Have you ever taken a photo where you thought you had been smiling, only to realise that your supposedly calm friendly smile was actually nothing of the sort – and that you were, in fact, just glaring at the camera?
How about a group-shot where your prepared graceful happy expression was translated by film into a blank smirking face?
You try to look slightly amused, sensuously sophisticated, serenely thoughtful – and yet, all that comes out is a kind of sarcastic leer, or even a stuck-up sneer.
No – it doesn’t just happen to you or to me.
Simply put, this is quite a common phenomenon, and there’s even an expression for it. If your face seems to be guilty of having a will of its own, daring to give your appearance an expression you’re not conscious of, you might have what is commonly known as a resting bitch face.
According to the Urban Dictionary, a ‘resting bitch face’ is a condition mostly suffered by women which affects the facial muscles, and where people ‘have the tendency look hostile and/or judgemental at the rest’ of the population at large. This is mostly totally unconscious. You could be thinking about your daily routine, about your boyfriend, about your holidays, you could in fact be totally zoned out… and yet all the people around you would see is a snub expression or a sarcastic smirk, causing strangers and neighbours alike to actually believe you’re an unfriendly, surly or even angry bitch.
The word ‘resting’ points out that the person concerned would not even be actively doing or thinking anything in particular – the individual however, instead of possessing a bland empty look when perusing his internal thoughts, would unintentionally resort to another expression, verging on the annoyed or irritated. Some celebrities which sport notorious resting bitch faces include Victoria Beckham and Kristen Stewart. There is even another term for the male version, known as the ‘male asshole face’, whose most well-known poster celebrity seems to be Kanye West.
Although the issue may sound comical, it may unfortunately result in misunderstandings, especially between people who don’t know each other well and aren’t aware of each other’s foibles. For example, gazing at a prospective employer in a way which might convey contempt or distrust might not give the best of impressions during an interview. Similarly, serving a customer or helping a patient with an involuntary annoyed or unconcerned facial expression, instead of a neutral one, could induce negative vibes, which would be of detriment to the service being provided.
Unfortunately, unless you start consciously trying to plaster a fake smile on your face every second of every day in order to counteract the issue, there seems to be no solution to the resting bitch face. So, we might as well resign ourselves to it. The only ray of sunshine in an otherwise dour-less situation is that as the debatable popular meme says, the resting bitch-face relaxes the muscles, which may therefore result in less wrinkles.
So, as you calmly walk down the road wearing your bitch face, and wonder why the people around you are hesitatingly edging away from you slowly… or as you gaze pensively outside the window while on the bus, and ask yourself why there are passengers on every seat, and even standing passengers, but no one is sitting next to you… keep telling yourself that the resting bitch face at least keeps you pretty. Who knows, maybe it may even make you smile… a bit.