I'm not mad, it's my face

By Kris Ferrazza | Dec 07, 2018

Lately it seems I’ve been battling a wicked case of RBF.

Since this is a family newspaper, I will elaborate in the most family-friendly way possible. I have what is now commonly known as “Resting B- Face.”

Maybe you haven’t heard of it, but chances are, you’ve probably encountered it a time or two. And if you know me personally, you’re sure to have caught a glimpse when taking a sideways glance at my neutral expression.

People who suffer from RBF basically look mean when expressionless. Their neutral face says they may be pondering homicide, while in all truth they might just be thinking about what to cook for dinner.

Can it be scary? Yes. But dangerous? No.

Now before you tell me it’s just my imagination, I know it’s true. I have veritable proof, and it came out of the mouths of babes, in fact.

I was hard at work at the circulation desk in the school library one day when I heard a little voice in the corner.

“She looks sad,” the girl said quietly.

The adult who was reading with the youngster responded, “No, she’s not sad. She’s just thinking.”

Looking up to see who was sad, my jaw dropped. Their eyes were on me. My face had struck again.

“Who, me?” I said, hopping up from behind my desk and turning on a 1,000-watt grin. “I’m not sad. I was just concentrating. I’m sorry. Everything is fine.”

Had it really gotten so out of hand it was upsetting young children?

I recently read an article about those afflicted with RBF. It turns out, we aren’t all bad. Research has shown we actually are better communicators, as we have had to learn to overcome the obstacle of RBF in order to avoid misunderstandings.

I have no doubt I have adapted to using non-verbal cues to let people know I am harmless. Now that we all are part of selfie nation, I can’t help but notice I have a few odd quirks I only can attribute to RBF. For example, I have a habit of adopting a dopey half perma-grin when approaching people. I do this half-smile and open my eyes a bit, almost as if to say, “I’m friendly, I swear. You can pet me. I won’t bite.”

If nothing else, reading the article also let me know I’m not alone. This struggle is real. And I need to look no further than my own mother to see this for myself. My mom’s mouth turns downward, into a natural frown, when her face is at rest. Always has, always will. And as I’ve aged, mine has started to do the same.

I’ve heard there is a surgery that will turn that frown upside down, but it sounds a little risky to me. I wouldn’t want to end up looking like “The Joker.”

While discussing this topic with a friend a work, my colleague assured me it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.

“You have a beautiful smile,” she insisted.

“Because I’m overcompensating for the RBF,” I scowled.

Anytime I catch a glimpse of my reflection in a mirror, a store window or a shiny computer or phone screen, I can’t help but notice I look despondent. Unless I’m “on,” I look cranky, like Grumpy Cat. Throw my eyebrows into the mix, and I look like Oscar the Grouch, fresh out of the trash can.

Just moments after my baby daughter was born 12 years ago, my mother leaned in close to share a tender moment, then gasped.

“Uh-oh, I’ve seen those eyebrows before,” she said.

Sure enough, baby Elizabeth already had my angry eyebrows. What had I done? Passed on to my daughter a genetic defect that will get her one day held in contempt of court just for looking at the judge?

To make matters worse, I’m Italian. That means the most mundane conversations can become highly animated discussions in no time. My husband recently posed two possible solutions to me in a gift shop filled with souvenirs. One T-shirt read, “I’m not mad, this is just my face.” The other? “I’m Italian. This is my indoor voice.”

And the beat goes on.

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