The article about Resting Bitch Face was born from an overheard conversation between three NJBIZ staffers — Meg Fry, Danielle Mack and Emily Bader — who all had varying experiences “living with” RBF. Here are their stories:
“I was really scared to talk to you; I didn’t think you’d like me.”
“When I first met you, I was incredibly intimidated by you.”
“Whoa—Meg is pissed.” “I just talked to her, she seemed fine!”
These are the phrases one hears when living with Resting Bitch Face — and, I’ve never minded it.
Now, those who know me probably wouldn’t describe my personality using adjectives such as “sweet” or “soft-spoken,” or go as far to construct metaphors comparing me to sugary desserts or cuddly kittens.
But here are some of the words that friends and colleagues have used to explain who I am and what I’m like to others:
Loyal. Honest. Dedicated. Strong. Clever.
I think those descriptions make me sound badass — and, not once have I ever been called a “bitch” (by someone I respect, at least).
So does it bother me that strangers are often afraid of me or believe I’m unfriendly because of my face?
Meh — maybe a little. Think about all the people I could be having conversations with that I’m not currently because of my expression.
But on the flip side, I’ve also wielded the power of RBF to its full extent working in the film and television industry. It absolutely helped to have a stern face when managing several unruly crew members — most of whom were men older than I — and (I’ve been told) my “serious demeanor” actually gave me more of a presence when walking through a furiously busy set.
So when I set out to write this article, I mistakenly believed that having RBF was a positive — not something that could genuinely work against women, especially.
Therefore, I want to thank everyone who participated in this delicate discussion for teaching me that being a “B” in business is not always a good thing.
I recently experienced a situation that went like this: My supervisor asked me for a list of Trust and Estate attorneys, and I was trying to think of the name of the database I use to find law firms when he started to say, “You look confused.” Mid-sentence, it finally came to me, and I blurted it out. He commented that he “could practically see the light bulb go off” — I guess my ‘thinking’ face makes me look confused, or even angry, sometimes!
But it got me thinking about my husband Andy, who is 6’3” and a big guy. To say he is intimidating is putting it mildly, but in reality, he’s the biggest teddy bear. His appearance, however, has often affected him. For example, on his first day at his first big job, he said his co-workers started an office pool to guess how old he was and how many kids he had. The highest? 35 with three kids—the lowest, 25 with one kid. At the time, he was just 21 years old, and did not have children.
So, it just goes to show that women are not the only gender judged for their appearance at work!
“Are you okay?”
“Smile once in a while!”
“Why so serious?”
These are a series of genuine remarks I’ve received due to my RBF syndrome over the years.
Okay, so I notice I do purse my lips when I concentrate, and my furrowed eyebrows are certainly an Emily Bader trademark.
But it seems nonsensical, as most of my coworkers would agree, to call me a “bitch” or “intimidating” — I can’t sit here and imagine it for myself. I’m a kind soul, a dedicated worker, and most of all, am able to roll with the punches and take a joke.
So do I think my RBF holds me back in my career? Perhaps.
But the thought of plastering on a pleased look in the morning is mentally exhausting, and actually, gets on my nerves. Am I supposed to put on a fake smile just to please everyone else?
Sure, if I start doing cartwheels around the office, people might like me more, but then I’ll be the one doing cartwheels instead of her job.
I’m tough and I know exactly what I want for my career — it’s fine if those are the qualities that read upon my face more often.
If being ambitious means looking like a bitch, well, then I’m totally okay with that.
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