Monday, April 28, 2014

Charity begins at home. My home.

This time last year I had never heard of BRF, a condition that affects many women throughout the world. For the last six months or so I have been constantly plagued by it and looking for coping mechanisms. The signs and symptoms have been present for years, but being unaware of the condition I was oblivious as to what was causing them.

Late last year I received a text message from my supervisor telling me that a friend of ours, after observing me at work, believed I had RBF and that there was a Youtube video I could watch for more information. I arrived home that night and searched those three words that would change my life forever: Bitchy Resting Face.


Exhibit A: My face in both its smiling and resting states (apologies for the lack of quality, blogger and my compter don't get along)

For the uninitiated, Bitchy Resting Face is when a woman’s face appears upset, angry or just plain bitchy when in its relaxed, natural state. Suddenly everything was clear. This explains so much of the behaviour I have experienced from other people since my mid to late teens. This is why people are always telling me to smile. This is why people are always asking ‘What’s wrong?’ or ‘Are you OK?’ when everything is fine. This is why people tend to think I’m bored when they’re talking to me (sometimes I genuinely am, though. But out of politeness I’ll blame my face).

It doesn’t help that I’m a quiet person, or that my hearing is terrible, which leads people to think I’m ignoring them or giving them the silent treatment. Of course I am. I mean, look at my face, obviously I’m mad at you EVEN THOUGH YOU’VE DONE NOTHING WRONG AND THEN YOU GET MAD AT ME WHEN I TRY TO TALK TO YOU A FEW MINUTES LATER LIKE NOTHING HAS HAPPENED. Why am I acting like this? Why don’t I want to talk about it? BECAUSE THERE’S NOTHING TO TALK ABOUT!

In mid February I was a bridesmaid in the wedding of one of my oldest and best friends. The anxiety I suffered in the lead up to the wedding was horrible. What was I going to do? I’d be standing up there, watching my friend marry the man she loves, with a sour and disinterested look on my face. I made sure to smile as I walked down the aisle, then the universe smiled upon me. When I reached the front I found out that at a Greek wedding, the bridal party faces the front with their backs to the guests. Tradition can be a wonderful thing.

The reason I now feel we need to raise awareness about the condition is that my life has been affected by it quite dramatically in recent times. About six weeks ago I started a new job. This means I’ve had a whole new set of co-workers and customers form their own opinions about my face. The early comments of ‘Relax’ and ‘Don’t stress’ I took as signs of friendly encouragement, but as the days went on, I learned the impact my BRF was having.
‘You alright?'
‘You always look so stressed.’
‘He always gets someone else to ask you to make his coffee because he’s scared of you.’
And the clencher?
‘You’re scary when you’re not smiling,’ my boss said to me behind the coffee machine. I tried to explain my condition to him.
‘I wouldn’t go that far,’ he said. ‘But yeah. You look angry.’

Wouldn’t go that far, eh? That’s because BRF is not a recognised condition. It’s a disability, dammit, and needs to be recognised as such. We need some kind of government benefit scheme. Or at least someone to back my ‘It’s not me, it’s my face’ awareness campaign. Basically I need $3.2million to produce some ‘It’s just my face’ tshirts, badges and hats. The rest of the money is for shiny trinkets. I need them. Because I’m hurting. Because of my face.

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