London: Former girlfriends of US President Barack Obama have opened up for the first time of his “sexual warmth” and disclosed the contents of love letters that he sent to them during his 20s, in a new biography.
Genevieve Cook and Alex McNear, who had relationships with Obama in New York in the early 1980s, gave previously unseen material on Obama to David Maraniss, a Pulitzer prize-winning author.
Letters that Obama sent to McNear and journal entries by Cook depict a serious and earnest young man struggling to come to terms with his racial identity and place in modern American society, the Telegraph reported.
In one diary entry from February 1984, Cook – a girlfriend for more than a year – noted that in their relationship “the sexual warmth is definitely there – but the rest of it has sharp edges”.
She recalled “feeling anger” at Obama, whose “warmth can be deceptive”.
Foreshadowing a criticism often levelled at the President today, she said: “Though he speaks sweet words there is also that coolness”.
Cook mentioned meeting “Barry” at a Christmas party in 1983. After drinking Bailey’s Irish Cream from the bottle, she chatted with him on an orange beanbag, before exchanging telephone numbers.
Her journal recall a 22-year-old man who wore “a comfy T-shirt depicting buxom women”, and was marked by the smells of “running sweat, Brut spray deodorant, smoking, eating raisins, sleeping, breathing”.
Cook “engaged [Mr Obama] in the deepest romantic relationship of his young life,” but they separated in 1985, Maraniss wrote.
Reflecting on the “emotional scarring” that made him hard to get close to, she wrote at the time: “I guess I hoped time would change things, and he’d let go and ‘fall in love’ with me”.
Her journal entries described a long effort to understand Obama.
“How is he so old already, at the age of 22?” she asked herself. “I have to recognise (despite play of wry and mocking smile on lips) that I find his thereness very threatening.”
In another entry, she wrote that there was “so much going on beneath the surface, out of reach,” adding that Obama was “guarded, controlled”.
Meanwhile, McNear revealed an attempt at literary criticism by the young Obama, whom she had met at Occidental University in California, where they had both been studying.
The pair spent the summer of 1982 together in New York, following Obama’s transfer to the city’s Columbia University, and continued to correspond after McNear returned to Los Angeles.
In one exchange, Obama gave a densely-written opinion on TS Eliot, on whom McNear was writing a thesis.
“There’s a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism. Eliot is of this type,” he wrote.
McNear recalled to Maraniss - whose book is excerpted in the new issue of Vanity Fair magazine - that Obama was “obsessed with the concept of choice”, musing: “Did he have real choices in his life? Did he have free will?”
As the multiracial product of an international upbringing, he complained of being “caught without a class, a structure, or tradition to support me” and envying the clearly defined lives of Pakistani friends.