Ooooh, London Underground, you damner of souls and smiles.

It’s 8:00am. People everywhere. A gentlemen with a grey tweed coat and checkered tie is pushed up against your butt, and you’re not loving it. He might be. A teeny little lady with a cream jacket and maroon leggings has her shoulder pressed into your boob. Once again, you’re not loving it. Considering her face is almost buried in a tall hipsters navel, just moments away from his harem panted crotch, you doubt she’s having the best time either. All around are human beings, simply needing to get somewhere soon; to work, to the nearest Starbucks while they complain about not having work, or back home after a night at work. And apart from this common desire, they all have another thing in common…

Resting Bitch Face.

Do we all know what that is? A much publicised problem of girls who “look like bitches” – an assumption not based on experience or personality, but solely on how crabby they appear when not actively smiling. A resting bitch face is a plight that befalls many a woman, and now it seems to have taken hold of the entire London Public Transport System. Especially the Tube. So many people, so many potential conversations or friends, yet so many expressions that scream “Talk to me at your peril, touch me and die.” This makes me laugh, as half the crowd is accidentally molesting the other half at any given time. I look around amidst the sea of pinks and creams and olive greens (in fashion this winter, itsapleasure) and could imagine a happier visage on the face of a zoo keeper about to muck out the elephant enclosure the day after Indian Dumbo’s turn to cook.

You are welcome for that mental image.

It’s not a mystery, this modern method of misgivings towards others, a general attitude of ‘back off’. Certain sorts of society have made it clear that they are far more comfortable by themselves. But here in London, it’s as if the tube itself has created a  vacuum that sucks in all happiness. And it all shows in the face.

london underground expression smile
My Scary I’ve Had Too Many Marshmallows Smile
caitlin liebeneberg
My Usual Wholesome Happy Smile
My Face On The London Underground

Look how angry I am! Waaaaah! What have you done to me London!

Just kidding. I refuse to develop LRBF (London resting bi… Oh, you got it? My bad). But it is a challenge. I’ve been described as annoyingly happy, weirdly sunny, obstinately cuddly even. One might say I’m potentially as friendly as the people riding the tube on a Friday evening after a pint or ten. Yet I have found my usually happy features melting downwards into the dour semi-sulk of the bitch face. Part of this comes from the semi-terrified response of ‘whyareyoulookingatmewhathaveIdonedoiknowyouhelp’ that is sent sent my way when I grin at someone. When I catch their eye as they pretend not to notice my existence and give them a little smile, it’s an odd double take – but somehow only in the facial region. The rest comes from the gravity of the LRBF power – pulling the corners of your mouth down to frown town.

Honestly, it’s not all bad. I’ve had some really pleasant chats travelling up and down in those speeding sardine tins. But each one of them comes with the addition of “NO ONE talks on trains, this is so unusual” and every time someone I know hears about a new train friend I’ve made they’re incredulous. Sometimes I worry I might shock a fellow commuter into a heart attack with a whispered joke, and then everyone will hate me anyway because of the delays.

Because the LRBF concerns, amuses and annoys me, I’ve decided to finish off with a few hints and tips on how to beat the pull of the pout, and potentially pluck a pleasant grin from those around you.


TIPS FOR THE AWESOME ADVENTURER – Beating London Resting Bitch Face

1. Be aware! It’s important to keep track of your face. After some time in London, especially when you’re tired or it’s crammed or your boss has been a douche, it’s easy to lose sight of your priorities. One moment you’re sitting (if you’re lucky) on the Underground thinking everything is OK. Then, suddenly, you realise you have the face of a child that’s just been told that Christmas is cancelled and Santa is in jail for inappropriate reindeer related issues. DAMN! You have to pay attention to keeping your resting face neutral at the very least. It’s all about focus people.

2. Smile at people. So, yes, it can be awkward. You might smile at someone and they look at you like you’re the one who’s been fiddling with Rudolph. It can also be rewarding. You also might smile at someone and receive one in return for making their day just that much brighter. Either way, in the first case you can amuse yourself by laughing at the smile leper and his ridiculousness, or you get a karmic noddy badge for being nice. Just do it. Smile.

3. Employ Tips 1 and 2! Never forget to be aware and to smile… I suppose you could also imagine everyone naked, though that might incur nausea rather than joy. And remember – all good tips come in 3’s.

Good luck on the Tube readers dear, should you ever need to use it. My final words on this matter are:

Illegitimi non carborundum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.