The Professional Implications of a “Naturally Frowny Face”

A recent SNL episode featured a fictional campaign advertisement for a mayoral candidate.  The character, Glenda Okones (played by Kristen Wiig),  listed her flaws, including her reputation for being harsh and cold.  “Here’s why,” she said:  “I just have a naturally frowny face. Not ugly, but certainly severe looking.”

Ah, perfect, I thought: an opportunity to talk about bitchface.

I’ll admit: the main reason we haven’t talked about it before is because I didn’t want to use bad words in the headline of the post!  But I think this is something that can affect a professional woman’s career, and something we should talk about.

Now I admit, wholeheartedly, that I have a naturally frowny face.  A reader once remarked that in my videos I’m always super smiley — it’s primarily because I end up looking super annoyed if I’m not.  (If I have time I’ll have to dig out some scrapped footage from the Lancome sponsored post — I couldn’t believe the video editors got so much usable footage of me looking serious because when I sent it in I worried I just looked bitchy.  Here:  me, serene but not smiling , versus me, actually pissed off.) I think most times it doesn’t matter.  After all, if I’m talking with people they can usually tell that I’m not super annoyed, and if I’m not talking to people (such as if I’m just walking down the street), I don’t really care what you think of me.

That said, I can think of at least one time this trait affected me professionally.  A few years ago I was part of a very small trial team in federal court in Philadelphia.  After a few days of trial, I grew weary of the high calorie, rushed lunches my colleagues ate, and so I excused myself and ducked out to the Subway across the street… and promptly found myself in line, in a very small shop, with all of the female members of the jury.  The first thought that went through my mind was panic — should I turn and walk out?  (I stayed. Which, looking back, was probably the wrong decision.)  Would they recognize me?  (Of course they would — it was an empty courtroom every day except for the lawyers, jury, judge, and occasional witness.)  Should I try to make conversation?  Compliment someone’s bag?  Talk about the sandwich I was looking forward to?  (I decided not to speak unless spoken to.)

Having made all these difficult decisions in the space of about two seconds, I was left standing there wondering what to do.  I didn’t want to fiddle with my phone or Blackberry — they might see some private conversation or think I was self-absorbed.  I realized that, no matter what they thought of my case, my fellow attorneys, or my behavior during the trial, I wanted them, above all else, to not think I was a total bitch.  I didn’t want it to come up in the jury deliberation room — “oh, the side with those stuck-up New York lawyers?” — and I didn’t want it to come up in the back of their minds.  In fact, never in my life had I wanted to look so approachable, so reasonable, so likeable, as I did in those few minutes… and that includes the first time I met my future in-laws.

What I wound up doing was studying the menu — like I had never been to a Subway before in my life! — and doing my very, very best to think happy, contented thoughts.  I thought of my then-boyfriend (now husband), and our upcoming trip to Paris.  I thought of a great sale that I’d been to a week or so before.  I thought of a funny inside joke my brother and I have shared for the past 25 years or so.  And then I ordered my sandwich (being extra careful to say please and thank you), and got the heck out of that Subway shop.

Ever since that Subway experience, I’ve wondered about bitchface.  Can it really affect you professionally?  I can imagine that I probably looked like a bitch when I was taking notes in all of my classes, particularly the classes where I wasn’t engaged — did teachers think less of me because of my naturally frowny face?  In interviews, many people say the first impression, such as seeing someone in a waiting room, is what matters — should I always attempt to “think happy thoughts” during those time periods?  Does it matter that this is one of those peculiar female problems — for example, how many male politicians and trial lawyers tell themselves to think happy thoughts during their moments in repose?

Readers, what do you think?  Do you think you have a naturally frowny face — and how has it affected your professional life? 

 

Comments

  1. I have a naturally neutral (poker) face, but b*tchface is one of those things that can be useful or used against you. Depends on the context. I see it as one of the many appropriate alternatives to the (unspoken, societal) expectation that women look happy and servile at all moments, ready to offer you a bundt cake with that Excel spreadsheet.

    • “ready to offer you a bundt cake with that Excel spreadsheet”

      <3<3<3

      • If people offered me Bundt cake every time they showed me an excel spreadsheet, I’d probably find finance more interesting. Just saying.

      • second that

      • I am OFTEN acused of not being to freindly b/c I am SO busy at WORK. Sometimes people think I am a little bitchey, but I am NOT.

        One time the manageing partner got snipey at me after I told him to go away, b/c he came in JUST to look at my blouse. Since he was stareing at me, I said to LEAVE so I could work, so he called me to sensetive. FOOEY on HIM! I do not like him stareing at me all day.

