Facial Expressions: Is RBF A Social Disease?

We humans are social animals; nowhere is that more apparent than here in New York City.  Woe to the person who misinterprets a social cue or an agenda especially if that person finds themselves unsuspectingly on the receiving end of a whole lotta bad juju. On the other hand, one may occasionally be giving out the negative vibes and its best to recognize this. Either way it’s important to know the lingo and be able to ID the behavior, no matter which side of the street it comes from. Consider the popular slang expressions known as side-eye, throwing shade and bitchy resting face (also known as resting bitchface syndrome or RBS). You may be familiar with one or more of these terms as they are quite frequently used particularly on the internet  — I had a score of two out of three until recently.  My college-age kids had only heard of the one that I hadn’t, illustrating a giant generational jargon gap (GGJG?)

Duchess Kate gives good side-eye

Let’s start with the ones that I did know and tend to use on occasion. Perhaps one of the oldest and most documented cases of side-eye can be traced to Sophia Loren’s famous 1957 photo that recently made the rounds online, featuring Ms. Loren and Jayne Mansfield. Many have seen this photo and thought that they detected a look of jealousy or competition; the brunette eying up the voluptuous blond. According to Ms. Loren (the only one of the two alive now) she was actually worried about AW (Attention Whore) Mansfield and “afraid her dress would blow” and her breasts would “spill onto my plate.” Side-eye’s “are you for real?” implication would certainly work in this situation. There were other photos taken that night showing that Ms. Loren indeed had an eyeful from where she sat and that Ms. Mansfield was the engineer of one of the first intentional nip slips of the era. Read more and see photos: here & here. More recently, there is a royal example involving Duchess Kate giving adorable side-eye during her Harlem charity visit as she was told to just keep wrapping packages of toys. (see article here) As you would imagine there are plenty of examples of celebrity side-eye in the fashion world, many of which you can see: here.

If you’re wondering about the difference between side-eye and stink-eye (AKA evil eye or hairy eyeball) the answer is “intent.” Stink eye is throwing daggers; if looks could kill etc. while side-eye can be indicative of suspicion, disbelief, incredulity, or annoyance. You may remember an example in the 2007 movie “Juno” when Ellen Page’s character (Juno) tells Michael Cera’s character (Paulie) that his girlfriend and prom date Katerina keeps giving her the stink eye. He tells her that she’s not giving her the stink eye, “that’s just the way her face looks. That’s just her face.” Hmm…could be resting bitch face, too.  See clip.

Brandi Glanville is a big shade thrower

Side-eye is inextricably linked with throwing shade as you will have garnered from the Refinery 29 click above. IMO, “throwing shade” (an expression that the gay community is laying claim to) basically indicates a “dissing” of someone or something. It also is akin to throwing someone under the bus although that implies placement of blame which throwing shade does not necessarily do. For instance, Real Housewives are constantly throwing shade at each other (that’s pretty much what they are paid to do) as well as others. Brandi Glanville (RHOBH) recently threw shade at Tori Spelling: click to article. and is on the verge of being sued by RHOM Joanna Krupa for slander, libel and defamation of character and it’s all just too tawdry for words. see more here. Plenty of fashion designers throw shade at each other as witnessed last April when Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were quoted as saying that they didn’t think much of Victoria Beckham as a designer: link to article.Additionally, shade was thrown on Maison Margiela, upon the hiring of John Galliano. Everyone remembers Mr. Galliano, who debuted his collection this week, after famously going down in flames three years ago in a drunken anti-Semitic rant resulting in his being fired at Dior. Regarding his collection, am I the only one who thinks it’s a homage to Alexander McQueen? Incidentally there’s a book coming out next month about the two of them called “Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and Martin Margiela” by Dana Thomas. See book on Amazon. Put one in the plus column for the Margiela jeweled masks (which Kanye West has been known to wear during his concerts) as they keep us from having to read any facial expressions at all.

Jeopardy throws a shady clue

It has been suggested that due to a Jeopardy clue under the heading “Slangtastic” throwing shade has now gone too mainstream and we should, ahem, throw shade at it. If it’s on Alex Trebek’s radar, how hip can it be?

Naomi Campbell

Speaking of un-hip, I managed to remain innocent until I saw the promo for last night’s Project Runway All Stars about the last (and greatest) term: Resting Bitch Face (RBF) AKA Bitchy Resting Face and Resting Bitchface Syndrome (RBS). Apparently I missed the 2012 PSA on it:  watch video. which is amusing since I have often been accused of having this syndrome but without it’s name. If you’ve been told to “smile” by random passerby (yes, they are always men!), or have heard that you look intimidating, aloof or angry (I get the first two alot), then you may have Resting Bitch Face. I seem to be in fairly good company celeb-wise with this. Just off the top of my head I came up with several fellow sufferers including the aforementioned Ms. Beckham, Kristen Stewart, Rooney Mara, Kourtney Kardashian, Amal Clooney (at the Golden Globes), Naomi Campbell, Halle Berry (those last two really ARE bitches! Haha) and Nina Garcia.

Michelle on Project Runway with her model

Speaking of Nina, brings me to Project Runway (although Nina doesn’t actually appear in All Stars). It was host Alyssa Milano who mentions resting bitch face during what’s known as one of my favorite PR challenges — the Avant-Garde (yesss!). Might I say that something fishy is going on here, literally. Not only is a designer sketching in the Long Island Aquarium shark tank (Helen) in order to earn an extra $100 fabric allowance for each designer; (the challenge inspo comes from exotic fish), but Michelle’s “flamboyant cuttlefish” model is wearing a voluminous look accessorized with side-mouth lipstick (“Holy Picasso, Batman” says the makeup artist) evoking a weird fish face with a constant smirk. Guest judge Nicole Scherzinger, remarks “I feel like she’s always looking at me with her lips to the side, giving me attitude” (yeah hon, that’s the idea!) to which Alyssa responds “Resting bitch face!” as she mimics the side-mouth expression. From the promo they want you to think they’re talking about one of the designers, but I then viewed this clip which showed the full scene which took place during the critique . Side note: Judge Isaac Mizrahi must’ve been lovin’ the B-word. After giving a harsh critique he tried to soften the blow: “Don’t listen to us. We’re just a bunch of bitches.” he said.

Naturally, upon finally being “diagnosed” it opened my eyes (not my side-eyes,) to a whole new world. When I nonchalantly asked my daughter if she’d heard of RBF she retorted “Yeah, all my friends tell me I have it.” Oops!  From what I’ve read it is genetic. According to this article  many seek plastic surgery to remedy the condition which generally results from having a downturned mouth (correctable with fillers for a “grin lift”), or the dreaded “11’s” between the eyes (Botox). Of course, all of this is made worse by the aging process, so probably more Botox and fillers would be the solution until you cure the resting bitch face but end up looking like a weird blowfish (perfect for the Project Runway challenge).

No thanks! I realize now that I generally compensate with a reflexive, closed mouth, slight smile (just enough to turn the corners of my mouth up slightly) upon noticing that anyone observing me may be wondering if I’m really as bitchy as I look. I recently read that Kim K. doesn’t smile in photos because she fears it will cause wrinkles–maybe that’s why all the news media say she’s looking miserable lately. At any rate, the resting bitch face discovery has been liberating for me and my self-awareness! My syndrome has a name and I’m definitely LMAO about it, which could really work for me. If I’m laughing others may think I’m crazy but at least no one will accuse me of looking bitchy.

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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