FRESH out of Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Conn., a well-brought-up young woman named Mimi Beardsley (now Alford) went to work, in 1962, as an intern in President Kennedy’s press office.
So begins an interview with Ms. Beardsley, now Alford, in Sunday’s New York Times, which then goes on to tell a fairly common Camelot kind of story in the most astonishing way imaginable. The general tone of the piece is a kind of “isn’t this sweet” googley-eyed gushiness which seems bizarrely at odds with the actual events it describes.
…everyone now knows that, on the fourth day of her internship, after a trusted aide and go-between, David Powers, plied the 19-year-old intern with daiquiris, the president gave her a private tour of the White House residence and then took her virginity on the first lady’s bed. (Mrs. Kennedy, conveniently, was away.)
Whoa. Did I get this straight? We know well that JFK was more than a bit of a roue, but this seems pretty tawdry, and not a little bit tacky as well. Kennedy’s long-time Boston henchman “plies” a nineteen year old virgin with booze, and the President nails her on the marital couch? How cute. How romantic. How just too, too dashing and wonderful!
Surely the Times doesn’t condone this? (We ourselves, not normally much disturbed by this sort of thing, remain unmoved — we long ago ceased to marvel at or care much about the private lives of public figures.)
But the Times? That stern guardian of public morality? Not here. It’s all just a playful lark. And is the Times at all disturbed by the fact that Mrs. Alford has just published a book about this?
How had she managed to be so discreet for so long, I asked, especially when she was a young intern? “I think it was the era, the times,” she said. She said, however, that she now wishes that she had not been so closemouthed. Keeping a secret like that, she explained, “silences a piece of you inside.”
We used to call this sort of thing “kiss and tell,” and it wasn’t particularly admired, but in Mrs. Alford’s case, it’s different:
Leaning forward in her tailored dark dress and ladylike pearl earrings, Ms. Alford told me she applauded the societal changes that have given young women more sexual freedom.
Wait a minute. You mean to tell us that we now define “sexual freedom” as:
1. Sleeping with another woman’s husband behind her back on her own bed, and
2. Writing a tell-all book about it?
Yes. The article concludes with Mrs. Alford telling the interviewer ““In these last two days, I feel incredibly liberated.”
Again, we are slow to condemn anyone for what they may do behind closed doors. But that’s a long way from hailing it as some kind of milestone in the slow upward march of women’s rights.
Finally, we can’t help wonder what kind of article the Times might run if Mr. Romney or Mr. Santorum were found to have bedded a nineteen year old schoolgirl after sending a chum to warm her up with a few cocktails. We suspect that their response might be somewhat different, but after all — they aren’t dead, and they aren’t JFK.