    • THIS

    • We actually used to call a girl in my law school section bitchy face… man she could NOT control that thing. After talking to her a few times, I actually felt bad for her. She was a perfectly nice person!

  2. I’m confused…isn’t it absolutely, completely, totally, forbidden to so much as smile at a member of the jury when one is is a lawyer on a trial?!

    • Magdeline :

      It is in my state at least, but perhaps it is allowed in other states as long as you are not discussing the subject of litigation? You definitely could not compliment a juror’s bag here!

      • What state are you from? It’s literally illegal to smile at a juror? I find that difficult to believe.

        • In my state it is literally a violation of our professional ethics to smile at a juror.

          • Mine too. Jurors are typically instructed of this though, at the beginning of jury selection, so they do not think they are being snubbed in the bathroom when I literally cannot thank them for holding the door open.

    • In my state you can not speak to jurors at all. The judge usually explains this to the jury so they know not to speak to any of the parties. In one trial I was asked where the jury was suppose to go after lunch (as we had to change courtrooms for technical reasons). I had to smile at juror and say sorry I am not allowed to talk to you.

    • My state too. A juror held the door for me once and I had to avoid eye contact and just walk through because I did not want to say “Go ahead” or “thank you” because it states you can say nothing to them. I also had an incident where I said thank you to someone handing me a napkin after I spilled something and I looked up and it was a juror. Yikes!

  3. I’ve been told I have either sadface or b*tch-face. In high school and college, strangers that later became friends confessed I had a case of b*tch-face. I’ve discussed this topic with a relatively new friend and she was shocked to hear my prior experiences because she thinks of me as super-friendly and smiley – which I suppose I am when actually speaking with others.

    More recently, as I was waiting for a client to retrieve me from the building’s lobby, he came around the corner and exclaimed that I looked “so sad” sitting and waiting there. I was shocked and a little worried to realize that I apparently look miserable when my face is in total neutral. Thankfully this wasn’t the first time we’d met and he already knows my working personality – but still!

    • hip hop anonymous :

      This happened to me before; I was on the train on the way home from work, and a nice old man came up to me and put his hand on my arm and said “don’t worry, it will all get better.”

      I was not upset at all at the time, I was on my way home from a nice day at work thinking about dinner. It made me question all of my facial expressions for the rest of time.

      • Vegas Baby :

        Your name made me smile (which is very much needed today). It’s one of my favorite lines from Big Daddy, where Rob Schneider is trying to learn to read hippopotamus (hip? hip pop? hip pop a-not-o-mus?). I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but thank you anyway.

        • Really? I was thinking of the Rhyme-ocerous and Hip-hop-apotamus from Flight of the Conchords!

          • hip hop anonymous :

            It was totally Flight of the Conchords. I am really glad my username made you smile, especially on a post about frowny faces! The irony.

          • It’s a keeper, your handle.

    • kerrycontrary :

      I’ve had someone say that I looked like I just found out I had cancer, all because I was walking across campus with a normal face. Uh…Thanks? Now when someone says I look tired or upset I say “no, that’s just my face”

  4. When I hit my mid forties, I noticed a lot of people starting to say, “What’s wrong?” when there was nothing wrong. Finally, one day, I noticed my BFF staring at my forehead. “WHAT?” I asked. “We need to get botox,” she replied.

    My frown had become sort of permanent due to movement lines that were becoming etched – the elevens between my eyes.

    Now I get botox every 6 months or so and not only do I feel better (less headachey, less tense – it’s hard to describe) but the “what are you angry about?” questions have ceased.

    It’s probably not for everyone, but this is the only cosmetic procedure I have undertaken, and I think it’s an improvement.

    • Diana Barry :

      I am planning to do this at age 40 or so for the exact reasons you mention. People sometimes ask me “what’s wrong?” when I am just staring off into space.

      I also developed a more “naturally frowny face” when I lived in NYC – it was a good deterrent from tourists asking you where to go on the street. :)

      • haha that’s a good point about NYC. I am naturally an oversmiler (when I’m not frowning, I guess) and I’m like a magnet for the crazies. :)

        • Me too! I had the hardest time when I lived in DC and people kept telling me I needed to learn to come off as more of a b*tch.

          • I live in Berkeley and work in San Francisco, both of which are teeming with crazies, so I should probably work on my smiling problem.

