The idea of being First Lady sounds like living a life made of sugar and sunshine. Sometimes it is true but sometimes it’s not. There are miseries concealed behind those public smiles first ladies wear.
It’s just that their positions demand that the public does not deserve to know the rot taking place in the first family. They are trained to appreciate that nothing is more important than keeping a good public image even when all is not well.
Whenever people talk about an African First lady, the image that springs to mind is that of Grace Mugabe, the wife of Zimbabwe’s former autocratic leader Robert.
It’s Grace Mugabe who shopped for Louis Vuitton handbags as her country’s economy tanked. We have also heard of the eight of the Swazi King Mswati III’s wives who, accompanied by children, maids and bodyguards, chartered a plane for a world tour, taking in France, Italy, Taiwan and the US.
That’s the good of the position but you have not heard the bad yet. Sometimes it’s not rosy as we may think. There is frustration, neglect, boredom, betrayal and all negative things. In South Africa, one of Jacob Zuma’s three wives caused a scandal by sleeping with her bodyguard.
First ladies have a role of reassuring workaholic and insecure husbands. They scarcely see their children as well as husbands. They are denied privacy and they are always in the constant battle to shrug off their ever-present presidential security team. They have to put up with unfaithful husbands. Wife to former Nigerian President Olusegum Obasanjo tolerated a cheating husband who reached the extent of even sleeping with his daughter- in- law, Moji Sola.
According to a new book published in France, the wives of French presidents have been birds in the gilded cage of the Elysée Palace. The book goes ahead to expose the First Ladies’ boredom, frustration and feelings of being sidelined by a role that has no official recognition in France.
But the volatile history of French first ladies goes back at least as far as Marie-Antoinette, whose profligate spending helped fuel the French Revolution. From her famous quote “Let them eat cake” (which she actually never said) to her elaborate hairdos and lavish Versailles parties, the queen provided an all-too-convenient target for the anger of the French press and public.
American First lady Melania Trump has been subject to a narrative that she is unhappy with her life by President Donald Trump’s side. The public fascination with Trump is about her “burden” as first lady, and the signs of a bored housewife. I think there is a real mystery with the first lady.
She is sometimes looked at as the unicorn, because people are fixated by her. She doesn’t emote a lot; she is quiet. Actually the Slovenian-born first lady is very quiet and reserved which is a sharp a contrast from her predecessor, Michelle Obama, who was ultra confident and outgoing. May be it’s her genteel demeanor that could be mistaken for unhappiness.