A Guide to Surviving RBF

by Katherine Cline | 1/23/19 2:10am

by Sharon Bian / The Dartmouth


Resting B— Face. Resting ... Bad-at-being-happy Face. At least, that’s what I think it stands for. I don’t really understand it. This affliction is detrimental, not really to those who have it — like you, my dear reader — but to those around you who must live with the burden of you refusing to smile at them. Your lack of exuberance upon making eye contact with others can have the horrifying effect of making them feel like you don’t care about smiling at them. Tragic.

Seeing as I’ve never been upset in my entire life, I can’t fathom having a neutral expression that is not a teeth-baring, muscle stretching grin. A complete lack of experience with any emotional default other than happy makes me certain that I am qualified to give advice to those wayward souls who suffer from RBF. I know I’m not a medical professional but, like, this is good advice. Hopefully this will cure you.

Step 1:

Stop being so pouty. No one likes girls who sort of don’t frown but also aren’t technically smiling. Turn that neutral look of ambivalence into a big smile! Come on, whatever personal crisis is happening in your life right now can’t be more important than the fact that you’re not smiling at every tour group passing you on first floor Berry.

Step 2: 

Forget about silly things like your biology midterm. Aren’t there like four more of them before the end of the term? Yeah, yeah, you might be trying to concentrate on the 134 pages of reading due tomorrow, but prioritize. What’s more important — maintaining your GPA or having people think you’re not constantly in a state of euphoria?

Step 3:

If we’re being honest here, “studious” is just code for boring. If you’re not going to smile at people at all times, then the least you can do is find another way to express that you’re capable of positive emotions. For example, try wearing bright colors. Maybe invest in a shirt that says, “Sorry about my face, I’m smiling on the inside.” Alternatively, consider wearing a party hat to let people know that even though your face is not cooperating, you really are a fun-loving person. (Tying a balloon to your wrist is also a good way to signify this.)

Step 4:

Another way to circumvent your facial muscles is to simply take a few minutes at the beginning of every social interaction to let your interlocutor know that you’re happy, you swear. Unfortunately, most accounts of RBF are by terrified bystanders who catch a glimpse of someone just doing work or, horrifyingly enough, minding their own business. Do not fear, this can also be remedied by explaining your severe condition to the entire room. It is most effective to make this announcement once when you enter a room, and then again whenever a new person walks in. (Slideshow presentations are encouraged!)

Step 5:

If RBF is a chronic condition for you or your loved ones, consider intervention by a professional. Go to your local catcaller and ask his opinion on how to seem more approachable. If you don’t have a local catcaller, don’t fret! Find the person closest to you who has uttered the words, “I’m a nice guy!” They will instruct you on how best to arrange your face, so it looks like you’re actually very excited to see him.

Step 6: 

A quick and easy at home fix for RBF is to simply take some tape and affix it to the corners of your mouth. This will not actually change your face but, hey, at least you’re smiling now. Option number two is to wear clown makeup. A warning, this method is unfortunately quite noticeable and those around you may become displeased with how transparent you’re being. You don’t want people to know you’re actually trying, right? 

Step 7:

Yes, face-to-face is one of the most affected forms of communication when people suffer from RBF. But did you know that your lack of visible enthusiasm can also translate across multiple other platforms? This is why it is helpful to keep in mind come basic tenants of being happy when texting in a group chat or sending emails to professors. Here, within this step-by-step guide of how not to be a gremlin in person, I have included another step-by-step guide of how not to be a gremlin in writing. 

A. Exclamation points! So many of them!!! If you think you’re using enough, you’re wrong!!!!!

B. I was just wondering if it would be at all possible for you to use about 10-15 hedging phrases while writing questions or stating information you already know to be true? Just in case.

C. If you ever make the grave faux pas of correcting someone else, ensure that you include, “but I could be wrong I don’t know, hahahaha!” No liability here!

Step 8:

On that note, when talking end every sentence as a question? Even if you know the answer? Never speak in the imperative? Maybe they’ll just think you’re confused?

Step 9:

Apologize for your lack of visible happiness. Come on, who knows how many people’s day you’ve ruined by not smiling at them? Are your feelings even real if other people can’t immediately tell you what’s going on in your own head? This is a personal affront that can’t be ignored. What if they think it’s about them? The strife! The hardship! The anguish! Anyone not looking inherently pleased even when not interacting with other people is clearly just spreading bad vibes. Ugh, the inconvenience. Maybe you should just apologize for your presence in general. And any of your self-perceived faults. And while you’re at it, apologize for everyone else’s faults too. 

Step 10: 

Stop pretending like you’re capable of complex emotions. We all know that no emotion besides happy and bad at being happy can exist in your pretty little head, sweetheart. For God’s sake, just smile, it’s not like you’ve got anything else going on. 

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