Bitch Abroad

My Chronic Bitch Face and I have decided to take on a new adventure: Living abroad. That’s right. It’s time to immerse everyone’s favourite ‘is she happy, is she sad or is she just thinking about her next meal?’ quiz into a new culture. Because it can’t just be the UK that struggle with the conundrum… Can it? Science has proven that some people really do suffer with a face that has the inability to provide a positive expression, when it’s just in a little daydream. Yet as a nation, the UK appears to be unable to clasp that.


I guess my reasons also extend themselves to hoping that a change of scenery will help encourage my mouth to offer a little more than a horizontal line across my face when in a world of its own; growing tired of London and the brave desire to offer my creative word-smithery* to a new city. Amsterdam.

Yes, of course that last point comes with a caveat. *Smartly put together sentences that unfortunately will have to remain in English, until I crack the saliva-spawning riddle of the Dutch language. But let’s not try to ask too much of my face, okay?

I’ve come to terms with the fact that London / the UK will probably forever feel at ease with commenting and quipping on my resting bitch expression. But what about the Netherlands? A liberal nation. A direct manner. A no-nonsense approach. Will they too find my face a misery-engulfed puzzle; or, as one would hope, won’t give two Dutch fuckeries over what my resting face looks like because: A) who cares – it’s not their face; and B) it’s 2018 – if she wants to look like a woman chewing a casual wasp, then we’re here for it. 

Naturally, I hope for the latter. I want to discover a city of open-minded individuals that don’t feel the need to tell one to glimlach* when it really is none of their business whether I want to do that or not. 

*glimach = Dutch for smile.

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I’m curious to know: Are Dutch women ever subjected to a stranger instructing them on what their expression should look like? Does the same habit of judging a fellow human being according to their appearance when otherwise engaged, exist? Does the expression “Cheer Up, Love” have an (indirect) equivalent? (I bloody hope not.)

I’m a few months in and want to get a couple of things straight. 

  1. Speaking as an expat who’s already encountered many-a-hurdle in Dutch supermarkets – facial expressions are in fact completely unpredictable for us non-nationals when ticking items off of our weekly shop. I’ll let you experience that for yourself when you go into an Albert Heijn in search for Orange Squash (WTF do they call it?). So, anyone that has wanted to confront me down a grocery aisle can probably rest assured: I am in no mood to smile when Crumpets are nowhere in sight and I’ve wasted 23 minutes trying to unearth whether I have in fact got gnocchi or potatoes in my hands. (If you know you know).

  2. The streets of central Amsterdam: Busier than Oxford Circus three nights before Christmas. Every blinking hour of every blinking day. It really is a city that never sleeps. And thus, (not that I often find myself wandering the inner canals at 3am) tourists will get a guaranteed unimpressed glare. Like anywhere else in the world, they choose to take pictures in the most stupid places, stop to look at their map in the middle of the streets and wander from side to side of pavements, becoming very close victims to me stepping on their heels. COME ON NOW.

  3. Amsterdam is flat, they said. There are no such things as hills, they laughed. Oh, but we do have a few bridges, they whispered. And whisper they did! I never had myself down as a cyclist (commuting by bike in London and risk becoming the filling of a double deck bus / black cab sandwich? I’ll pass, thanks.) But in the Netherlands, it’s a completely different story. Cyclists dominate the road. They take priority and more fool you if you get in their way. And it’s great. I love cycling. However, when confronted with the foot of a very deceptive bridge, it’s a whole other ball game. I am not amused. My legs are not a fan. And those pesky inclines bring out a very bitter expression. 

And it’s these things that are exempt for being confused with my Chronic Bitch Face.

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With those three exceptions aside, when my face is left to do whatever on earth it wants in any scenario – am I going to experience any hassle? I’ve heard the Dutch are very much introverts. In my short experience thus far, they do just tend to keep themselves to themselves. It’s either that, or it’s painstakingly obvious I’m an imposter / expat and they choose to keep their conversations to those they can speak their mother-tongue with. Absolutely fair. Can you blame them?! I haven’t actually experienced people aiming comments or dropping remarks towards my neutral facial expression when crossing paths. 

Having said that, unfortunately, I don’t have a pocket interpreter. Sorry Google / Siri / other tracking app – I’ve got that shit switched off. So if a Dutch-speaking fellow makes a comment as they pass me by, I’m in no position to defend my naturally moody demeanour or even understand what they are saying. For all I know they might just be making weather small talk.*

*(Actually – that’s definitely just a Brit thing). 

