Have you heard the story of the threesome B. Smith, her husband Dan Gasby — and his girlfriend Alex Lerner? B. Smith is a retired lifestyle celebrity and restauranteur. Gasby is a former television executive. And Lerner is a blonde, white woman who nicely fills out a tight sweater.
All three of them live together. B has Alzheimer’s. Apparently, she has no idea who Lerner is.
According to the Washington Post:
Not long after, B.’s restaurants shuttered. Her appearances dried up. With Dan Gasby, her husband and business partner of more than two decades, she turned her efforts to speaking about Alzheimer’s and advocating for research. Then, she didn’t do much talking at all.
But Dan turned to social media. He took over their Facebook page, sending near-daily missives to their 30,000 followers on the realities of caring for a spouse who was rapidly forgetting him — the fear she’d developed, her anger and frustration, his own.
Then, in December, Dan posted a Facebook photo of himself with a woman with a thick blond mane and delicate features. They are beaming, a dapper couple out to dinner. But the caption referenced, of all things, an old rap song by 50 Cent and the Game. “Hate it or love it,” it read. “You can debate, but for me, I’m feelin’ great.” He even used a hashtag: #whylie.
The story goes on to commend Gasby for his bravery, not just in caretaking B (which his daughter from his first marriage apparently does the bulk of), but for the openness of his dating status.
Despite the online response, those who know Dan and B. defend the relationship. “Anybody that would judge Dan knows nothing about the disease and the toll it takes” on a marriage, Schnayerson said. “If you can find a companion who can help you get through that, all power to you.”
Dana also pointed out that her father has not abandoned B. by any measure. “She’s in this house. She’s here every day,” she said
Wow. Dan didn’t abandon his wife because of her dementia? Bitch cookie! All the shiny supermodel has worn off, but he’s still there fetching ginger ale (or his daughter and girlfriend are)? Bitch cookie! He didn’t divorce a dying woman and still gets her residuals? Bitch cookie!
Oh hang on. I can’t criticize, because I don’t know the toll dementia takes on a partner.
I was at a wedding last summer herding my uncle Matt from wandering away. He one of the 44 million people in the U.S. with Alzheimer’s. My aunt never gets a break. She is his only caregiver. (This is the Aunt of “Your Walls Will Sing” fame.) She left to get a drink. Matt and I discussed the brick wall. And insurance. (Even with dementia he could recognize a bad repointing job.)
Crazy thing. My aunt drove hundreds of miles with my uncle to be at the wedding. No boyfriend.
I’ve got a friend whose mom has dementia. They can’t keep caregivers because mom likes to shake people’s hands… and bite them. Her parents (Mennonites) are still together after nearly 60 years of marriage, chomping and all. Her dad (a retired surgeon) caretakes. No girlfriend.
I guess these are the portraits in courage that don’t get instagram followers or features in the Washington Post. You stayed with your wife! You didn’t leave Matt on the side of the road after his 16,000th digression!
Several things bother me about that B Smith story — the biggest is that she cannot consent to this “open” relationship. Would she have chosen to have Miss Clingy Sweater move in?
But worse, by validating Dan Gasby’s choice, or lauding it as some kind of bravery, it cheapens the idea of deep commitment, in sickness and in health. That he’s a good person for NOT doing the Terrible Thing, abandoning a vulnerable spouse.
What’s the underlying assumption here? Oh God, you poor man — she has ceased to be good kibbles. She’s can’t say her lines on Good Morning America. She isn’t well met at a party. She can’t dress herself. The wife appliance broke. Get a replacement part.
It must be awful to lose your spouse, slowly. To bear the weight of caregiving. To simultaneously have a loved one and lose a loved one. Who am I to demand courage? To resign another to years of loneliness?
I think love demands courage. And what’s the alternative? Your commitment is only as good as your health? Don’t get sick. Don’t get pregnant and fat. Don’t lose your job. Don’t have needs. Don’t wander. Don’t bite.
Fair weather love? Don’t bother. I wonder if B. Smith agrees. Too bad we can’t ask her. And neither can Dan Gasby.