      • When I studied abroad in Italy I definitely developed a b*tch-face to ward off the men on the street who really, really like to harass American women. It wasn’t so bad when I was alone, since I’m brunette, but god forbid I was out with any of my fellow students who were blond. I got really good at the stink-eye…so good in fact that when I came home, people would kind of be taken aback. I had to tone it down a little!

      • Deters the aggressive panhandlers, too, at least IME. (I also lived in NYC for years…)

        • I know my bitchface is bad when homeless men tell me to “smile”, “cheer up”, or, my personal favorite, “Smile! It’s not that bad!” Apparently my neutral face is so miserable looking that people who do not have homes are concerned for me, which is rather embarrassing.

          • Haha! I have definitely had homeless people tell me “Smile, it’s not that bad!” I constantly am presumed to be unhappy by people. It’s weird because I never had this problem growing up in AZ where people considered me polite and optimistic, but in NC I felt like no matter how upbeat I tried to be people thought I was “Debbie Downer” and since I’ve been in the PNW the last few years, it seems I am still getting perceived as negative a lot of the time. I don’t know if my face just turned bitchy after the age of 21 or if it’s the way I speak or if it’s my expression but it is seriously frustrating because I am actually naturally an optimist and it is sad when people have a negative reaction to my neutral or even happy (but not cheery) demeanor.

          • Anonymous :

            YES! THIS HAPPENS TO ME!!!!

      • SF Bay Associate :

        My default face when out in public is b*tchface, especially when on public transit or walking on the street, honed as a self protection measure growing up in San Francisco. It has served me very well when traveling on business and on vacation, but it certainly puts people off. I went to college in a very safe non-urban area – quite the change from San Francisco – and my default facial expression really seemed to unnerve the students from non-urban areas. I’ve had to work on being cognizant of when I am “wearing” it so that I only do it intentionally, but I have to say, I’m still really proud of the quality of my b*tchface.

        • karenpadi :

          This. The b*tchface is my favorite tool when trying to alone in public. Like most women, I’ve been harassed, cat-called, followed, yelled at and worse in public when alone and not wearing a b*tchface.

          I’ll occasionally get a “smile honey” or “why so sad?” from a (male) stranger. I ignore him and keep walking.

          I feel bad for all the decent guys out there who I might want to interact with and who might want to talk to me. It’s just too dangerous not to when I’m alone.

          • Different Anon :

            Yeah, but what sort of decent guy thinks he’s going to meet the love of his life by accosting strange women walking on the sidewalk who are clearly on their way somewhere else?

            It just seems that if he isn’t aware that, well, she’s busy and isn’t going to suddenly drop everything to tell him her life story and listen to his, then he’s clueless and too narcissistic to notice that other people are busy. Whereas if he isn’t clueless, then he’s probably entitled.

            In a coffeeshop or bookstore, where yeah, strangers do sometimes talk to each other, yes, maybe. While walking on a [insert big Northeastern City] sidewalk, NFW!

        • Oh, I totally developed my b*tchface when living in a large city in Southeast Asia and trying to ward off catcalls from construction workers who had developed all their ideas of blonde North American women from certain types of films. The face undergoes continuous refinement and has also served me well, together with the b*tchwalk Rani describes below, when walking alone at night.

      • Oh good point – I’m a native NY’er and a thousand yard stare plus a ‘don’t talk to me’ look are my finely honed defense mechanisms for both street harassment from random men and the hordes of tourists.

    • I just got a very small amount of botox in my “elevens” and it made a world of difference in making me look more alert, well-rested, and, dare I say it, happy. I even feel more happy, I think. I definitely get fewer stress headaches as well.

    • Or get bangs

  5. I can take on a sadface or b*tchface look when I’m concentrating on something at work. I’m not sure what to do about it, because how can I think happy thoughts when I’m thinking about how to format this Excel sheet? It hasn’t been too much of an issue because people don’t usually see me when I’m concentrating, but thank goodness I’m not a judge – I’d probably look mad at the jury all day!

    • I look, apparently, incredibly angry when I’m reading. I know how my “reading face” feels, but I can’t simultaneously concentrate on not looking like that and what I’m reading. I will warn people who are likely to be around me in circumstances where it matters that I’m not angry, that’s just what I look like when I read.

  6. Woods-comma-Elle :

    I think I have a relatively neutral face and nobody has ever commented at work that I don’t and generally people consider me to be pleasant and approachable.

    However, I sometimes get the dreaded ‘Smile, darling!’ or ‘Cheer up’ from strangers (men) passing by in the street. I never understood this – if I was walking down the street grinning like a crazy person, you would think I was… well, a crazy person. I find it quite amusing.

