DEL STONE JR.: Do I look unhappy? Maybe it’s because I’ve got RBF
Sometimes you want to see yourself the way others see you. That’s why I started studying people’s reactions to me as I approached them.
The idea first materialized in my brain because sometimes a person I know would walk by, slap me on the back and say, “Cheer up! It can’t be that bad.”
Except I wasn’t unhappy. I was doing just fine. Did I look unhappy? I wasn’t. Why did they think I was unhappy?
That made me paranoid. Apparently my appearance suggested I was unhappy. I started studying my features in the mirror. My mouth sort of turns down at the corners, and so do my eyes, which might give people the impression I’m sad. (Not that I want to look like Kenny Rogers after his facelift.) Other than that, I was baffled.
I’m not sad, people. I promise!
Then I started analyzing the way people reacted to me as I approached them. My primary target was cashiers.
As I stood in line waiting for my turn to pay, I’d study the way the person operating the cash register interacted with the customers ahead of me. Was he or she smiling at them? Chatting comfortably? Responding to their questions, or asking their own? I catalogued all these behaviors, then compared them to the way the cashier reacted to me when it was my turn.
I was dismayed to notice when I approached the cashier, their face fell, and they become more guarded in their interactions with me. It wasn’t until I opened up and chatted amiably with them a few seconds that they dared to let their guard down.
I was talking about this with my coworkers not long ago and they immediately identified my problem.
“Resting bitch face.”
As Dave Barry often says (or used to, anyway), I am not making this up. There really is a condition called “resting bitch face.”
According to scientists, or at least the ones quoted in a CNN story I read on the subject, resting bitch face is a real phenomenon. In a study last year, scientists with a company called Noldus Information Technology used their FaceReader software to analyze the faces of celebrities like Kanye West, Kristin Stewart, Anna Kendrick and Queen Elizabeth II — public figures who, according to CNN, “occasionally wear a less-than-pleased expression.”
People who had bored or annoyed looks were showing levels of emotion not present in people who don’t have RBF (Yay, we’ve got our own abbreviation!).
What was that emotion? According to the NIT scientists, it was contempt. Not that the person was actually feeling contempt. They simply looked like they were contemptuous.
It gets better, CNN said:
“… RBF is a real phenomenon, according to David B. Givens, director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, Washington. He calls the condition blank face and said in studies, subjects judge a neutral, expressionless face to be ‘unfriendly.’ ”
Anthony S. Youn, a plastic surgeon who should know a thing or two about RBF because, well, he’s a plastic surgeon, and he lives in Detroit, said this: “Gravity combined with genetics can pull our mouths down. As we get older and our skin gets looser and it gives us a permanent frown.”
He stressed that just because a person looks unhappy doesn’t mean he really is unhappy. It’s just the set of his “neutral” face. Take that, backslappers.
His solution? Try smiling more. Smiling, he said, can boost a person’s happiness levels, which contradicts the idea that people with RBF aren’t necessarily unhappy. Whatever.
At any rate, if my mouth is turned down in a simian frown, it doesn’t mean I’m unhappy. Please stop telling me to smile or cheer up, or I’ll have to clobber you.
And please stop comparing me to Kristen Stewart. I don’t like her.
She looks mean.
Contact online editor Del Stone Jr. at (850) 315-4433 or email@example.com. Follow him on twitter at @delsnwfdn, and friend him on Facebook at dels nwfdn.