I’m going to ruin the surprise and say up front that it’s because my relaxed face looks like I’m pissed-off if I don’t actively convey positive emotion.
To make matters worse, my typical reaction to being angry is to be very, very quiet. Another thing that makes me be quiet is a social situation where others are discussing something that I have no interest in, or where my opinion is so at odds with theirs that it’d do no good to add it to the conversation. For instance, there was a half-hour block of conversation earlier today. Trucks vs. snow (don’t care), vaginal vs. G-spot orgasms (don’t care), ripeness of bananas (they’re clearly wrong), naked pictures (don’t care about theirs), and all sorts of other topics, some spoken close range, sotto voce, some at normal conversational volume, and some (the G-spot conversation, in particular) shouted in a 3-way conversation between people as far away as they could be and still be in the pharmacy.
Didn’t breathe a word – the entire time. And I think it’s a positive feedback loop. The quieter I am in a situation like that, the more my body treats it as being angry about something, which leads me to be progressively less interested in joining a conversation. To be fair, part of my frustration might have been due to the fact that the participants were not people capable of talking and working; the workload was, thankfully, small enough to be managable all by myself.
In other situations (for some reason, new people at a bar is the first one that springs to mind), I am perfectly OK not contributing, if I don’t have anything useful to say. I like to pretend that on paper, this is a good thing (and Abraham Lincoln would agree); I think in practice, though, I come off as cold. At least in a bar, I am in the conversation to gawk at a hot man or something, at work it’s just because I’m getting paid.
Normally, I’d be all about retaliation, but in this case, it wouldn’t make any sense. The coworkers I’m talking about are my age, and I feel like we have had wildly different life experiences. I really wanted to bring up fisting or watersports or something as retribution for their lengthy G-spot discussion, but decided that I am already enough of an outcast, and that’d certainly be outside their comfort zones, given that they still giggle when someone sends them a naked picture on their phones.