So whilst I continue my attempt of understanding Dutch culture, life, language and normalities; I guess I am a little still in the dark on whether my resting bitch face can finally have a city to call home. But until then, my Dutch lessons will pursue. Yes, you can assume that there are three sentences at the top of my practise list. 

  1. Het gaat goed met mij.
    I’m fine.
  2. Nee, er is niets mis.
    No, there is nothing wrong.
  3. Ik haat je niet.
    I don’t hate you.
  4. Het is gewoon mijn gezicht.
    It’s just my face. 



Ever been brought to tears on your commute? (No, delays on the Overground or missing your bus do not count.)

Last week, a journey home was rather emotional. It didn’t involve another, boring, generic remark about my wooden complex. But it did see a surge of sadness run through my veins. To the point where I actually spent the rest of my evening wanting to turn back time and change my actions. Here’s why:

Picture the scene. I’m on route to a doctor’s appointment, on a bus that seemed to be hit with a severe case of red light syndrome. The anxiety of my looming appointment, teamed with the rocking back and forth consequent to the bus driver’s hesitant foot – and its constant misjudgement of whether to accelerate or break – meant that I was not having the most comfortable of rides.

An older lady sat beside me on the 27 heading towards Camden Town. She was elegantly dressed, her make up picture perfect and her hands decorated with long, black lace gloves. With my eyes transfixed on her adorned arms, she lowered herself on the seat next to me with her walking stick. With barely two seconds passing of her being my new neighbour, she turned to me (someone that’s apparently very unapproachable) and said:

“Excuse me dear, I’m looking for a cinema. Can you tell me if this bus is heading towards a cinema in Camden? I don’t mind which one.”

Being a resident here for the last couple of years, I explained that yes, if she got off at Camden Town Station she could go to the Odeon.

It was her next few sentences that really got me.

“It’s my 75th birthday today you see. And I can’t bear spending it alone in the four empty walls of my home. I don’t even care what I see. I’m just going for the noise really.”

All of a sudden, my heart did what I can only describe as a variation of a burpee inside my chest. For the two stops I had left on the bus, we chatted about her birthday and the buildings we passed through Mornington Crescent. We looked out and discussed the high-rise blocks of flats, the weather and the shops that occupy NW1’s iconic High Street. The small talk that I would usually take for granted had made her afternoon. As the bus approached my stop, I thanked her, wished her the happiest of birthdays and got off.

A doctor’s waiting room is the worst for overthinking. When you’re trying to keep a low profile and not calculate the germs you’re contracting, it’s your duty to take your brain as far away from the situation as possible. Because how many leaflets scaring you into thinking your infected toe is actually gangrene, are necessary anyway?

Sat in that cold room, I could not shift one thought: Why the hell didn’t I accompany this lady to the cinema?

You’re thinking it too, right? I’d fallen victim to self-absorption. I could have made this woman’s decade by not only joining her on her search for noise, but actually giving her birthday company. She was celebrating 75 years of life. That’s 75 years of laughter, energy and chatter. Why should it stop now?

She provoked a conversation with me, because she missed interaction with another human being. She couldn’t careless how I looked, what I was thinking or whether I’d respond. It was the fact that her loneliness had driven her to do something about it. And that itself is incredible. On so many levels.

It got me thinking of the thousands of people who have accepted that days, weeks and months without communication, are part of who they are now. When life decides it’s your time to be lonely, it shouldn’t mean that words are restricted to inside your head. No one signs up to isolation. So when it happens, it’s easy to become stuck. Not knowing who to turn to, which support groups are there for you or how to break the silence. Sure, you’ve got your own company. But sometimes, it’s not enough. When life as you know it suddenly becomes unfamiliar, and you haven’t had to make new friends in decades. And you live miles from any family. Or your family have all passed. And you’re the last one. It’s then that it gets really difficult.

Conversation and having company. Two things we don’t often give much thought to. Because for most of us, we either have them both on tap, or are just a few smartphone swipes away from a familiar voice. But when you reach an age where those things become a novelty, who are we to deny someone such human rights?

Though my experience is generalising the elderly, it’s a problem that can affect anyone. You don’t have to be an 82-year-old widower to be cursed with loneliness. There are plenty of people that, given certain circumstances, find themselves segregated. Some people choose to live their lives this way. And that’s fine. It should be something that’s optional.

I will always feel guilty for not going to the cinema with the lady on the bus. But I‘ll always be grateful that she opened my eyes to the problem. Since my emotional commute, I’ve looked into ways to help. Because, yes, we’ll never eradicate the problem. But with hours seemingly wasted scrolling on social networks, there appears to be a way we can all help. If we want to make the time for something, we can. And will. It’s simple.

