Sean Swaby admits that he isn’t always happy. His confession may result in a flurry of people telling him to smile, recommendations for antidepressants or offers of food to make him feel better.
Go ahead, you don’t have to smile. It’s okay if you are not happy all of the time. Just know that not smiling will get you a lot of unwanted advice and a few haters. That’s because you and I are Smile-Porn Stars.
Smile-Porn is when you are enticed to smile (or to appear happy) so that another person will feel better, or so they will have their own needs met thorough you. “Please smile so that I can feel better and get on with my day.”
Smiley Face Not Required
Admitting that you are a Smile-Porn Star, that you feel pressure to smile, will get you some haters. On Facebook, I posted a photo and simply stated that sometimes I am not happy and that I can have a serious face. Within minutes I had a response from a complete stranger, “Do you feel pressure to be serious and aloof? I smile because I’m happy. Are you unhappy?”
Why do we equate smiling (ALL. OF. THE. TIME…) with being happy? I must have been sleeping that day in school. You know, the day when we were told that we are allowed probe into a total stranger’s emotional life because they are unsmiling. Is a serious face somehow a status update that screams, “Please feel free to comment on what you think about my emotional life.”
Getting Serious about the Resting Asshole Face
If you are serious faced, you are not alone. You have a community, complete with their own acronyms: RBF –Resting Bitchy Face and RAF – Resting Asshole Face.
Facebook currently has two communities for the Resting Bitchy Faces. For men who have a serious face, all that we have for support is crickets. There is no Resting Asshole Face page for the quiet, serious gents out there. I located two recent articles on the Resting Bitchy Face, Why Bitchy Face is Real and I’m Not Mad. That’s Just My RBF but these are also addressed to women.
My favorite RBF research came from this You Tube video by Broken People.
As a man who can get his serious on, this made me wonder. How is it that Men are not part of the serious conversation about being serious faced?
FB on the RBF
I posted to Facebook a question about the Resting Bitchy Face topic and whether men feel pressure to smile. An #unsmiley face graced my face when I realized that all of my respondents were women. I applaud the women who responded, their courage and their vulnerability as they shared their stories. But like Bruce Cockburn, “I wonder where the Lions are?”
The women I interacted with described how they experience pressure to smile because their smile is perceived as welcoming, appealing and put-together to others (aka, men). This is just a fraction of what they said:
- This is just another way for our culture to police women’s bodies. Now we’re policing facial expression as well
- Smile shaming
- Not fitting societies standards
- Feel pressure to be on duty 24/7
- “Smile, honey, it can’t be that bad”
- Some men go out of their way to ask me to smile
- I have been told by my boss to be more perky
- Women feel their value is based on whether people ‘like’ them
Eventually, I was asked to join in and speak up for the male side of the Smile-Porn industry. I shared my experience and how I don’t always smile or feel happy. Sometimes, I can be thinking deeply about something and I will appear quite serious. Some people have taken it upon themselves to share some life lessons, prompted by my #unsmiley face:
- You are too intense
- Why aren’t you happy?
- You need to relax
- No one knows what you are thinking
- You are intimidating
The topic engaged me and my serious-face was replaced by my passionate emoticon. I posted my reaction on the Facebook stream,
“If someone is serious, why is this somehow something that deserves media attention and an acronym… next the DSM 6 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) will have an associated diagnosis and treatment regime. What about the men who have RBF’s… or RAF’s… Resting Ass Face. Articles like this reinforce bias against women. I was once asked by relatives why I was so unhappy and it created a lot of gossip about me being depressed. I wasn’t, I was just serious and shy at the time. Sometimes we need to be who we are…”
Of the 37 comments, all except my own were from women. Where are the serious faced men? Am I an emotional anomaly, a male emoticon?
As an introvert, I can sometimes get lost in my own world. Honestly, my face probably looks more hashtag than happy when I am deep in thought.
When my computer is taking time to process things, I don’t look at it’s emoticon and ask whether or not it is happy. At least in my experience, offering a drink or some chocolate do not work out well for my laptop. I think it’s time that we lighten up about the seriousness of a serious face.
Men and the Resting Asshole Face – Why Bother?
Do men really care about the Resting Asshole Face?
Part of me wonders if men ignore their Resting Asshole Face because we prefer to sweat it off instead? Men like to sweat because their bodies do the crying for them in the form of salty man-tears. Some men find it easier to sweat it out rather than speak up. But statistics remind us that each year in the US, Six Million Men experience depression. Talking about our moods and our mental health is important for both women and men.
Did you notice what I just did? You do it too. You and I make an assumption about the Resting Asshole Face (and the Resting Bitchy Face). This is the heart of what the RBF and RAF is all about… just because someone looks serious does not mean they are depressed or that they need someone else to tell them to smile or be happy.
Is a serious face somehow a status update that screams, “Please feel free to comment on what you think about my emotional life?”
Depression and Mental Illness can be hidden, but more often they are hidden by a smile than a frown. If you care about the men in your life, please look past the smile (or the #unsmile). Earn their trust and get to know their story.
To the Resting Asshole Faced men out there, join us at the Good Men Project, we are your community. Thanks to the Resting Bitchy Faced Women for their courage to share their stories and remind us that there is more to life than a smile.
Originally published at GoodMenProject/Sean Swaby
Photos courtesy of smswaby.