the face is nit reflective of the way they feel. Saying hello is another thing.

  2. YES! Working at a grocery store, I get told that all the time! Like, who just walks around smiling all the time? And it seems like whenever I tell other people about this, even other women, they just question why I even care? And I’m the apathetic one…

      • Definitely. I find that being more honest with customers is just better for everyone. For example, it’s in our script to ask how the person is doing. When the usual “good, you?” springs back at me, I think and respond as what I’m really feeling. Sometimes I will say “tired”, “not so well”, “it’s been a really good day”. It’s not always negative, but it’s real. And they see it and relate to it. It gives them a chance to rant about how they feel just as exhausted as I am or etc. It’s much better than when, like on of my coworkers replies to every customer, “fantastic!!” Like come on, Natalie, that’s an outright lie. -rant over-

  3. “In my years of being on this earth I have learned that the nicest people not only can be the most wicked, but often are”
    You definitely nailed this statement and this post
    But as a man that never smiles, I have been told you should smile more and it annoys the fuck outta me.

    • Thank you for connecting, it’s because niceness is often used as a weapon to manipulate people. Kindness comes from having a good heart. Everyone should be allowed to show how they feel as long as its not hurting anyone.

  4. Pingback: The Power of Resting Bitch Face (a reblog) | black|burgundy

  5. I see and understand where you are coming from but I don’t think that all of the men really meant anything by the “Smile” comment. They may just find you attractive and can’t think of anything better to say at the moment. Some days I just smile and nod at people (male and female) as I walk by. Sometimes a simple smile can brighten up somebody’s day. It does for me, especially when it’s genuine. Because not too many people do it. So it throws me back when stranger is actually friendly.

    • I understand that sentiment completely, but I also do believe that no one should tell a stranger to smile. Whether it be a male or female. You can smile at them, but to tell them to smile is simply not OK. The fact that this is a prominent thing for women to hear and not men says a lot about the society we live in.

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