May 4, 2012
I'm feeling queasy today. Confused by existential questions, drawn into the dark well of the past.
Yeah, I know — there's no other reason to write in a journal, right?
Anyway, I keep thinking about diaries and about Barack, and how I'd feel in his position.
There's a new book about his life — "Barack Obama: The Story," by David Maraniss — that contains journal snippets from one of his old girlfriends, along with letters he wrote to another woman when he was in his 20s.
Call me old-fashioned, dear diary, but the publication of those private words while Barack is still president creeps me out.
Who among us who has ever kept a journal, or been written about in someone else's, can't feel some pity and horror on behalf of Barack, exposed? Aren't letters and diaries supposed to be kept private?
Not that Barack's old girlfriends have revealed anything shocking, at least by TMZ standards.
When he was 22, his bedroom smelled of runners' sweat and Brut cologne? Hardly breaking news.
To tell the truth, dear diary, I had to laugh at how Vanity Fair's book excerpt called it "the untold story."
Please. This story sounds like 3.5 million other stories of its place and time, and if Barack hadn't become president, it wouldn't be worth telling:
Two 20-somethings hang around the apartment half-dressed in the mornings, drink coffee, read the paper, fret about the future and their identities, go running, take showers, eventually go separate ways.
All of that is as routine as keeping a journal, which they both did. Of course they did.
Is there anyone alive who graduated from college between 1975 and 1990 who didn't keep a journal? That was the wild flowering of the journaling craze, when people all over America, young people especially, took to scribbling their lives and love affairs into little books, recording every habit, tic, and objectionable behavior of the beloved, in a blissful, questing fever.
Letters were written, too, on paper, often the navel-gazing kind barely distinguishable from the journal.
Oh, dear diary, I shudder, tenderly, to remember.
I bet a lot of those journals sounded like Genevieve Cook's, smart, confused, yearning:
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..."
Her details aren't novel or especially revealing. The picture she paints of Barack — brooding, guarded, in search of himself, not sure how to get there — isn't much different from how he portrays himself in his memoir.
But there is a shock value to her journal. It's the shock of seeing their intimacy, in all its mundanity, put on public display at this point in his life.
I don't know, dear diary. Maybe if one of my old boyfriends had become president I'd be tempted to throw my journal open to the world, too, to stake my own tiny place in history through it, to feel I was helping explain him for posterity.
But here's the question: If you have a president in your past, do you have an obligation to history to share the private details ASAP? Or is your obligation to respect his privacy, at least until he's out of office?
See, dear diary, this is why I stopped writing in a journal. So many questions, so few answers.
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