    And besides, nobody who commutes regularly in my city ever smiles at randoms.

    • I get the “Smile” comment, too, in places like the supermarket.

    • Ugh, I hate when men say that to me on the street. It’s the equivalent or worse of a catcall. Incredibly insulting, like “you don’t know me, how dare you assume, while knowing nothing about me or my station in life, that because I am a young female I should be smiling!

      • My two fave options are continuing to look straight through them as though they didn’t exist and hadn’t said a word, or replying, with, “Not for you, @sshole.”

        The idea that we are answerable to strangers, and that we should act a certain way to please them is pretty ridiculous.

        • Woods-comma-Elle :

          Yes, this is the point exactly!

          How is it any of their business whether I am smiling or not! Maybe I am terribly sad about something, like I’m about to go to prison or something (FAOD I am not, but you get the idea). Without knowing someone at all, how do you know that they don’t have a perfectly good reason for looking stressed/sad or, worse still, completely neutral!

          I love your response… although I fear it might result in confrontations.

          • Having been in a few confrontations, I will say, they weren’t all that bad. I do mentally prepare myself for the possibility (as well as for physical violence), but the odds are in my favor. While I lived in the City, all I’ll say is that …I was “prepared” for the worst. ‘Nuff said.

            The whole mindset of a guy who tells random women on the street that they have to smile for him has been well-encapsulated by art historians and critics who’ve talked about the subjectivity of the male gaze and the male expectation that women are merely objects arranged for their enjoyment.

          • I’ve done the “mind your business before.” It generally induces shock and then disbelief that you did not respond like they wanted/expected you to. I’ve gotten a “I’ll pray for you”, too.

        • Cats Ahoy! :

          LOVE!

        • Seems like kind of an over the top reaction. “Answerable to strangers”? Very defensive, I think. Especially if it’s just a nice old man. Back in the day, there was thing called civility, and neighborliness.

          • It’s not civil or neighborly to objectify other people. It’s quite rude, actually.

          • Different Anon :

            It’s not neighborly or civil to demand a stranger to smile on command. Let me guess, you want to bring me a bundt cake?

          • I wish my life was sheltered enough to believe in “nice old men.” I’m glad that yours is, and I sincerely hope that never changes for you.

            Unfortunately, my experience is that strangers who ask a woman who is doing nothing more than having a neutral expression on her face to change her behavior are not harmless.

          • What woman would tell a guy on the street to “smile,” or even worse, “You need to smile.” Why is it considered “civil” for women to have to respond to a man that says that to them? If a woman did that to a man, he would think she was overtly hitting on him. Just because it has been ingrained in us for generations does not mean that we are being nasty or uncivil to not perpetuate such behavior to future generations.

            I think this is a lot different than just smiling and nodding or saying hello to people on the street as you are walking past. This is a) voluntary, b) not a command, and c) an interchange between any two people, male, female, or otherwise, and doesn’t require a response if the other person does not want to engage.

        • Oh, I think we’re soul-mates. The other day a skeezy guy in front of the municipal court told me “you need to smile, pretty lady!” I was there to pay a ticket; was not so happy.

          I asked him, “Do I have a f*&king sign on my head that says ‘strangers, talk to me’?”

          Overly harsh, probably, but effective. And cathartic.

    • I get the “smile” comment all the time from older men. Annoying.

      • Smiling is friendly, but it’s also submissive. Women do it much more than men, and maybe it makes men uncomfortable when women don’t do it.

      • B, that’s a ludicrous response. Seriously. Engaging someone on the street with a “Cheer up,” or “Smile” is now objectification? Good grief.

        • It boggles my mind, the assumptions that are flying here. I imagine you hate it when nice old ladies call you “honey” or “sweetie,” too.
          Rather than looking at intentions, so many are just getting up in arms and deciding to be offended – hell, outraged – at what’s at least sometimes just a well-intended act of kindness. Instead of assuming the best, instead of even assuming what’s logical (forget best) – you’re assuming the worst. I can’t imagine what I’d do if I saw someone reply to a “Smile” with “Not for you, a-hole.” I guess I’d laugh. It’s just such a defensive and ridiculous reply, and I feel like this kind of behavior, these kinds of uncharitable assumptions, coarsens all of us and makes our society just a little worse off.

          • I’m pretty sure you’re a guy, and/ or a troll, and/or someone who has never been commanded to smile for a stranger. And you may not have read much feminist theory.

