Each Sunday, Marie Antoinette gives love advice, life tips and is your general emotional sherpa. To have the queen answer your own life dilemmas, email whatwouldmarieantoinettedo at gmail dot come.
I transferred to a college and have had trouble making new friends. My old school was a community college in my hometown and I’d grown up with everyone. Now I am in a sea of 40,000 and I don’t know anyone. My roommate finally said to me, “You just have to seem approachable.” Which means I haven’t been approachable? I’m just shy, but I think I must seem detached? Tell me what to do.
–The Very Shy Princess
I have felt your particular pain. When you have been raised as an Austrian Archduchess, you sit proudly even when no one is looking. This was my problem and I learned to soften it around others. Versailles visitor Francois Cognal spotted me as he walked the grounds and remarked, “She bears her head much more proudly when …she believes herself to be alone. Our Queen passed quite close to where we were standing and all three of us had an impulse to bend at the knee as she passed.”
I knew that my quiet dignity could be confused with arrogance. I once sat with my portrait artist Madame Vigée-Lebrun and said, “If I were not the Queen, the would say I looked insolent, is that not so?” I constantly fought being perceived as too haughty but could play it up if I wanted. An English child once witnessed me snap from fun and playful one moment to strikingly dignified the next to greet foreign ambassadors. For the child, the switch was a little frightening.
You need to imagine that everyone is that English child, ready to be entertained, ready to know you and have fun with you. Few people would resist letting an additional charming person into their lives. And few people will act cruelly to someone they do not know. You won’t meet your new best friends right away, but if you open your stance, scan for eyes you can make contact with and often simply introduce yourself, and have patience you’ll meet your new friends soon when you’re ready.
The Approachable Queen
1. Know your best angles. My sculpted busts showcased her proud carriage and haughty lip. Paintings of me softened my look considerably.
2. Smile more. You’ll seem more friendly and likable.
3. Make eye contact. The rules for royalty not making eye contact with the peasants has long since past.
4. Ask for help. Teamwork is the ultimate equalizer. Find a way to tap into someone else’s expertise is also flattering and appealing.
5. Mix and mingle. Nobles, royals and peasants mix in our modern day. Go where the people are and let them get to know you. Never eat lunch alone and consider strangers friends you haven’t met yet. Say hello. Say your name. Ask questions.
6. Don’t be shy. Shyness can be confused with aloofness. Transform yourself from the observer hugging a room’s perimeter to a participant in the center of a crowd.