There are plenty of charities that support the search to end loneliness. Each with different techniques on how to soften the feeling of companionless-ness. That’s why I now volunteer with Age UK. Their telephone friend scheme pairs you up with a lonely elderly person, who you build a friendship with for half an hour every week. In this day and age where phones are seemingly an accessory on a person, permanently glued to our hands and are generating a future of neck and back problems from the 5+ hours a day we spend looking down at them, surely we can all spare thirty minutes to create a wrinkly smile? A smile that has the power to last until the next time you speak. A smile that will appear when your phone call is imminent. Let’s reaffirm laughter lines to faces, because it’ll mean more to them than you’ll ever know.

“I thought you hated me when I first met you…”

Typically annoying CBF remark no. 17, first received when I was 12 years old.

*Insert deep inhale and exaggerated sigh here*

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Oh that old chestnut. The honest answer to this is: If you chew your food loudly, are the type of person that claps your hands when your plane lands/your film has finished in the cinema or you wear kitten heels – then your observations are probably true. You get on my tits.

However if none of the above applies to you then chances are you’re quite mistaken. And you’re just on the unfortunate receiving end of my face when it’s taking a rest. No biggie.

It’s often thrown at me when I’ve been in the company of the said person for a number of weeks or months. When they finally feel comfortable enough to confront me about the ice-cold glare that takes over my appearance when I’m daydreaming. They’ve wanted to address the situation for a while, but due to my look 78.4% of the day, they weren’t too sure of the repercussions.

“So what’s with that look you give?”

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Fellow victims completely get it. We have this understanding. So when we’re about to cross paths with someone that looks as though they’re about to go Naomi Campbell on us, we know there’s more to the story. That it’s nothing more than a mere case of innocent evils. In fact, if we both weren’t so busy thinking about what our next meal is going to be, we’d probably sense the forthcoming encounter and high-five our co-sufferers. Because it’s a tough world out there, regardless of resting bitch face. And girls should be nice to one another.

We can’t help the laziness in our cheekbones. The gaze that strickens our eyes. The perfectly horizontal position of our mouth. Our natural bitch faces shouldn’t be judged. It’s just the construct of our appearance when we’re neutrally engaged. So if you find yourself in a situation, where you’re not sure if someone you’ve recently become acquainted with actually likes you or not, just stop. Analyse the predicament and ask yourself these three things:

  1. Are you sure you didn’t cut them up on the tube?
  2. Are you positively certain you didn’t push in front of them in Pret?
  3. Have you done the mandatory Facebook stalk to ensure that there’s no best mate’s step-sister’s cousin’s ex hate going on?

If you answered yes to all of the above then please, save yourself from becoming the 181st person to state “you thought they hated you when you first met”. Because trust me when I say, the most you’ll get out of that person is an eye roll. And it’s highly likely that for the pure reason of hammering those nine words at them alone, they will think back to that very first moment you entered each other’s lives and find a reason. Because it’s THAT annoying.

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Many thanks to Dana Scully for helping illustrate the mysterious looks of resting bitch face. You deserve a blog post dedicated to you, you alien-fighting babe.


Smiling isn’t on any national curriculum. But apparently, it’s something some folk naturally do. (I know right, who knew?)

Alongside your birth certificate, you’re not given a smile guidebook. When you start school, you don’t have to sit an exam that analyses your ability to express a constantly upbeat expression. And when growing up, your parents didn’t take you to the doctor to explain their concerns for the disappearance of your smirk. You know why? Because there are no rules.

So let me ask you this: Why do complete and utter strangers deem it necessary to request a smile from my face when it’s in rest mode? Just because it made a decision early on in life for said expression to portray a sullen bitch, it’s not an invitation for people to demand positivity.


In a society where gender equality imbalance is being fought globally, it should surprise me (but sadly doesn’t) that 97.4% of these comments are put to me by men. Remarks for me to cheer up or smile more are just tiresome. Why are they interfering with me when I’m in autopilot? Why does it matter if I’m smiling or not? Why do they think they deserve to see me sport a big fat grin?

Eleven times out of ten, the reason behind my moody demeanour is Chronic Bitch Face. But to all those that aren’t usually a victim to CBF’s glare, there’s going to be a reason behind their glum appearance. And I can guarantee you now, that reason is going to be none of your business. You jeering ‘Gis us a smile love’ is going to be the last thing they need. A bad day, fresh from an argument, a grievance or hearing disappointing news – there are so many factors that contribute to your expression. And when it’s not Chronic Bitch Face, smiling is going to be the last thing on their mind. So how about you butt the eff out alright?

