I can’t decide if I am in love with her or terrified of her — maybe both — but Alabama’s former first lady is a badass anyway you cut it, although I am sure there are at least two people in this state who would use slightly different adjectives to describe her these last couple of weeks. (But Bobby and Becky brought this mess on themselves, so who cares what they think?)
A couple of days ago, I happened upon a profile of the Bentleys published in Alabama Living some time shortly after the governor first took office. It was both heartbreaking and fascinating and really makes you realize how quickly things can change. Or maybe, even more so, how things aren’t always what they seem.
The interviewer asked them how they were adjusting to life in the Governor’s Mansion and what their lives had been like before, how they met and what were the governor’s favorite dishes she cooked for him (cornbread and chicken and dumplings were his answers), what they liked to do together, the typical type of profile questions.
And their life together sounded very sweet and routine … but in a good way, like your own parents or grandparents.
They married when they were both 22. She said he had every quality she wanted in a husband except, she joked, he didn’t like to dance. His dermatology office was just a couple of miles from their home in Tuscaloosa. She stayed home and raised their four sons and then, once grandkids came, she helped out with them doing carpool or whatever they needed.
While practicing as a dermatologist, he would come home for lunch every day, eat a 330-calorie Lean Cuisine and take a power nap.
When he decided to run for governor, she famously drove him around from campaign stop to campaign stop across the state. They sounded like a great team.
But she also described herself as extremely shy and said she always told his campaign people she just did not feel comfortable with public speaking.
You have to wonder when she first started to notice that this man with whom she had spent almost half a century of her life with was pulling away from her. And then, at what moment she realized who was doing the pulling.
Many women in her same situation probably would have just decided to look the other way — so many years together and such an established way of family life with their kids and grandkids — but she didn’t, and that took way more strength.
And she didn’t just quietly walk away. Girl formulated a plan.
She obviously knew her husband’s patterns so well, she knew exactly where to leave her phone to record his now-infamous conversations with his adviser, Rebekah Mason.
“I’m going for a walk on the beach, honey. I’ll probably be gone for a really loooong time. Get caught up on your ‘work.’”
And after she came back and realized she had audio gold, she had to know she could make any move she wanted because she had him.
Well played, Mrs. B. Well played.
None of us has any idea what went on between the Bentleys after those recordings. Or even long before. Did she confront him immediately or pretend like nothing was wrong? Was she heartbroken? Or hell, maybe she was tired of him too and felt relief. No one really ever knows what’s going on in anyone else’s marriage.
But I have been thinking about her a lot during this whole episode for some reason. Why did she (presumably) release these recordings two years later or at least let someone else release them? Was she drinking champagne (or sparkling apple cider) when the governor held the most embarrassing and awkward press conference in Alabama history? Did she giggle when Mason resigned? Has she enjoyed watching her ex-hubby squirm? Or does she not even really care what he does anymore?
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, I just find her fascinating. Because the actions of this self-described extremely shy woman who hates public speaking are about to take down yet another Alabama governor … and she didn’t have to say one word to do it.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, the old saying goes, especially by one who I am guessing was largely underestimated.
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