Rock Angel's Reviews > Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath

Once Upon a Secret by Mimi Alford
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"JFK was a man whose sexual life remained a central fact of his existence, who did not allow it to be diminished by anything—not his political ambitions, not issues of national security, not his Catholicism, not loyalty to his friends and his male relatives, not physical limitation or pain, not the risk of infecting any of his partners with the venereal disease that regularly plagued him, not fear of impregnating someone, not the potential for personal embarrassment, and certainly, certainly, not his marriage."

Caitlin Flanagan used to write with clarity ("The Hazards of Duke" January 2011). But in this essay, after reviewing JFK's presidency and sexual transgressions with scathing criticism -- she made a surprising about-face just before delivering a contradictory conclusion, based on -- a photograph??

"I recently came across a Kennedy photograph ... his eyes glued to the precious head of his new baby boy — and I was gone. Let him have the girls, I thought; he could handle the girls and still put in an ace performance as Father of the Century. ... All the aging hookers and cast-aside girlfriends with book contracts better take notice: We don’t care about you. JFK is more important to us than you can ever be, so you might as well keep quiet."

Is she (Ms. Flanagan) that shallow? Does a performance, as she put it, trump facts? I may not be a feminist, I may not even care about an 18 month presidency half a century past, but I detest her non sequitur:

note: i'd always suspected that one could draw a line age-wise to guesstimate how ppl feel about JFK -- whether they see him for both his good and his bad, or whether they cling hysterically to some bygone sentiment like Ms. Flanagan. I could be wrong, but do comment!

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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Kenya (new)

Kenya I started reading this article, then put it down so I could look up the book online. Your comments made me go back and finish the article. As I read the last few sentences, I was hoping for some sign that Ms. Flanagan was just being ironic. I'm not so sure she was. I agree that younger people are more likely to see the whole Camelot image as phoniness.

message 2: by Rock (new) - added it

Rock Angel Thanks for your comment.

Someone needs to explain to me why otherwise intelligent (??) women act like they hit their heads on a rock when it comes to JFK. I once casually mentioned "The dark side of Camelot" in a book club and those women damn near impaled me with their looks of daggers.

I don't see men defending naughty Catholic priests with quite the same indignation. The only thing that resembles a lobotomy in men is when they see young women in tight tops. Remember the now famous "Primetime: What Would You Do?" segment when one after another, men passer-bys helped a comely young woman steal a bicycle in the park, even after she stated she was stealing? Flabbergasting.

Again, do comment.

I feel that Ms Flanagan did more than state her personal opinion. People like her, and permissive attitudes like hers "enables" future abuses, justifies them even. It's like she encourages men to get away with it.

"John Kennedy, that ravishing creature, could spend a morning riding unbroken horses, bareback, in the Newport sunshine with a very young Jacqueline Bouvier, and he could maneuver a 19-year-old Wheaton sophomore into bed within minutes of encountering her at a cocktail party, could groom her so completely to his liking that she could be goaded into giving a blow job to his friend while he stood and watched. We’re not supposed to like men like that; the ones who put in a boorish performance at it, we loathe. But the ones who can pull it off — God help us."

message 3: by Kenya (new)

Kenya I agree that there is an enabling aspect to all the admiration. I'm not sure that it affects the truly rich, powerful men - I think the power that they wield allows them to do as they like and that may not change. However, I think the adoration tells regular guys that this behavior is something to aspire to.

message 4: by Rock (new) - added it

Rock Angel I read Ms. Flanagan's response to a JFK fan here, and I am more confused than ever. Was Ms. Flanagan being sarcastic at the end of her book review??

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