An Open Letter to Everyone Who Makes Rude Comments About My Facial Expressions
To Whom It May Concern:
Ever since I can remember, I have always had people asking me if I was sad, tired, sick, angry, etc. on a pretty regular basis. Additionally, people would outright state that I “looked upset.” The people who did this were rarely my close friends or family, the people who should care the most about my well being. So why this discrepancy? Well, I guess it might be a little unfair for me to put words into peoples’ mouths, or thoughts into their brains, but it comes across as rude to me when a complete stranger or acquaintance makes comments about my face.
I find this rude because the people who notice my less-than-sunny demeanor are not people who have any power to make me feel any better (assuming I am unhappy in the first place). These are typically not people who know me well enough to know what aspects of my life could be causing me grief and, truthfully, they are typically not people who have ever given me any prior indication that they care to know about my problems.
Again, this is all conjecture, but I don’t think people generally comment on my lack of smile because they are concerned for my well-being—it’s because they are uncomfortable around me. Now, I hate to be a bubble-burster or a mellow-harsher to anyone, but there is something you should know about me: I Don’t Exist To Please You.
(an approximated sample of some of my “thinking” faces)
I realize that I may not look very excited, engaged, or happy about what you are talking about, but trust that I am very much inside my head at the moment. There is a good chance that I don’t know you very well if you are the kind of person to notice and be upset by my face. This doesn’t mean I am angry or upset, but it might mean that I am not totally comfortable in the situation and I am processing it.
Additionally, there is a very logical explanation as to why my face comes across as angry, sad, unhealthy, or uncomfortable.
Exhibit A: The Permafrown
Notice how the corners of my mouth turn downward. In this context, without my eyes, I look kind of sexy (plus there is some cleavage in there, you’re welcome I guess). You know how people are always like “it takes more muscles to smile than it does to frown”? Well, I’m not frowning. That’s what my mouth does when it is totally relaxed. Here’s a picture of me pretending to frown:
See the difference?
People like Maggie Gyllenhaal don’t have this problem, because the corners of their mouths naturally turn up:
(it was hard to find a good picture to illustrate this, but you know what I mean)
Exhibit B: Undereye Circles
As I stated above, without my eyes my mouth doesn’t look like it has a particular expression. Unfortunately, in addition to health problems that make healthy sleep difficult, I have been blessed with dark circles under my eyes. While this is often a sign of poor health and lack of sleep, it is also genetic. I tend to have some degree of dark circles all the time, but a poor night of sleep exacerbates them. It sucks because when I’m running on empty, everyone gets to know about it.
Now that I’ve explained the way my face works (awkward I guess), let’s look at some more expressions of mine (I am not an actress but I am pretty emotional):
Those are all pretty subdued I guess. And again, I am conceding that it is awkward and weird to try to portray facial expressions by staring at a webcam, but I think I came somewhat close. But that’s not even really the point. Here are two reasons why implicitly or explicitly telling people to smile is legitimately harmful:
It is impossible for me to experience something like this and not think that people would make these comments a lot less often if I were a cisgender white man. I get this impression mostly because of how many people find these men attractive without batting an eyelash about their expressions:
These men get to be “sexy” and “brooding,” while all I get to be is “sick,” “bitchy,” and “intimidating.”
2) Mental Health
What if one day I responded to these inquisitive folks’ concerns about my face with something akin to “Actually, no I am not happy or okay,”? They would probably be really weirded out, right? Well, my dear strangers/acquaintances, there is something wrong with me: mental illness! Namely, Anxiety, PTSD, and Depression. Does that make you uncomfortable? I’m sorry, it makes me pretty fucking uncomfortable too, along with the millions of others who have mental illness.
When you make comments like this too people (“you don’t look too happy,” etc) you have no idea the can of worms you might be opening, and as I’ve mentioned earlier, there is a really good chance that you don’t even care to hear about it.
I’m not going to accept these obnoxious comments when I hear people casually referring to being depressed or making PTSD jokes almost daily. If you were actually someone who cared about people who aren’t happy or content, you would tell people not to say things like that, since anyone within earshot could be dealing with those issues. Additionally, the more openly repulsed and uncomfortable reactions to my face come across as your being repulsed and made uncomfortable by my mental illness. A part of me thinks this is hilarious, since I think you are rude and watching you squirm is fun, but mostly it is hurtful.
Let me say it again: I Don’t Exist To Please You.
If you actually care about my happiness and well-being, there are specific, concrete actions you can take to try to improve them. In your case, it would probably be most effective to get the hell away from me.
PS- to prove to you that I can smile, here is a picture of me skyping with my bestie
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- mountainviolet said:I love you. I wish I was the bestie with whom you were skyping! I also miss your face and miss when I was awesome at telling your feelings from it. I think I still would be - and hopefully I can test this theory next time I see you (and tackle u w love)
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- pinecone-styles said:a+ bles u
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