Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy by Mimi Alford

onceuponOnce Upon a Secret:
My Affair with President John F. Kennedy
and Its Aftermath

Mimi Alford

3 book marks

I wonder how long it will take me to be able to resist the lure of yet another tale about JFK. I was pulled into Mimi Alford’s trap and her attractive book jacket, showing a young Mimi Beardsley in her proper dress and clutch purse and I admit I opened her book and read.

Hmmmmm. The motivation of some memoir writers. Mimi Alford says she was “outed” by another author and felt she must set the record straight and tell her own story. Okay. But what I came away with was the feeling that Mimi Beardsley’s relationship with President Kennedy was not the affair she claims it to have been, but something quite different, with JFK calling the shots.

Being a nineteen-year-old ingénue and being pursued by the President of the United States was, for certain, an overwhelming situation. But it is this kind of situation that defines a person’s character. Miss Beardsley decided to go for it for eighteen months and she is who she is because of that. She correctly points out that this relationship put a crack in the foundation of her marriage before it was even set and I give her credit for this insight. The agreement between Mimi and her future husband, Tony Fahnestock, to never discuss JFK created the unhealthy pattern in their marriage of avoiding all difficult discussions and certainly contributed to its end.

Of course, JFK deserves a great deal of the blame for taking advantage of Mimi. What’s puzzling is that Mimi does not seem to blame him for this, preferring to think that their relationship was special. In addition she never thought about whether JFK was carrying on with other women besides herself, and she did not think about the First Lady at all. On top of that, she has no regrets. When asked in an interview if she would do it again she said, sure. It was too much fun to say she wouldn’t.

This is not great literature. If you’re interested in knowing more about Kennedy’s private life, maybe you’d want to read this. Or maybe you like reading about preppy debutantes and finishing schools. And certainly there are some lurid details to keep you interested. If so, then go for it. Then you can ask yourself if this was an affair or if you want to give it a different name.

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