In the latest issue of VANITY FAIR, the magazine runs an excerpt from the book Barack Obama: The Story, by David Maraniss, to be published this month by Simon & Schuster.
What’s interesting about this book is that it tracks down ex-girlfriends of the president and has them speak openly about their relationship. Juicy right?
Two such ladies were Alex McNear and Genevieve Cook who dated President Obama in the early 80s while he was still a student at Columbia. In their pieces, they reveal him to be smart and WISE beyond his years, but also a workaholic with possible emotional issues. If anything, these recounts make the President appear even more personable and relatable.
Though President Obama has spoken in the past about his own emotional issues and often working too hard and not spending enough time with First Lady Michelle or the kids, through Alex and Genevieve’s stories you get a glimpse at where some of these issue began. First Lady Michelle has spoken about this too as something they went through several years ago and have worked through. Read the excepts here:
Girlfriend #1 – Alex McNear
….The loneliness of Obama’s New York existence emerged in his letters to Alex McNear, a young woman from Occidental who had enchanted Obama when she was co-editing the literary magazine Feast, and with whom he reconnected when she spent the summer of 1982 in New York. Alex had always been fond of Barry, as she called him, and “thought he was interesting in a very particular way. He really worked his way through an idea or question, turned it over, looked at it from all sides, and then he came to a precise and elegant conclusion.” When Alex came to New York, she gave Obama a call. They met at an Italian restaurant on Lexington Avenue, and, as she remembered the night, “we sat and talked and ate and drank wine. Or at least I drank wine. I think he drank something stronger. It was one of those dark, old Italian restaurants that don’t exist in New York anymore. It was the kind of place where they leave you alone. I remember thinking how happy I felt just talking to him, that I could talk to him for hours. We walked slowly back to my apartment, on 90th, and said good-bye. After that we started spending much more time together.”
….The long-distance relationship with Alex McNear after that summer—they would drift apart as time wore on—was conducted mostly through a series of passionate letters sent between his apartment (he was then living at 339 East 94th, in Manhattan) and hers, at 2210 Ridgeview Avenue, in Eagle Rock, California. By her account, the passion was as much about ideas and words as about their romance—what she later called “that dance of closeness through language.” Alex was interested in postmodern literary criticism, and her arguments brimmed with the deconstructionist ideas of Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher. In one letter she told Obama that she was writing a paper in her modern-poetry class at Occidental about T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” His reply wove its way through literature, politics, and personal philosophy..
Girlfriend #2 – Genevieve Cook
The party in the sixth-floor apartment was well under way when Genevieve arrived: lights dim, Ella Fitzgerald playing on the stereo, chattering people, arty types, recent college grads, some in the publishing world, none of whom she knew except the host. She went into the kitchen, to the right of the front entrance corridor, looking for a glass, then decided it would be less fussy to drink straight from the bottle. That was her style. She fancied smoking non-filter Camels and Lucky Strikes. She liked drinking Baileys and Punt e Mes, an Italian vermouth. Standing in the kitchen was a guy named Barack, wearing blue jeans, T-shirt, dark leather jacket. They spoke briefly, then moved on. Hours later, after midnight, she was about to leave when Barack Obama approached and asked her to wait. They plopped down on an orange beanbag chair at the end of the hall, and this time the conversation clicked.
He noticed her accent. Australian, she said. He knew many Aussies, friends of his mother’s, because he had lived in Indonesia when he was a boy. So had she, before her parents divorced, and again briefly in high school. As it turned out, their stays in Jakarta had overlapped for a few years, starting in 1967. They talked nonstop, moving from one subject to another, sharing an intense and immediate affinity, enthralled by the randomness of their meeting and how much they had in common. They had lived many places but never felt at home.
At night’s end, as Genevieve recalled that first encounter when I spoke with her decades later, they exchanged phone numbers on scraps of paper. “I’m pretty sure we had dinner maybe the Wednesday after. I think maybe he cooked me dinner. Then we went and talked in his bedroom. And then I spent the night. It all felt very inevitable.”
Her diary entries about him:
Sunday, January 22, 1984
What a startling person Barack is—so strange to voice intimations of my own perceptions—have them heard, responded to so on the sleeve. A sadness, in a way, that we are both so questioning that original bliss is dissipated—but feels really good not to be faltering behind some façade—to not feel that doubt must be silenced and transmuted into distance.
Thursday, January 26
How is he so old already, at the age of 22? I have to recognize (despite play of wry and mocking smile on lips) that I find his thereness very threatening…. Distance, distance, distance, and wariness.
Sunday, February 19
Despite Barack’s having talked of drawing a circle around the tender in him—protecting the ability to feel innocence and springborn—I think he also fights against showing it to others, to me. I really like him more and more—he may worry about posturing and void inside but he is a brimming and integrated character.
Today, for the first time, Barack sat on the edge of the bed—dressed—blue jeans and luscious ladies on his chest [a comfy T-shirt depicting buxom women], the end of the front section of the Sunday Times in his hand, looking out the window, and the quality of light reflected from his eyes, windows of the soul, heart, and mind, was so clear, so unmasked, his eyes narrower than he usually holds them looking out the window, usually too aware of me.
Saturday, February 25
The sexual warmth is definitely there—but the rest of it has sharp edges and I’m finding it all unsettling and finding myself wanting to withdraw from it all. I have to admit that I am feeling anger at him for some reason, multi-stranded reasons. His warmth can be deceptive. Tho he speaks sweet words and can be open and trusting, there is also that coolness—and I begin to have an inkling of some things about him that could get to me.
Genevieve was out of her mother’s Upper East Side apartment by then. Earlier that spring she had moved and was sharing the top floor of a brownstone at 640 Second Street in Park Slope. The routine with Barack was now back and forth, mostly his place, sometimes hers. When she told him that she loved him, his response was not “I love you, too” but “thank you”—as though he appreciated that someone loved him. The relationship still existed in its own little private world. They spent time cooking. Barack loved to make a ginger beef dish that he had picked up from his friend Sohale Siddiqi. He was also big on tuna-fish sandwiches made the way his grandfather had taught him, with finely chopped dill pickles. For a present, Genevieve bought him an early edition of The Joy of Cooking. They read books together and talked about what they had read. For a time they concentrated on black literature, the writers Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Toni Cade Bambara, and Ntozake Shange.
Early in Barack’s relationship with Genevieve, he had told her about “his adolescent image of the perfect ideal woman” and how he had searched for her “at the expense of hooking up with available girls.” Who was this ideal woman? Genevieve conjured her in her mind, and it was someone other than herself. She wrote, “I can’t help thinking that what he would really want, be powerfully drawn to, was a woman, very strong, very upright, a fighter, a laugher, well-*experienced—a black woman I keep seeing her as.”
Thursday, May 23, 1985
Barack leaving my life—at least as far as being lovers goes. In the same way that the relationship was founded on calculated boundaries and carefully, rationally considered developments, it seems to be ending along coolly considered lines. I read back over the past year in my journals, and see and feel several themes in it all … how from the beginning what I have been most concerned with has been my sense of Barack’s withholding the kind of emotional involvement I was seeking. I guess I hoped time would change things and he’d let go and “fall in love” with me. Now, at this point, I’m left wondering if Barack’s reserve, etc. is not just the time in his life, but, after all, emotional scarring that will make it difficult for him to get involved even after he’s sorted his life through with age and experience.
Hard to say, as obviously I was not the person that brought infatuation. (That lithe, bubbly, strong black lady is waiting somewhere!)