I’m bored of people telling me that “it might never happen” if I don’t cheer up. I mean, what do you say to that? How are you meant to respond when such words are uttered in your direction? Over the years I’ve experimented with replies: Fake smirks. Rolled eyes. Verbal excuses. But now I come to think of it – do they even warrant acknowledgement for their rudeness? No. It’s my face and I’ve come to terms with the fact I look like a bitch when I gaze. You should too.


Yes. I’d go as far as saying it’s a form of harassment. And Tatyana Fazlalizadeh thought the same, when four years ago she started the art series Stop Telling Women To Smile. She didn’t stop there. Because the issue of street harassment towards women lies much deeper than this. Posters of her work above can be seen around the world, with strong, simple and clear messages. It’s unwanted attention. Uninvited comments. An invasion of personal space. We’re going about our own business. If I needed a daily reminder to smile, I’d just set a reminder on my phone. (If there isn’t already an app for it, Apple, you heard it hear first.)

And riddle me this: Why do men not pick up on the miserable faces of other men? Guys get moody. Their faces show it. So surely they should be on the receiving end to one of your “be positive” jibes, no? Whether they’re fellow CBF sufferers (yes, they do exist – Kanye West) or are just peeved that they lost at a game of Fifa, their pissed off look can go by unnoticed and they’re off the hook. They can get away without having their concentration broken by someone they’ve never met before. But your facial expression shouldn’t fall into a double standard trap. Not in this day and age.

That’s the thing with CBF. You could be thinking about a new puppy you’re on your way to pick up, or that funny thing Lucy did at the weekend or even that meme that was just shared in your group Whatsapp. But on the outside, your face just says vengeance.

In my books, that’s totally fine. There are no laws that depict how your face should appear when in a daydream bubble. And it really grinds my gears (making that look of vengeance intentional) when nosey bystanders burst it.




“Are you okay?”

Typically annoying CBF remark no. 9, first received when I was 14 years old.


Throw back to hitting puberty. An ugly era for any nineties child. And whilst it’s true, your face starts to change as you grow become older, CBF rebels like the hard-faced she-devil she is. It stays put, scoring a big gold star in persistency. And in a bitter, twisted pot of irony, the natural stresses that come with being a teenager do not exactly scream smiles.


Said no teenager. Ever. Team that with spots, bras and hormones; all handed to you on an unappealing adolescent plate, at the same time boys decide girls actually smell quite nice… It’s not really the stuff that ‘grins’ from ear-to-ear are made of.

And so, girls dealt the CBF card at birth are given as much chance as an operatic choirboy at 13. Left with no choice but to raise a white flag and surrender to a teenager’s moody stereotype.

You see for some girls, neutrally engaged facial expressions have never been trained to be anything more than that. There was never a discipline that we were told, nor were strict instructions provided of what our appearances should represent when inactive with others. Perhaps if that were taught instead of the ancient curriculam that was probably instated when Madonna was a child, CBF wouldn’t be at the epidemical status it is today.

Misery accusations dart around you like a housefly on a sugar high. You would think the more you swat them away, the more they’d get the message. You are absolutely, one hundred and ten percent spiffing. Fine and dandy. However, when it comes to Chronic Bitch Face, you are given no such luck.

One thing we can be thankful for is this generation. Because before a term for this expression malfunction was ever born, you were just referred to as a pubescent nightmare. Or when your name is Mandy, Moody Mandy. Mardy Mandy. Miserable Mandy. The alliteration game proved humorous. But there I was, Misunderstood Mandy, with my inner sunshine totally face blocked.

“Cheer up love, it might never happen.”

Typically annoying CBF remark no. 46, first received when I was 13 years old.

Well, sir. That depends on what you mean by “it”. If you’re referring to being singled out by a stranger and made the main attraction at the bus stop you frequent daily; due to the expression your face naturally falls into when your muscles want a bit of downtime, then yes. “It” just happened.

And whilst you’ve rattled my cage and we’re on topic; your negative observation of my sour appearance when it takes a well-earned rest has just added to my surly external look. But then again, you probably wouldn’t know that. Because that’s just the mysterious game my face likes to play with the world.

I guess at that very bus stop, whilst waiting for my transport to school, was where my battle with CBF really began. When you’re 12 years young and personally ridiculed, those words aren’t going to evaporate anytime soon. They’ll be written in a diary and repeated over and over by your curious, pre-teen brain. But let’s get one thing straight. Waiting for a bus, to embark on a journey where your destination enforces the teaching of Pythagoras and the patterns in plants chromosomes, isn’t ever going to be the highlight of a child’s day. But for me in particular, a lack of upbeat facial engagement meant that no one would ever know if that fathomed any truth or not.