Thank you Bustle for being my first paid piece! Friends and “serious writers” have called you “stupid”, but truth, my editor Gaby Moss was great. She made my story better and kept my voice. You pay your writers. And I’d do it again.
To Vanessa Frey who inspired this with a status she posted on looking “too happy” … hope you’ll read this and keep smiling
When the term “resting bitch face” had its cultural moment, I laughed along. But could never really relate, because I have always had the opposite problem: Resting Nice Face (RNF). Similar to Resting Bitch Face, RNF refers to a person whose face naturally seems to convey a certain emotion, even when they think they’re looking relaxed and expressionless. People with RNF appear approachable, and smile without meaning to. Think Zooey Deschanel, Kimmy Schmidt, or Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
Predictably, the best things about RNF are free stuff (most notably jalapeno poppers for me) and that animals generally love you. There are some obvious downsides to RNF, too, including creeps. Creeps on the train. Creeps on the plane. Creeps on the street. They’re not always hitting on you, but they are saying “hi”, sitting next to you, and probably calling you “sweetie.” Creeps, aside, people also have a hard time taking RNFs seriously, because we look like we’re always in a good mood. Obviously, we get mad and have opinions — and boundaries, too. I remember once telling a relative that I did not appreciate her grabbing my arm fat and then talking about it in Chinese to other family members. Finally, I had to slam my fist on the table to get my point across that “I am not a Cabbage Patch! I don’t care how cute they are!”
But even worse than having your fat poked over dim sum is the assumption that just because you look nice, you are interested in literally anyone, and down for whatever, whomever. It happens all too often that a guy shyly eyes me to the point of creepy, all the while seeming to think: “That girl looks like she’ll date anyone, even me.” This is wrong, of course: I, too, want a partner that is confident, self-sufficient, and treats me well. But I’m often approached with the assumption that I’m so nice that I have no standards.
Frustrated at the guys who thought I was some angel to save them from awkwardness and low self-esteem, I tried very hard to find “edge” for a long time. But despite efforts to arch my eyebrows and smile less, I am RNF through and through. It was only when I fully embraced this that I was able to see the more positive things that result from a perma-smile and, of course, self-acceptance (you know, besides the jalapeno poppers).
1. You Get Really Good At Saying “No”
People assume that if you’re smiling, you’re up for anything, so if you have RNF, you should expect to have your boundaries pushed further than most. As a result, you can also expect to get really good at making firm decisions. “No, I do not want to hang out.” “No, I am not able to commit at this time.” “No, I do not want to see Deadpool.”
This was a hard one for me to learn because in addition to having RNF, I am genuinely an agreeable person. I’ve actually been dumped because “you’re like … so sweet.” But the combination of being a “yes” person with a nice face is a dangerous one, so learning to say “no” is an essential survival skill. The longer it takes you to figure this out, the more unacceptable behavior you’ll put up with and the more energy you’ll waste on people and things that do not serve you. So know that setting boundaries doesn’t make you a jerk — being nice can be a part of your personality without being the whole of your identity.
2. People Get To Know Your Preferences Better & Faster
An added bonus of establishing your boundaries: saying “no” to one thing means saying “yes” to something else. Because you get asked to participate a lot, you have a chance every time to be clear on your preferences, and after a few invitations, people will quickly figure out what you like to do. If you’re doing it correctly, you’ll have to say “no” less and less often because you’ll increasingly be presented with opportunities that are interesting to you. For example, my friends know to never, ever ask me to see the new Nicholas Sparks, but that I am always up for bowling. Preferably not neon. And sushi. Always yes to sushi.
3. You Have Better Conversations
Nice girls may finish last, but we’ve got all your secrets. People trust those who exude warmth, and trust is the ultimate social lubricant. People get into who they really are with you far more quickly than they would with someone who looked and felt less instantly trustworthy. On one of my more entertaining first dates, a guy told me about being arrested for a home invasion, and how jail time was a most rewarding experience considering his sheltered childhood and immigrant parents —all before appetizers. I may not have been ready to hear all that, but I have to admit, it was better than small talk.
4. You Can Get Away With Saying Pretty Much Anything
I once got a raise for saying “fuck bitches get money” at a meeting. Seriously — we were brainstorming catchy email subject lines, and this phrase seemed to have healthy mix of wisdom and panache. My boss pointed to me authoritatively and said, “RAISE.” You’ve got a sweet face. Use it to say filthy things. Anyone who gets mad at you will feel like they are kicking a kitten. Once your verbal walls come down, you’ll also get really clever with words. Ever notice how the most unassuming-looking people often write or say the most outlandish, eloquent things?
5. Social Situations Are WAY More Fun
All of the above combined can make networking and otherwise uncomfortable social situations not just bearable, but actually fun, for you and everyone else. Wouldn’t you rather ask someone, “Hey do you want to mindmeld?” instead of “Hey, so what do you do?” The combination of people feeling instantly comfortable around you, plus knowing that you kind of have carte blanche to say anything, always makes for a good time. So take your RNF. Accept it. Be assertive. And don’t be insulted when someone says you’re “too nice” or “mousy.” Smile and tell them to “fuck off” because you can.