            For the record, being commanded by a stranger to perform in ANY way (whether ‘smile’ or ‘have sex with me’) is not “kindness” — it’s objectification. If the stranger in question is so concerned about one’s inner state, they could perhaps to something to bring about a smile, but no way should they command someone else to perform for them on the street.

          • Different Anon :

            Then you’re imagining things. Not a single poster here has complained about old ladies calling one “honey or sweetie.” Just about every single poster has clearly stated that it bugs them when strange men do it.

            The strange men are making society worse off, stop picking on women who want to stand up for themselves. If you want to be eager to please, that’s your business, but kindly don’t try to enforce that on other women.

        • Well, feel free to smile at whatever man commands you to, and take it as a compliment (assuming you’re a woman). That’s your prerogative.

          But I think it’s about the same as a catcall. It’s essentially saying: you exist for me. I get to decide what you look like, and your feelings are irrelevant to me. Aka: turning a person into an object.

          Would you ever go up to a male stranger who had a neutral expression on his face and command him to smile? I doubt it.

        • A few times it has happened to me when I was having a REALLY bad day (& for the record, I have a naturally very smiley face)… and it kind of cheered me up. The dudes that did it were both young, well dressed & with girlfriends, so maybe they didn’t seem so threatening… but I do think there is a big difference between saying something about smiling vs. saying something awful about you being attractive/unattractive. JMHO

    • I always deadpan “my mother just died”

      • I bare my teeth like a chimpanzee if I don’t feel like smiling – an obvious not-smiling smile. (Sometimes I actually do feel like smiling, though.)

      • Ugh, Maple — a troll? Because I’m calling for more courtesy, I’m either a guy, a troll, or someone who’s never been told to smile? As it is, I’m female and do have the kind of expression that has regularly invited calls of “Cheer up,” or “Smile!” It’s irritating sometimes, yeah, but never have I assumed that meant someone was “objectifying” me, for God’s sake.

        @ Different Anon – thanks for your thoughtful reply. I guess my take is that it’s not a matter of standing up for yourself, maybe because I don’t consider a pleasant “Smile!” or whatever to be an attack. To suggest I’m eager to please merely because I don’t assume the worst of others – or even just men – in otherwise inocuous interactions is quite a leap.

        • I think the part that folks are having trouble with here is, why should we (women) be courteous to people who are not, in their initial approach to us, courteous either?

          I hear what you’re saying– that there’s something to not escalating, but there’s a fine line between responding to rudeness with kindness and being a doormat. The jury’s still out whether your suggestion leans towards asking us to be doormats. All I can say is: don’t smile at that jury! :-)

          • I hadn’t considered that there is a fine line between not escalating an interaction you didn’t even seek, and being a doormat. This is a really good point. Thank you.

    • Business, Not Law :

      THANK YOU! I hate the “smile” comment from the random people on the street and I always assumed this meant that I had a “naturally frowny face”…maybe I do, I’m not sure? But like you said, what am I supposed to do, walk around grinning like an idiot?

      I’ve been getting the “smile” comment for years and it has made me paranoid of having B*tch face to the point that I make a conscious effort to “engage” my face when I am someplace I care to have my expression judged (i.e in business meetings or the like). And by “engage” I don’t mean smile, but try to perk up the sad/mad expression I seem to naturally give off.

      • UGH I used to get this ALL the time when I would run back and forth to court to file things for my boss during undergrad. Random men on the street would always tell me to smile and I’d think the same thing— WHY would I be walking down the street, randomly smiling a big, cheesy smile? Who does that?

    • I used to get the “smile” thing a lot, especially when I was a grumpy teenager. But after college, not so much. My neutral face, I think, is vaguely sad, but I make an effort to smile at people generally (now that I’ve outgrown the adolescent phase) and am rarely ordered to smile anymore.

      There are definitely geographic factors. I’m in Maryland (and have spent most of my life here), which is a mixture of northern/southern culture and a very good place to look at this stuff. In more rural parts of Maryland and in the Baltimore metro area, the culture is much more southern and smiling at/talking to strangers is common. In DC and its inner suburbs, it is much less common. I err on the side of super friendliness because it makes life more pleasant. I remember going to NYC with a college friend who grew up in Florida and she thought it was horribly gloomy and everyone looked so miserable. She found Baltimore infinitely more welcoming, even the crappy parts of it. I hadn’t really noticed the difference until she pointed it out, and since then I’ve tried to make a point of being pleasant. I’m not crazy though- no smiling at strange men on dark side streets in Baltimore, for example.

