O wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!

It wad frae mony a blunder free us,

An' foolish notion:

What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,

An' ev'n devotion!

         "To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet at Church" 1786 Scots language poem by Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Now we seemingly have the power to see ourselves – constantly – thanks to the giftie known as a selfie.  I do think that most people put on a mask for their selfie images: a smiling face, tilted at the best angle.  It’s not the real you or me depicted there, it’s a projected self as we want to be seen.  Not like the RBF.

“For those who need a review, RBF is a face that, when at ease, is perceived as angry, irritated or simply … expressionless.”  Aug 1, 2015 (Jessica Bennett, NYT)

Everyone knows that by now, I’m sure. It even made it into a cartoon in the New Yorker.  RBF is short for Resting Bitch Face and though the definition was applied originally to women, it fits men, too, but they get away with it. A man with an RBF is considered stern, or thoughtful, perhaps tired, solemn, but not bitchy. Women, after all, are supposed to be compliant and smiling.

In my travelling days, I mean for business, publicity tours and meetings and such, when I was intent on getting on a plane, or through customs, or meeting someone with a placard, I was often greeted by a (male) steward or official with a command to smile. I doubt that a man has ever received such an exhortation from a stranger.

I was thinking of this because of International Women’s Day last week, and of another techie tool.  I used to own a small tape recorder for my professional use.  I guess now the iPhone takes care of sound as well as selfie.  The fact is, I used my tape only once at a meeting.

I was attending a creative conference with two producers who were interested in a television idea I was working on with another writer (male).  I took my recorder in to the meeting to be sure to remember everything we were saying, as it was a real brainstorming session. I listened to the recording only once after the meeting was over. I couldn’t bear to listen to it.  I was scarcely present on the tape.  The men talked over and around me and ignored what I said.  Several times I suggested an idea to be met with a silent pause. Then a few minutes after that, one of the men would voice an idea I had just offered, to be met with approval. I had heard of this but I didn’t believe it until it happened to me.

If you complained or shouted or sulked or came out with an ultimatum you were a bitch. No wonder you developed an RBF. My mother used to say you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. 

Things haven’t changed that much.