Opinion: B. Smith Deserves Better Than This
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Until recently— as in earlier this week— Dan Gasby was relatively unknown. If you were a follower of model-turned-restauranteur turned lifestyle guru-turned TV host and more, B. Smith, you might have been able to identify him in context, as her husband. In 2014, he co-wrote a book with his famous wife about her diagnosis with Alzheimer’s. On the cover, B. Smith is snuggled against Gasby as he stands stoically, seeming braced for whatever the future brings. Smith’s eyes are closed with assured comfort that her husband will take care of her.

Fast forward five years. Gasby is posting pictures of his new girlfriend—she’s White and ten years younger, if it matters to you— to the Facebook page he shares with his ailing wife. And for reasons obvious to everyone but Gasby and his girlfriend, commenters are outraged.

A curious reporter from The Washington Post headed to Sag Harbor where Dan lives with his wife to see what the fuss is about. On Monday, she reported her findings. Black women have been talking nonstop about the story in group texts, all over social media, and the comments section of any media site who still allows feedback. (I was tagged, DM’d or texted no less than 70-times with people asking me to write about this.)

In summary,  Gasby not only goes on dates with his girlfriend and Smith, who does not recognize herself in photos or paintings, but he also posts the pictures of the three of them on Al Gore’s Internet like they’re one big happy family. The new girlfriend functions as an additional caretaker, of sorts, to her married boyfriend’s wife when she…  wait for it… stays over in the marital home with Gasby and Smith, his sick, but very much alive, wife.  The girlfriend has her own room.

The collective consensus: Dan Gasby is trash.

In light of the WaPo article, Gasby has taken himself on a press tour to defend and promote this clown behavior. He’s already announced a radio show with his girlfriend, and on Tuesday the pair will appear together on Dr. Oz to discuss the backlash they’ve faced since going public. Gasby added that he and his girlfriend have received death threats.

Um. Dan Gasby has lost his mind too. And I say that as someone who is empathetic to his plight as a caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer’s. My grandmother had it.

When she passed in 2007, she didn’t recognize my mother or me. She could tell you about what happened in 1960 with startling clarity, but she couldn’t remember what happened in the present 30 seconds ago. When my grandfather died, she couldn’t remember his passing. I stopped telling her the truth after the fifth time she asked where he was. That’s what Alzheimer’s is. At the funeral for her husband of 62 years, my grandmother stood next to me in front of his open casket, looked in, then asked me, “who’s this?” That’s what Alzheimer’s is too.

I loved my grandmother dearly, but caring for her even for short periods of time would make me feel like I was living in Groundhog’s Day. Between the endless repetition and forced patience, the frustration of watching your loved one regress and the helplessness of not being able to do anything about it, and the guilt for being annoyed, and the pity for the illness, and the mourning of losing someone you love while they’re still alive, it takes an enormous emotional toll.

So I don’t fault Gasby for seeking and retaining companionship. B. Smith is alive, yes, but her essence is gone. She speaks in incoherent sentences to express incomplete thoughts. Her husband is not able to hold a meaningful conversation with her, maintain an emotional connection and certainly not physical one; she’s not of sound mind to give consent.

Yes, he took vows for “in sickness and in health” and “’til death do we part” and “forsake all others” and “for better or for worse”. And there are some folks that think he should take a vow of celibacy and loneliness until the end of his days— or Smith’s. I am not one of them. The fiercely devoted husband of the ailing wife made for a great love story in The Notebook, but an occasional thirty second window of lucidity every few days or weeks is not enough to sustain most people in the real world. He has needs. And not because he’s a man. But because he’s human.

And still, Gasby has gone too far, not just by having an intruder in his marital home, but by flaunting his extramarital relationship. There are times in life when folks just need to go on and do what they need to do to get by and they need to STFU while they do it. This is one of them. Sir Gasby needs to learn the lost art form of discretion and practice it with haste!

For the love of good sense, I just can’t figure out why he’s running his mouth about this. It’s not like anyone at all was sitting around thinking, I wonder what B. Smith’s husband is up to these days? And maybe that’s the point. Some men can’t deal with being overshadowed by their more prominent and powerful wives. Their egos and need to be seen get the best of them. Every documentary about Whitney Houston’s life and death always mentions how Husband Bobby began to act out — multiple arrests, multiple affairs—to get noticed. Maybe this is Husband Dan’s plan too?

It’s effective. If nothing else, Gasby knows how to get people talking… but at what cost? Whenever he was thought of in passing before, he was B. Smith’s fiercely loyal husband who was holding her down. We the Public didn’t know much about him, but he garnered respect. Now we know who he is and think of him as the guy who is destroying B. Smith’s legacy and robbing her of dignity in her final days. She deserved better than this.

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty. Follow her on Instagram at @demetriallucas and check out her podcast, Ratchet & Respectable.

 

 

 

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