Do you have a b*tch face?

Victoria Beckham, unsmiling.

Victoria Beckham, unsmiling. Photo: Getty images

Helen of Troy might have had the face that launched a thousand ships, but turns out I have the face that launched a thousand nosey, patronising comments. You see, I am afflicted with ‘bitch face’, a non-rare and non-debilitating condition that means when my face is in repose and I’m pondering important questions like what nut would I wipe from the world’s surface if I was given the power (answer: brazil nut) I actually look like I’ve recently been told I lost my job, have five months to live and my puppy has died in freak brazil nut avalanche. Turns out if I’m not actively focusing on plastering on a grin my expression runs the gamut all the way from ‘grumpy’ to ‘sullen’ with a few detours to ‘pissed off’ and ‘unimpressed’ for variety. If you also have bitch face you’ve probably had people stop you on the street to annoyingly inform you “It takes more muscles to frown than to smile” (to which the only good retort is “Fantastic. Now I can skip this evening’s Pilates class.”)

In a peculiar twist surely deserving of further research it appears this affliction only affects women and can only be diagnosed by male strangers. I’ve never had a woman or friend say to me “You’d be so much prettier if you smiled”, but I’ve had plenty of male strangers interrupt my day to share that opinion on my expression.  In fact once I was on a bus after I actually had been given some unpleasant news from my doctor (all fine now, thanks for enquiring) and was doing some general ruminating and wallowing when some dude decided to bust out the “It can’t be that bad, love”. Sometimes it can be! So let’s put possibly sad faces in the same category as possibly pregnant ladies and stick to the rule of “If you aren’t utterly sure of what you’re dealing with, shut the hell up.”

My expression runs the gamut all the way from ‘grumpy’ to ‘sullen’ with a few detours to ‘pissed off’ and ‘unimpressed’ for variety. 

Emmys photos

David and Victoria Beckam at the Vanity Fair Oscars party last month.

David and Victoria Beckam at the Vanity Fair Oscars party last month. Photo: Getty

The interesting thing about bitch face is that even if you weren’t in a bad mood before being stopped to have your expression judged, you certainly are afterwards.  Another Daily Life writer and fellow bitch face was victim of this self-fulfilling prophecy when a man came up to her and said “Hey Miss, you dropped something!” She freaked out and started frantically looking around until the guy added “Your smile. You dropped your smile". Strangely enough she was not charmed, words were possibly sworn and her mood changed from fine to fuming. Personally, I feel my sarcasmic (yes, yes, not a word – but really shouldn’t it be?) abilities may be a direct result of my naturally angsty visage, because it’s given me a lot of practice in issuing a few withering words or an expertly deployed eye roll.


I do get that that these people are only trying to be friendly but I’d much prefer the genius notion of saying something along the lines of “That’s a great dress”, as opening with an insult about my face isn’t exactly endearing.  Much like the related comment “Oh, you look tired today” it’s just not very nice to be criticised under the guise of faux concern. If I wanted to be judged I’d go on reality TV, I don’t particularly need it when I go out to grab some groceries. And lastly why do people act like we have an obligation to spend our lives going around looking pretty and smiley? If it bothers you that I’m wrecking the bus scenery WITH MY FACE go visit the art gallery or something. Sheesh.

So fellow bitch face sufferers, while ours is indeed a hard, hard lot in life, I want to let you know that things could be worse. Before we start despairing at not having a Jack-Nicholson-as-the-Joker appearance we should think of my friend, Bronwyn, who is afflicted with its far worse polar opposite – kind face. She has the sort of quick-to-surface grin that is an instant magnet to weirdoes, creeps and donation collectors. While bitch face might attract more than a few comments it also does a good job of weeding out the majority of predatory social interactions because it’s like a walking billboard saying “Don’t mess with me, chump”. And that’s something I can smile about.


  • I love Victoria and David seems 2 love her as well as all her kids, as a women I am sure that is all you need in life,she is laughing at all the "Bitches" out there working 9to5 for minimum wage...

    Date and time
    March 13, 2012, 8:52AM
    • I'm a man and I have bitch face.

      I also slouch a lot, which people always interprete as low self esteem instead of ... you know just being lazy.

      Red Dan
      Date and time
      March 13, 2012, 9:02AM
      • Yep - what he said. On both counts.
        Also, I would point out that my mother has always had the same tendency with her face and it seems to occur in all the really intelligent people I know. It seems to link to deeper levels of concentration when in thought and not thinking about what other people thi...

        wow, thats it! People who walk around always worried what other think are the smilers! They are faking it to 'fit in'. The rest of us are the calm confident ones!

        Date and time
        March 13, 2012, 1:13PM
    • If it makes you feel better, I don't have a bitch face and am naturally quite smiley and often get 'what are you so happy about?' comments from strangers. Equally annoying.

      Date and time
      March 13, 2012, 9:31AM
      • I've had that once, on a day when I was just feeling good and was smiling as I walked along - so I said "pillows!!!" with a smile and arm movements. He thougth I was nuts :] the look on his face made me smile all day

        chewing salty razors
        Date and time
        March 13, 2012, 11:53AM
      • I get this too, but it has its upsides. On my last night in Greece, at the tail end of a rainy day, a patisserie owner called me from across the street and gave me a cake because "you're the only person in the whole town who's smiling." I'd been thinking about whether I'd have calamari or fish for my last Greek dinner.

        Date and time
        March 13, 2012, 1:27PM
      • Yep, me too! I'm normally happy and smiley. On the odd occassion that I'm peeved, whoever is the cause of those peeves is guaranteed to find out - and then I'm happy again. I once had a Court case and the opposition grumbled that I always 'looked chuffed'. I had to look it up, being of 'english as a second language' background. I was quite amused when I found out the meaning especially since I won the case whereas the opponent who is 'affectionately' known within my friends and family circle as 'the dragon' lost!

        I'd hate to look grumpy but I guess many people probably don't do it on purpose.

        Me Too!
        Date and time
        March 13, 2012, 4:21PM
    • I have a bitch face. My relaxed expression can be described as one of seething hate. I frequently get told to "smile!" which makes me embarrassed and then justifies my bitch face.

      Date and time
      March 13, 2012, 9:37AM
      • @jo, I get told "smile, it may never happen!" and I so want to punch out the lights of the person saying this before telling them that it just has.

        Leeds, Uk
        Date and time
        March 13, 2012, 9:41PM
    • I think you're missing the vital truth that women's very existence revolves around providing men visual pleasure. It's rude and selfish of us to indulge in any non-positive emotion, and god forbid we steal some of man's thought-pixies and implant them into our own brains.
      It comes down to this: men who stop us for the purpose of instructing us to smile are just asserting their natural right to see pretty things pretty. No one wants to see a pretty thing sad, or contemplative. Forget the fact that slapping on a fake smile does nothing to make US happier - at least they will be.
      Sarcasm aside I get this all the time and it's f**king annoying.

      Date and time
      March 13, 2012, 9:37AM

      More comments

      Comments are now closed

      Related Coverage

      Female self doubt

      And the dangerous creatures it creates.

      In defence of short men

      Height has always been tied to hotness, but NICOLE ELPHICK thinks there are good reasons to fall for shorter men -- even if you don't see eye to eye.

      Why we hate having our photos taken

      NICOLE ELPHICK takes a look at the psychology behind our collective fear of unflattering snaps.

      Hating the Kardashians

      Why do we feel so much vitriol for Kim Kardashian? And why do we expend so much energy doing it?