Here is the future most powerful man in the world, judged through the eyes of a long-ago ex-girlfriend as she records in her personal journal the demise of their brief but intense relationship:
Thursday, May 23, 1985
Barack leaving my life—at least as far as being lovers goes. In the same way that the relationship was founded on calculated boundaries and carefully, rationally considered developments, it seems to be ending along coolly considered lines. I read back over the past year in my journals, and see and feel several themes in it all … how from the beginning what I have been most concerned with has been my sense of Barack’s withholding the kind of emotional involvement I was seeking. I guess I hoped time would change things and he’d let go and “fall in love” with me. Now, at this point, I’m left wondering if Barack’s reserve, etc. is not just the time in his life, but, after all, emotional scarring that will make it difficult for him to get involved even after he’s sorted his life through with age and experience. Hard to say, as obviously I was not the person that brought infatuation. (That lithe, bubbly, strong black lady is waiting somewhere!)
Barack was, of course, future President Barack Obama. The woman was Genevieve Cook, who met Obama in 1983 at a Christmas party in Manhattan’s East Village. He was barely six months from his graduation from Columbia University. They crossed paths in the kitchen. He was wearing blue jeans, a T-shirt and a dark leather jacket.
The poignant, often intimate recollections come from “Barack Obama: The Story ” by David Maraniss. Vanity Fair published excerpts of the book, which will be published in June. They confirm Obama’s description of himself in his memoir “Dreams From My Father” as grappling with his identity. And they will resonate with those who regard Obama as charming but powerfully reserved, almost aloof—traits that have led more than one observer to liken him to “Star Trek’s” Mr. Spock.
Thursday, January 26 How is he so old already, at the age of 22? I have to recognize (despite play of wry and mocking smile on lips) that I find his thereness very threatening. … Distance, distance, distance, and wariness.
Saturday, February 25 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—and I begin to have an inkling of some things about him that could get to me.
Obama biography excerpt features early love life, ‘internal struggle’
Cook, 25, was an assistant second- and third-grade teacher at the time. She kept a detailed journal of her life, and Obama became a recurring character.
“How is he so old already, at the age of 22? I have to recognize (despite play of wry and mocking smile on lips) that I find his there-ness very threatening…. Distance, distance, distance and wariness,” she wrote on Jan. 26, 1984.
Another time, she wrote that Obama filtered everything, which she called “a strength, a necessity…. But I’m still left with this feeling of … a bit of a wall — the veil.”
Obama maintained a sense of distance even when Cook told him she loved him. His response? “Thank you.”
Cook believes race was a barrier: She was white, and Obama was struggling with his identity.
“He felt like an impostor,” she wrote. “Because he was so white. There was hardly a black bone in his body.” She came to realize that “to resolve his ambivalence … he needed to go black.”
They broke up in 1985, shortly before Obama moved to Chicago to work as a community organizer.