BRF Syndrome

Have you ever heard of this syndrome?  BRF Syndrome?

Chatter about it has been going around the internet-sphere for quite some time now, but it meant nothing to me until my daughters reminded me of their growing up years as teenagers.

I led the congregational music in our church.  It was a non-demanding job and I enjoy the great hymns from centuries ago, as well as modern music. Hymnal music is very moving, so I thought I was doing a really good job, swinging my arms around, trying to get the congregation to speed up or slow down, put some emotion into their voices.

One day, my ten-year old asked, “Mom, why are you so mad when you lead the music in church?”


It’s spiritual, it’s moving, and it’s goose-bumpy to put lyrics to powerful music and contemplate the meaning of your religious beliefs.  And I look angry?

What the — ?

It took me several years to realize that I suffer from BRF Syndrome – that’s right, there’s actually a condition for people like me, why my face in thoughtful repose looks, well, just — bitchy.

This YouTube clip finally awakened me to my condition, and my three daughters and I all discovered that we have BRF Syndrome!  Who knew?

It was quite a traumatic experience to discover this, and we are determined that the only solution is plastic surgery to change our “natural” BRFs to pleasant, slightly amused expressions.  We all expect to go under the knife within the next year.

The condition hit home to me again when a congressional staff member recently criticized the U.S. President’s daughters – the delightful Malia and Sasha Obama — for what is clearly BRF (or as the mother of teens know, “don’t give me that look, girl!”)

Give the Obama girls a break!

Not only might they have BRF, but they’re teenagers and anyone who has ever reared or been a teen (I believe that’s the whole human race) understands that their faces in repose are thoughtful, reflective, and meditative, showing NOT bitchiness, or worse, INDIFFERENCE, but a fine mind contemplating serious matters.

Like — will I have a date to the prom?  Or — does Ronnie Hinchey like me?  — Or better still — is one of my eyebrows higher than the other?  Oh, no!

Please don’t judge those of us with BRF; be grateful if you don’t have it.  It’s so easy to be misunderstood.

What about you, readers.  Have you ever been misjudged for the expression on your face?  Do you have BRF?  

Have you ever passed (or been passed by) someone in the hall and been so absorbed in your own thoughts that you honestly didn’t “see” the person smile or nod at you?  Have you ever been misunderstood when your intention was totally benign?  Come on, share!

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  • Helen says:

    Is he coming back to the heat

    Have Fun

  • Helen says:

    Oh yes Jo to all of the above LOL my kids always knew the look that I would get when they were pushing my buttons and I have many times been walking around shopping centres etc and not noticed someone because I have been deep in thought. It is nice to know it has a name 🙂 not sure whether I would go under the knife 🙂 LOL it is me and I am sure it is just about everyone

    Have Fun

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Of course, it’s all in good fun. And the BRF Syndrome is totally a joke.

      But, like you, my kids always knew when I was on the warpath and they turned into angels in a New York minute!

      I’m sure when I’m deep in thought I look rather grumpy toward those around me, too.

  • flchen1 says:

    LOL, Jo! I TOTALLY have BRF–my kids dubbed it “mad face” as in, “Mommy, when you’re dancing, why do you have ‘mad face’?” Or “You have “mad face” when you read…” *sigh* When I dance for performance, I have to consciously remind myself CONSTANTLY to put a smile on or at least a “pleasant expression”… I’m not a great performer but I guess my performance BRF has improved slightly… Of last year’s recital, the kids said, “Hey, you look OK!” LOL!

  • Jane says:

    I sometimes have that slightly annoyed look to discourage others from sitting next to me on the subway or bus. At work meetings I try to stay alert and hopefully stop myself from adopting that bored look.

  • Amy Conley says:

    OMG This is SO my best friend! I met her when I was 12, twelve people, and woukd not go near her because I thought she was a bitch. In 8th grade we were in the same class and she sat in front of me. I got to know her and we are BFFs to this day. But I told her way back then the reason I ignored her was because she always has a bitchy look on her face. We took a census and most ppl agreed she wears a bitchy face. Part of this is heredity because she has a cousin that also has a bit hy face, so much so I asked her if she knew my BFF, and she tells me they are cousins! This was in a new to me town and I was looking for friends. So I gave the cousin several chances to prove that was just the way her face looked, but she failed and she really is a bitch. Even my husband, who only notices big things, like furniture in different places, a wife with a different hair color when he comes home from work than the wife he saw before work, or several rooms a different color after work than before. He NOTICED the cousin’s bitchy face! And it didn’t take him long to see she really is one also.
    I do wear the bitchy face, but not 24/7, and sometimes I wear it when I don’t mean to be bitchy, and hubby and all three of my kids will point it out. Now grandson #2, the totally uninhibited one, will point it out to me. LOL God love that boy.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      From the mouths of babes, Amy …

      I wonder what it is specifically that makes a person look bitchy. Is it the frown between the brows? Does the mouth turn down. Do the eyes stare in a challenging way.

      I don’t know how it could be hereditary unless it’s just that you resemble your parents, but then, who knows?

      • Cassondra says:

        Jo, I think it’s the mouth that turns down naturally.

        I think that’s what causes my BRF.

        It’s aggravating, but nothing you can do about it, yaknow?

  • Mozette says:

    Aaahh, yes! Resting Bitchy Face! I have been famous for having it and not realising it’s shown up on my face… and my family has asked if I’m okay, or why I’m in a snotty mood or if they’ve insulted me… but no, my face just rests this way sometimes.

    And when I’m reading, I get resting bitchy face… i can’t help it.

