Michelle Obama has a ridiculously difficult job. She has to raise a family and schmooze with googly-eyed dignitaries, all the while still having to share her shortbread cookie recipes with Good Housekeeping and her arm workout routine with Women's Health.
But some first ladies have not been so well adjusted. Some have mutated into shut-ins, murderesses, control freaks, and prima donnas (ironically, first lady in Italian). In honor of Michelle Obama's visit to Miami Dade College tomorrow, Riptide looks back at some of the less graceful ladies to share the presidential bed.
1. Mary Todd Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln) - Our most famous and celebrated president had easily the most insane wife. And it wasn't her husband's assassination or the deaths of her children that did it. No, Mary was born loco. She considered herself psychic. She predicted Abe's presidency (strangely, not his murder). She was known for fits of insane jealousy, accosting any woman who came near Honest Abe. She was a notorious spender, and eventually her only surviving child committed her to an insane asylum, where she wallowed in debt with imaginary tea party friends. Some historians think she went nutty because Abe was actually a ladies man and Mary contracted syphilis from him. Some more credible historians with perfect vision believe she went crazy because she had sex with Abe Lincoln.
2. Margaret Smith Taylor (Zachary Taylor) - A classic example of
a first lady who never wanted to be (paging Laura Bush), Margaret
Taylor was the subject of many White House rumors owing to reclusive
behavior. Though hanging out at home in those days of the presidency
was nothing new, folks said she sat in the attic smoking a corn cob
pipe. Oh, the horror of the 19th-century paparazzi! Anyway, she was put out of her misery when Zach Attack
was, well, attacked by acute gastroenteritis 15 months into his term.
Bad juju from killin' all dem Indians, we guess. Margaret died two
years later, still drinkin', smokin', and straight Potomac Coastin'.
3. Helen Taft (William Howard Taft) - You have to wonder about Joe Kennedy, who personally raised three boys that all ran for president or were president at some point. He was the Archie Manning of presidency, forcing his kids to practice vetoes instead of tossing footballs through a tire swing. Well, Helen Taft was no different. She took an overweight, likable, laid-back dude more accustomed to a ham sandwich and box social and turned him into the president. She was Taft's life coach. She made every decision for him. In fact, Taft even sent his wife to turn down President Teddy Roosevelt's request for him to be secretary of war, a slap in the face at the time. When they entered the White House, the control freak went all out. She banned bald and bearded men from working in the White House. She fired people who looked at her the wrong way. She was a time machine away from a reality show. But you have to give her props -- she basically made a president out of a Belushi.
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4. Florence Harding (Warren G. Harding) - You wouldn't have liked it when Flo came to town. She was an accused murderess. Accused of murdering whom, you ask? Her husband, the president. Harding died two years into his term, and though it's now generally agreed he had heart disease, at the time, some theorists believed his wife poisoned him. Supposedly she was in cahoots with Charles Sawyer, the surgeon general, who she was abnormally close to and who also died a mysteriously similar death soon after Harding. As for a motive, Warren cheated on her and preferred playing poker over listening to her jibber-jabber about alchemy. They were droppin' and yellin', it was a tad bit late, but Florence Harding hated Warren G and had to regulate.
5. Betty Ford (Gerald Ford) - Probably the only first lady in the history of the United States to leave a greater impact on the country than her husband, Betty had an epic substance abuse problem. With their powers combined, the Fords were Homer Simpson. Gerald liked football and nachos. Betty liked getting drunk. Betty also liked painkillers, which ruins our metaphor. One has to wonder if she ever came back from a bender overseas, partying all night with a sheik or emperor or that crazy-ass dame, Ladybird Johnson. Anyway, Betty kicked the habit and started the Betty Ford Center, which is great for substance-abusing celebrities who need a good blurb in the press and also an easy place to escape from when they get sick of faking it.
So Michelle Obama, first lady extraordinaire, you got some work to do in the loon department. We suggest the following eccentric and crazy life paths: carnie/acrobat, crime fighter, cowboy, bear wrassler, skyscraper climber, baby juggler, Ricky Williams, professional French horn player/duelist, cosmonaut, or Bill Murray impersonator.