I have resting bitch face, which makes me kind of look like an unfriendly jerk any time I am not actively smiling. This upsets other people and then I am somehow a jerk for not being able to hold a prom photo smile 24 hours a day. I go back and forth between thinking that this is my responsibility to fix because I want people to like me and also just telling people to fuck off because there is nothing wrong with my face. It feels a little bit like lose-lose or jerk-jerk.
I’m going to make the assumption that you identify as a woman, because I’ve literally never heard of a man being told anything about how his face looks when it’s just sitting there.
Here’s the deal: your face is your face. You don’t need to apologize for how it looks at any point. The fact that your lack of facial expression seems to upset other people is absurd. But as women, we’re expected to be pleasing to others at all times. We’re supposed to be pretty (whatever that means) and we’re supposed to smile. If we aren’t smiling, we aren’t doing our job, and other people (men, usually) think it’s up to them to point out to us that we’re falling down on our job of making them feel good.
I get why you might feel like it is a lose-lose, but the only loser is the person who feels entitled to weigh in on how you look. At the same time, I also know from experience that you might not always feel safe — or it might not be appropriate — to tell people to fuck off when they tell you to smile, or make a comment about your lack of smile. So a couple of things you can try instead:
- Stare back at them without changing your expression. Don’t smile, don’t frown.Wait until they get uncomfortable and look away.
- Ask why they care. This one could work better with someone you know and with whom you have a more comfortable relationship and who might be open to reconsidering why they feel the need to weigh in on your face. See if you can have a conversation with them about expectations.
- Ignore them.
Regardless of what you choose to do, you are not the jerk here.