    You should have seen me when I sang in the choir… talk about resting bitchy face! I was concentrating so much on remembering the words (yep, no music in front of us), my face was set hard on resting bitchy face. 😛

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Hilarious, Mozette. I always tried to put on a pleasant expression when I sang in the choir, but it’s hard when you’re concentrating on the words or your part, especially is it’s second soprano or alto and you’re not familiar with the notes and have no music.

      I feel for you :))

      • Mozette says:

        I’m a Second Alto… where you have to reach deeper notes, try not to sing too high and leave out parts you want to sing but can’t because you sound like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. 😛

        Also, Dad used to film the choir and showed me what I looked like once… hmmmm… well, that couldn’t be helped, I told him because I had to concentrate; and I often had stage fright singing in front of over 2,000 people most of the time… 🙁

  • LOL, Jo!!!

    I’ve never heard of BRF before. And I’ve never been accused of having it.

    I have, however, a very, very distinct look that can never be misdiagnosed as anything other than Suz-is-pissed-off-and-holy-hell-I-hope-I’m-not-the-one-who-caused-it. AND if you’ve said something stupid, you’ll get the patented “you-didn’t-just-say-that” look over the top of my glasses. Yes, yes, sadly many a day-shift nurse has gotten that look during report and three teenagers got that look quite often growing up.

  • catslady says:

    I’ve just started hearing about this lol. Twice I’ve been accused of sleeping in a theater when I was just trying to concentrate on the words. Most people know my facial expressions – especially my eye roll lol.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Ah, the dreaded eye roll. I hate to see my teenaged grandchildren use it, and I absolutely forbade my children to use it with me. So disrespectful to parents!

      But, yeah, sometimes you just gotta go with a huge eyeroll, Catslady! Especially if people are being absolutely ridiculous.

      • catslady says:

        I never did it as a child lol. I always figured the eye roll was better than saying what I really thought.

  • Sally Schmidt says:

    At least it finally has a name! My husband and I got together the summer after 8th grade and have been married 45 years. He started out saying “A penny for your thoughts” and STILL says are you okay, what’s wrong, what can I do to make you happy, so I guess no one ever gets used to it or believes me when I say, I’m fine, it just the way I look. My granddaughter gives me the worried look – “Are you okay, Grandma?” My daughter just says “It’s that face, Mom.”

    And oh yeah, have done that hall thing, just walking along thinking, probably with the mad face, and don’t notice anything. Also realize AFTER a long conversation with a friend that while we talked and talked and I know I didn’t do all the talking because I try to be mindful of that, I didn’t ask nearly all the questions about them I intended to. Was it really all about me??

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Sally, it’s so hard to be misunderstood because of the look on your face. I wish people would try to assume that everyone likes them and if they don’t smile back or say hi, it’s because their thoughts are somewhere else.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Sorry I’m so late today, folks. I woke up with a touch of flu or cold or something that thinks it can take over my body.

    Stinks, huh?

    • Fedora says:

      Oh no, Jo! Take care of yourself, and hope you fight off that cold 🙁 Lots of warm snuggles for you!

  • Jo, I laughed at your post and I laughed even harder at that funny video. I have a miserable resting face – at least I think I do. I’m just chilling out, minding my own business, quite happy actually, and people come up to me and say, “Hey, the world isn’t ending.” Or “Hey, it might never happen, cheer up.” And the awful result of that is that it makes me miserable when I wasn’t miserable at all when I started out. Sigh.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I know, Anna! Isn’t that true? You’re just all chilling and happy inside and someone asks, “What’s wrong?” And then you start to wonder if something IS wrong, and worse, if something is wrong with YOU!

      It’s funny and sad at the same time.

  • Pissenlit says:

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! I didn’t know it was a thing!! I totally have that! My mum still periodically points it out and tells me to stop making that face which I apparently often do, especially while reading. That’s just what my face does! I can’t help it! LOL Then I purposefully smooth out my face into a blank expression…which just feels weird…and probably doesn’t last very long. 😀

  • This is SO me! Cracked me up! When I read or when I rehearse singing I am concentrating and apparently my concentration face is scary! Then again, I have to make use of a great many scary expressions at work. My coworkers know the look that means “Get it done or there will be consequences.” and the look that says “If you ask one more stupid question we will be starring on an episode of Snapped!” And I am told the most frightening of my expressions is the one I turn on children when they try to climb onto the cake case, or push labels off the shelves, or any of a dozen other behaviors I find completely unacceptable. Little children stop what they’re doing and scurry behind their parents. Someone will say “What happened?” and one of my girls wills say “She gave them ‘the look’.”

    Of course, if I am reading and someone asks “What’s wrong?” or “Why the sad face?” I simply say “I’m contemplating murder.” And they say “In one of your books?” I just smile and say “Okay.”


  • Jo, I may have some variant of this. I often look as though I’m grimacing in photos when I thought I was smiling. And yes, since I mentally live on Mars half the time, I’ve been known to not notice people around me.

  • LOL Jo. What a fun post! I don’t think I have BRF – but I might and have managed to scare anyone wishing to ask me what’s wrong. But my husband definitely has a mean-liiking resting face. I was always asking him what was wrong, and he, of course, denied anything was bothering him. I think he developed one of those deep scowl lines between his eyebrows at work. So he always looked mad. Botox made an incredible difference. LOL

  • Cassondra says:

    Jo, I definitely have BRF.

    My “no expression” is sort of “frown-like” and just for the record, it REALLY makes me mad when people walk up and tell me “smile! It won’t hurt!”
    I want to punch them…and become the bitch I apparently look like. :0(

    Really…why do people think that’s okay? It might just be the person’s natural expression.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Sorry I bailed yesterday, Buddies. I feel much better today and enjoyed your hilarious stories of your own encounters with BRF!