I was in Mike Company at Navy OCS in Newport, RI, when I heard the news of Kennedy’s assassination. Mike Company was about to march somewhere. Mimi Alford was in a car with her fiance headed off to visit her parents in New Jersey. Astonishment, grief, but most of all, profound isolation struck her. She had no one to share her grief with.
Alford and I were just about the same age. She had gone to Miss. Porter’s finishing school and Wheaton College. Being of Social Register ilk Mimi was a debutante. The only commonality might have been our growing up in a large house in the country and a private childhood. Her family like mine was comfortable, but not rich. My stepmother would have given one of her appendages to be listed in the Social Register. Mimi became a White House intern. I worked in a German tire factory, bummed around Europe and went to sea.
My wife read Mimi’s confession first and peeked my interest. What affected me most was a renewed perception of how naive I was in the those years. This is no chick beach read. A child of the sophisticated Eastern culture, Mimi was a virgin. Think Hayley Mills here. Thanks to the vulgarities of boy talk in a rural, country school, I heard the smut that passed for sex education in those days; but I was a virgin, too. To listen to the boys, I was the only one who wasn’t “gettin’ any.” Truth is, most of us were not, even up in the hay mow. The guys really were most excited about basketball. The so-called liberation of the Sixties really did not happen until the Seventies — perhaps after Kent State when America lost another kind of virginity.
From the time JFK pushed her down on that White House bed until she refused oral sex with brother Ted Kennedy, Mimi complied with the activities, captivated by the President’s bewitching charisma and the passing scene of high level politics. White House buzz entranced the coed. Mimi was a voyeur, albeit a sweet one, of Camelot. Sadly she passed too much time playing the “Waiting Game” in lonely hotel rooms waiting for her prince. It strikes me as sad, pathetic. Without the setting and mystique of the Kennedy era, the tale would have been just a tale of sex addiction and victimization. Kennedy, of course, was bigger than life; or was he?
I am still thinking about my experience of Alford’s tale, of youth and folly. This is no chick read. It is absolutely true — most of us have no idea when we are young, how to handle what is thrust upon us. Perhaps that’s why age and wisdom, if we’re lucky and eventually mindful, brings a sense of acceptance, resignation and rather joyful peace. Mimi says she has all three.
Steadfast and cautious,