Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My Nemesis Called RBF

Who would think this mild-mannered fellow could be hiding such a surly character flaw?  Unbeknownst to him and millions of other souls like him, his sinister fa├žade seemed to surface at the most inopportune times and usually undetected by its carrier. Here I was a victim and didn’t even know it…until now.

Many women feel superior because they always know what their husbands or significant others are thinking.  They can pin-point their partner’s moods, frustrations and the thought patterns...or at least they think they can. But sometimes it’s just RBF raising its ugly facade. I have this handicap…probably have had it all my life.

Awhile back, an over-eager TSA guard didn’t recognize it while I was going through security at the airport.  His subsequent report had me pigeon-holed as a suspicious character.  Consequently my bags were inspected for over four years before the government finally concluded I wasn’t a threat to national security.  A simple stare was all it took to land me in governmental hot water.

With this handicap, group interactions can be the most challenging.  If I’m pensive people tell me I sometimes look sad or angry. If I’m thoughtful they might think I’m miserable. People have misread my expressions, my moods and my thoughts most of my life. Now I find out it isn’t my fault or theirs for that matter. I have RBF; a pervasive, seemingly permanent sour look on ones face.

My mother, sister Marlene, and Me

It would be very easy to blame genetics.  My mother always seemed to look sad or angry or a bit of both. I could explain that it’s my facial muscles or congenital frown lines that betray my true feelings. Who knew that a pensive look could be so misunderstood?

RBF has been described as having a mouth that might curl slightly downward.  Maybe the brows are furrowed, the lips a bit pursed and the eyes aimed forward in a deadpan stare. It’s called a ‘resting bitch face’ and it’s for real. It’s like a permanent frown you don’t even know you have until called out on it.

Normally I would ask others not to judge me by my looks.  Yet there is one exception that I have to guard against. Sharon would be the first to advise me against playing poker, skip-bo or any other card game for that matter. A poker face I do not have. Feelings, emotions, attitudes, prejudices and the likes all seem to wash over my face without my ever being aware of it. It’s like a rich tapestry of emotions revealed for the entire world to see.

If there were a silver lining to that cloud that passes for my normal expression it would be the flip side of RBF.  I’ve been told there is intensity about me when I speak on any subject I’m passionate about. It speaks volumes of the interest, enthusiasm, and passion I feel for my subject matter.

Recently I gave a presentation about my writing to a large audience.  My RBF came across as true passion for storytelling and the craft of writing. The audience loved it. Any place else outside of that speech they might have wanted to lock me up as a threat.

So RBF is a fact of life.  As I get older and wrinkles slowly slide across my face I guess there will be even more frown lines to contend with. I could Botox my problem lines away but that’s not the answer. I could practice ‘downward face’ which is defined as restorative facial yoga. This exercise is supposed to deliver more blood flow into your face to stimulate the muscles. Then it is supposed to relax the face through the use of focused attention. I could also play mind-games to focus on the positive in my life. A continuous positive attitude would help but I’ve got enough on my plate without having to mind-set my way through each day.

Maybe the answer lies in pondering life’s challenges in private and practice awareness in public.  It could be a more conscious effort to put on a happy face or at least not let my true emotions reveal themselves.

Or perhaps I could just be myself.  I’ve lived with me for so many years I’ve gotten used this old mug staring back at me each morning. It’s neither a bad face nor a sad one. I’ve just got a lot on my mind and more I want to stuff in there on a daily basis.

Awareness is probably the best answer along with a more conscious effort to smile even if it means feeling strange most of the time.  Those pesky nuns could have been on to something way back in grade school. They said to “Turn that frown upside down.” Sounds like maybe they had it right after all. Who knew?

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