      I agree that it can be irritating and paternalistic when a guy tells me to smile. But, if it’s an older guy (i.e. grandpa age group), I give it a pass. I’m just not the kind of person willing to snipe at an old man for asking me to smile. When I was 17, sure. Now? it seems uncalled for.

  7. I am constantly being told, “you looked pissed” or concerned, or worried. Or they are interpreting my body language in a negative manner. I realize it is an issue for me but how do I stop doing something I am doing subconsciously? Should I try to walk around smiling like an idiot? help!

  8. I’ll just say that a sure way to make my naturally frowny face turn to genuine bitchface is to tell me to smile.

    Oh, so I haven’t arranged my facial expression in a way that you find pleasing and sufficiently feminine today? I’ll tell you what, oh random man on the elevator. You go eff yourself, and then we’ll see if I can smile.

    • Wow, are you all soooo angry it’s depressing. Smiling, even if forced, has been proven to elevate the mood of the smiler. Smiling is contagious and therefore surrounds you with more pleasant people. Everyone should be smiling more often. I think the backlash on it here is from some people who don’t just have “b*tchface” but actually sound like complete b*tches.

    • So, true! And I am not angry until they decide to intrude on my thoughts and tell me to change what I am doing. If I wanted to smile at them, I would have done it on my own. If I wanted to have no interaction with them and think about my ToDo list (more likely), why should I smile after they disrupt my thoughts?!

  9. I’ll just say that a sure way to make my naturally frowny face turn to genuine b-tchface is to tell me to smile.

    Oh, so I haven’t arranged my facial expression in a way that you find pleasing and sufficiently feminine today? I’ll tell you what, oh random man on the elevator. You go eff yourself, and then we’ll see if I can smile.

    (edited to avoid moderation)

  10. I think this also has a regional aspect. In the northeast cities I’ve lived in, a mild to moderate case of b!tchface is the norm, and even more so when commuting. When I lived with a midwesterner or in a more southern city, I would often be asked why I was so grumpy. My midwestern ex-roommate used to smile at everyone on the street, which I found totally weird and meant we got stopped by lost tourists everywhere.

    • On the lost tourist thing– I actually don’t mind. And for the 7+yrs I lived in NYC, I almost always gave directions to lost tourists. I felt like it was a matter of civic pride to me, in that here’s a city I lived in and love and here are some folks who are acknowledging its greatness by visiting it, so let me help them out.

      Whereas creepy guys, overly aggressive panhandlers, pushy psychics trying to hand out their cards or flyers can FOAD.

      • So glad to hear you are nice to tourists! Every time I hear someone complain about them I want to tell them that tourists are a big part of the economy especially in NYC. They should be grateful and helpful so that they return and spend money on hotels, restaurants, attractions, etc., rather than go home and say how terrible New Yorkers are.

      • Same here. I can understand if you’re in a hurry or something and don’t have time to stop to give tourists directions, but really, why be against it on principle? if I was lost in a city I didn’t know (as has happened to me in NYC), I would like some help. I returned the favor for others in the two other major cities I’ve lived in.

        • THIS. The whole time I lived in NYC, I never understood why some had to be against tourists “on principle.” It seemed quite an ugly junior high/Lord of the Flies/Us vs Them* mindset to me.

          *Remember junior high, when the so-called cool kids defined their cool entirely by excluding people? (Said cool-kids were rarely even the most attractive, most athletic, most etc. Their status was mostly the bullsh!t exclusivity game they played.)

      • MeliaraofTlanth :

        Me, too. Assuming I’m not in a hurry, I’ll actively re-direct tourists on the subway who sound like they are about to go in the completely wrong direction. The subway is confusing even if you live here (“No, no, it’s the weekend, so that E train is actually running on the F line and won’t get you to World Trade”).

    • Woods-comma-Elle :

      This is true – huge cultural differences. Like saying ‘hello’ to strangers is never done here, and people would think you were trying to murder them if you did it, but my Californian friend is always all ‘hey, how’s it going’ to every man and his dog.

      It’s kinda sad in a way, but I would most of the time still rather be left alone.

      • I say hello to dogs…..(ducks and hides)

        • Woods-comma-Elle :

          Figure of speech ;-)

          And to be fair, I do that, too, but that’s different. And I usually stop and try to pet them/play with them.

          I don’t as a standard response say hello to random humans, though.

        • I say hello to all dogs and babies, on principle.

        • I say hello to dogs, but not to their owners. Because I live on the east coast, and that’s how we roll.

