Why do you always looks so mad?

Before the term was even a cultural milestone, I was accused of having Resting Bitch Face (RBF). I remember it fairly clearly. I was ten. “Yejean,” my after-school counselor said, “you always look so angry!”

For those who haven’t been explained about the syndrome through YouTube or have never seen a BuzzFeed article, RBF is a syndrome in which an individual’s face is perceived as angry or mean, even though they’re not actually trying to look that way.

As a ten year-old I had never been told that before, so when I was brushing my teeth for bed that night I inspected my face in the mirror. I didn’t get it. My expression seemed relatively normal, if a little severe. Then I realized I wasn’t feeling severe in the slightest. I was relaxed, in my Simpsons pajamas, about to go to bed! Why did I look so angry?

About three years later, I figured out an anatomical reason. I had been hearing the same reactions to my face for years: I thought you hated me when we first met; oh my god what’s wrong; are you mad about something; are you mad at me; I thought you were so mean when I first met you; etc. Anyway, I had figured out the secret: two nubs of bone on my forehead, close to the start of each eyebrow, made me look like I was scowling all the time, especially in direct sunlight. I eventually tested this theory out on my mother.

“Mother,” I said. “I think my face looks angry because of the two nubs on my forehead.”

“Daughter,” she said, “What are you even talking about?”

Turns out, the better people know me—and she obviously knows me best—the less they notice I’ve got a severe case of RBF. It’s a strange phenomenon.

It makes more sense, though, when you consider that saying someone has RBF is a fairly shallow way of judging their personality. In most cases I’ve seen there’s no conscious effort to exude an aura of unfriendliness, and usually the person in question is perfectly friendly. It seems most of the time RBF is unconsciously done, or just the way someone’s face looks.

For me, like many sources of trouble in my life, RBF stems from laziness. Smiling simply uses more energy than relaxing my face, so I choose to relax. My relaxed face just happens to be terrifying.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be different if I was a boy. As far as I know, RBF isn’t really applied to boys. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s called brooding. So why are aspersions cast onto my personality because I’m not always smiling?

Is there some unwritten rule that girls have to smile all the time? Do I, to paraphrase the Powerpuff Girls, have to be “sugar, spice, and everything nice”? Why can’t I just…be?

So, I’m sorry if you see me walking around and think I’m scowling at you. Really, I’m not, unless you’re the one who coined the phrase “RBF” in the first place. Then I’m definitely shooting you a dirty look.