FACING FIFTY
by Queen Marie of Roumania
Hearst's International - Cosmopolitan, October 1925


I AM going to be fifty this year and I do not like it at all; in fact I hate it just as much as any other woman would. Half a century! It sounds horrid! But I carry my fifty years rather lightly, astonishingly so, as my life has been anything but a bed of roses every day.

Often I have been asked how I retain that look of youth. How? I cannot explain. It has of course something to do with the inner spirit, with that something that knows not age and which I believe to be stronger than the physical part of me so that it, so to say, carries me on wings.

Then there is also that love of life and humanity and that tremendous health which allows me to see the bright side of things and to smile, thereby hindering my face from settling down into sour lines.

How ugly it sounds, sour lines! And with women those lines are always inclined to settle round about the mouth; therefore do I recommend smiles. Not mincing, affected little smiles, but good broad, honest, welcoming ones; even a grin if you like, but a friendly one. And above all do not be afraid of laughing!

Laugh to your heart's content, about everything and anything, and laugh also about yourself; it is tremendously healthy. And especially laugh first, before you are laughed at. Also laugh last if you can! I assure you I have often taken the wind out of my enemy's sails by laughing at myself first.

And all this has a tremendous lot to do with the question of women, because good looks and how to retain them is a frightfully important matter to women and terribly so to a queen.

You see, for thirty-two years my people have loved my face, have considered it one of their dearest possessions-and now I am going to be fifty! A real tragedy or it ought to be, but somehow I am keeping it off. Certainly I have not been able to keep all lines from out of my face, but I have been able to keep them from settling down into ugly, depressing lines; and I have always allowed my spirit of love, fun, kindness to be stronger than the flesh, so that no one thinks of my age but only of my welcoming expression, and they feel that inner something which radiates from me in smiles and lights up my eyes.

Those who know how to look behind the surface may see the tears that are there beneath all the rest, but I do not let them fall nor let them mar that outward serenity which a queen needs.

With me the woman and the queen keep blending, so my life has been rich and full, my experiences manifold and certainly not dull, though light and shade kept running like a pattern through it all the time. And it has been dreadfully important for me to blend the queen and woman harmoniously, and I think that I have done so.

My opinion, confirmed by personal experience, is that a woman can be a tremendous power just by being a woman, as long as she uses that power in the right way, fairly, conscientiously and without trying to overreach. This I have learned by living—by suffering too—but that naturally goes hand in hand with the living.

I hate to think of women misusing their beauty for purely selfish ends and by that to a certain degree degrading a blessing they ought to be immensely grateful for.

Beauty is of course the surest key to every door—I have spoken about this before—but nowadays, thank God, there is more scope for woman; life is opening before her, she is working up to the top and she is beginning to have elbow-room.

I would, though, advise her remaining a woman for all that. I cannot say that I am quite in sympathy with that tendency of abolishing all differences between the sexes. To my mind a woman, however hard she may try, will never be anything else but a very poor sort of man, whilst if she lives up to the tip-top of her possibilities, she can be a splendid woman.

She ought never to allow man to forget or to overlook that she is a woman, or three-quarters of her power goes from her. If she accustoms man to elbow her and push her aside because she is trying to live his life, she will be defeated. On his ground he will always be strongest, whilst on her own she will remain supreme.

I do not mean by this that she must set herself up as the eternal lure, and catch man with her wiles and deceit; I hate that sort, though instinctively every woman will use a certain amount of wile. It was the weapon given her from the beginning of time, so there is no reproach. to her if she resorts to it occasionally.

What I mean is this: A woman, if it comes to a fight with man, will always get the worst of it. Nature has destined him to be strongest, and this woman must admit, which does not mean that he need be the conquering one.

Queens, in history, have generally left a name—those ruling in their own rights I mean: Elizabeth, Catherine, Maria Theresa, Victoria, and names further back in history. But they did not try to be men. They were all the greater rulers because they were "queens."

First of all there is for all men a certain glamour about a woman if she will only live up to it, and about a queen there is a double glamour. But she must never forget that she will be much more admired for doing a manly act if she never allows men to forget that she is a woman.

Joan of Arc did nothing remarkable if you compare her feats to those accomplished by men, but for a girl it was remarkable and had that wonderful glamour about it because she was a woman.

I am supposed to be intelligent, but if you began comparing my brains with a man's brains you would find them sadly wanting. I have all my wits about me and if I keep them from wandering they are quite sufficient for what is asked of me in life. .A little extra-much has been asked of me, no doubt, because circumstances and the times we live in so willed it.

Instead of allowing me to be merely a pleasant, good-looking woman, idling about to my own satisfaction, life seized me, so to say, by the scruff of my neck and made me turn all my possibilities into something else than play or self-indulgence.

BUT I never wanted or tried to be anything else but a woman, and I assure you, no man coming to me is ever allowed to forget it, even if he can find my brain answering his and my ways free from self-consciousness and affectations. All the time I keep well awake in his mind that he is having the pleasure of talking with a woman, that dreamed-of companion of every man's soul.

I think that the mistake the modern woman makes is that she wants to have it both ways. She adopts man's speech, his ways, his liberties, his looser morals. Yet when it suits her 'she will suddenly fall back upon being a woman and want man to show her the deference to which she has really thrown away all right.

Certainly modern life has liberated and is liberating woman from certain humiliations, from certain servitudes, and I am ungrudgingly with her in this; but she is going through a transient stage and she is not yet quite sure what foot she desires to stand on. She cannot be a man and must not try to be one, but she need no more be man's slave.

I was brought up by a mother who had a tremendous personality but who loathed the very word "feminism." Her ideas, ideals and moral conceptions were those of her time. She brought me up severely and then launched me out into the world a perfectly innocent little idiot, stuffed full of absolutely false ideas about life. She let me go to a far-off country alone, utterly unprepared, to swim or sink.

Sometimes I came near sinking, but my love of life, my instinct of self-preservation were strongest, and I learned to swim.

I even learned to swim against the tide, and in doing so my muscles hardened marvelously and one day I. found myself capable of looking not only after myself, but after many another as well, till I was at last looked upon as one of my country's greatest assets.

My life has been interesting—the life of a woman who never forgot that she was a woman, although many a time she had almost a man's part to play and had to have herself forgiven for being strong, like a man.

Sometimes I had to see a little bit beyond right and wrong as my mother conceived it, but it was forgiven me because I had to judge for myself, to stand by myself so that others could stand.

Let woman glory in being woman. That is the message I want them to receive from me.