          I also don’t mind helping tourists, and have occasionally offered to help one when I can tell they’re really, really lost.

          • This is me, too. Love saying hello to dogs (since I can’t own one where we rent) but not usually their owners, and I actually like helping tourists (bonus points if I get to try to help in their language). But I put on b*tchface/crazyface for walking in the Tenderloin/Civic Center area.

          • Agreed. I’ll always say hi to the dog.

            And I don’t mind stopping to help a lost tourist, I just don’t want to be a magnet. The midwestern smiler and I lived in a tourist-heavy area, so it added serious time to going anywhere.

          • Anastasia :

            I also say hi to young children and dogs… the only people I ever talk to in my apt building’s elevator are the ones with kids or dogs.

            When I’m home in the Midwest suburbs, I smile and say hi to everyone. Definitely a regional thing. :)

    • Interestingly, I live in the Midwest and have a perma scowl/b*tchface, but I still get asked for directions all the time. My husband says it’s because I look like I know where I’m going.

      • Weirdly, I get asked for directions most often when I’m on vacation. I don’t have a clue what that’s about — but its really sad because its usually the definition of the blind helping the blind.

        • Ha! Me, too. I assume that I probably look more open, pleasant, and engaged when I’m on vacation than when I’m commuting to work with b!tchface and its attendant benefits.

  11. AnonInfinity :

    Just a couple of weeks ago, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and noticed that I looked like I was frowning. I asked my husband if I have a naturally frowny or angry face, and he looked like a dear caught in headlights — “Umm… sometimes… you can look… a little… ummm… gruff?”

    A few incidents I’ve had with a couple of partners then made more sense. I haven’t had any really bad interactions, but I’ve noticed that sometimes a certain partner will give me an assignment and then follow it up with, “Everything ok?” or he’ll continue explaining after seeing the look on my face. I think it’s because I look slightly annoyed, but it’s just my natural concentration face!

    Since then I’ve been trying to work on a more neutral or slightly happy face while I’m just sitting, but I know I drop it when I start concentrating on my work.

  12. I’m coming to the conclusion that I have a b!t(h walk. People tend to rush out of my way when I walk down the hall/street/metro looking rather terrified. I kind of like it, in a weird way…heh.

    I was worried that my normal face is frantic face, as I work with a partner who regularly asks me if I’m okay and not too overworked. But I think that’s just him.

    • Maybe they think you’re a spy hot on the trail of an enemy spy? Here I’m imagining you in a Bourne Ultimatum kind of chase… :-)

    • I developed this as a surgery resident. I would haul a$$ around the hospital, stalking across units, running up stairs. Now, in a much slower paced hospital, I find myself bobbing and weaving around people, only to hear “wow, you are in a hurry today!” and actually, I’m not. It’s just the speed I like to walk in the hospital.

  13. I’ve been told for years that people are surprised that I am actually a nice person once they get to know me because I look snobbish. I’ve also had multiple bosses on multiple occasions ask “What’s wrong? You look concerned” when discussing a case. Apparently I furrow my brow when I concentrate. I’ve also considered botox for the brow furrow (to stop the furrow and the impending wrinkles), but I haven’t been brave enough to do it yet.

    • This is completely my situation. People act surprised when they find out I’m reasonably nice.

      The thing I have to remember personally is on top of having b*tchface, I am also rather introverted, so I’m not out there searching out people to chat with, or even really thinking about that. It normally crosses my mind when someone asks “well why did you run off so quickly, were you pissed?” and I realize how it comes across. So I have to play extra nicey-nice sometimes. I dislike that immensely. Because then when I get “smile!” from someone, I want to say “look, I AM being perfectly pleasant, damnit.” Which doesn’t help much.

  14. I would much rather see a woman with a natural b*tchface than those who walk around looking surprised/amazed all the time.

  15. I totally have a witchface. I’m the same as Kat, in that when I’m in an environment where I know people, I typically have a smile plastered on my face. Which has led to a crazy secretary here calling me “Smiley”. I have to say, earning “Kool Aid Smile” in high school was pretty cool. I mean kool.

    • Anastasia :

      Me too. Now that I’m thinking of it, I must be really terrible at hiding how I feel about my job. Several years ago, when I had a job I really enjoyed, one guy I worked with called me “Giggles” because I was always happy and joking with people. At my current job (which I can’t stand and will be leaving soon), my supervisor asks “Is everything OK?” every time he sees me.

  16. I don’t think this affects only women. I used to work with a man who rarely smiled – and even if he did I couldn’t tell because his lips never went higher than a horizontal line. Other people said he was lovely to work with, but I was always too intimidated to find out.

    • My husband who is, honestly, a very nice, sweet guy grumbles to himself at his desk (apparently) and has quite the reputation for it at work. I learned this when I went to one of his work happy hours and they all started giving him sh*t about it. One of the newer co-workers told him they were scared of him for their first six months because he was always swearing under his breath at his computer.

      I found this hilarious.

    • AnonInfinity :

      I definitely think that some men have a naturally scowly or frowny face, but I don’t really think it affects them in the same way as women. The men I know who have such a face are known as intimidating or just generally serious, but people still want to work with/for them. Women will often get called b!tches for having the same face, which has a different connotation than just intimidating.

    • I had a boss who was quite a gruff, sometimes insulting guy with a very dry sense of humour, a permanant scowl, and whose smile was pretty much a slight twitch of his lips. He was incredibly intimidating. I was shocked the first time I made him laugh. I had no idea his face was capable of making the necessary muscle movements!

    • My boyfriend has what you could call “bitchvoice” – his excited tone of voice is nearly indistinguishable from his upset tone of voice.

  17. I’m more worried about what my husband calls my “Internet face.” When I’m at home surfing the web, I get a dopey, spaced out, not-very-attractive look on my face. I’ve realized I probably have it when I’m at work, too, especially when I’m concentrating on writing something. People probably walk by me all the time and laugh at the “duh” look I’m wearing.

    • I try to focus less on my face and more on my posture, because I think I’m very prone to “bored” posture…i.e. slumping over my computer as though I’m two second from falling asleep (which sometimes I am). So I try to at least sit like I’m engaged, which sometimes engages my face or at least makes it look like I don’t want to kill myself. :-)

    • I close my door when I’m just going to be reading on the computer for extended periods of time so people don’t see my “Internet” face. Makes it easier to check corporette too :)

  18. Clueless Summer :

    I have the opposite problem – people always ask me why I’m so happy when that’s just my natural face! I find it awkward not to smile when I make eye contact.

    My mentor has a serious case of b!tchface, while also being a pretty no-nonsense kind of person and it really hindered our relationship for a long time. It was often a subject of conversation between the summers as to whether or not she hated us (me and those she worked with directly) or just had b!tchface. It was really unfortunate…it took us a long time to establish a relationship because I really thought she was just scowling at me all the time as a way of preventing conversation from occuring (as I passed her office, in the kitchen, in the halls). Once I realized that was just her naturally frowny face, it was fine…but I imagine that happens to her a lot.

  19. Oh man. I have a naturally smiley face, and I smile all of the time anyway because I’m usually very happy. I also say hello if I’m passing someone going the opposite way on a footpath/hiking trail. If there aren’t that many people out, I smile (weakly) at people who pass by. Soooo Californian. When my boyfriend and I were visiting his parents in Philadelphia, I said “good morning” to someone we walked past in the park and they gave me a sort of suspicious sidelong glance. Now it all makes sense.

    • Anastasia :

      I always acknowledge people with a nod and a smile when I’m out running. I know it’s just an east coast thing, but it always makes me a little sad if they don’t reciprocate. My family used to be out hiking or biking all the time (Midwest) when I was a kid and it was SO RUDE if you didn’t say “hi” to everyone going the opposite direction!

      I passed what must have been another transplant on my run yesterday, and he gave me a big goofy grin and a wave…I flew thruogh the next mile because I was so excited to see a friendly person.

      • Business, Not Law :

        When I am running, it’s a totally different story for some reason. I will acknowledge almost every single person also out walking/running. I sometimes wonder if I look like the village idiot, smiling and waving but in that scenario it somehow feels different!

      • Its not an east coast thing, in my experience, it’s a northeast thing! There is a lot more of the east coast than that and we are quite friendly south of the Mason Dixon line (DC excepted).

        • Anastasia :

          Fair enough — I live in the DC exception to the Mason Dixon line rule. :(

          • ugh personally don’t have the energy to greet every single person everywhere and don’t know why they all feel they must.. cultural differences:) have moved around a lot, west coast now, must say miss the nyc ok to ignore each other thing.

    • I am the same way. I usually smile when i see someone. When I know someone, I cannot help but smile. I think it is rude not to smile. This has helped me a great deal, actually.

  20. This hits home big time. I totally have bitchface. In high school people used to always think I was mean or snobby and I had no idea why. Cue bitchface. I had to work on this a lotttt.

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