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President John F. Kennedy: Personal Life, Marriage and Affairs

About the personal life of President of the United States John F. Kennedy, including his marriage to Jackie and his affairs and bachelor life.

Personal Life: During Kennedy's years in the House of Representatives, he won national publicity as "Washington's Gay Young Bachelor"; but when he began to entertain higher ambitions, it seemed time to put an end to all that. In 1952, he met Jacqueline Bouvier, the daughter of a socially prominent New York stock-broker and a former "Deb Queen of the Year." The 23-year-old Jackie, who had studied at Vassar and the Sorbonne, was working as an "Inquiring Camera Girl" for a Washington newspaper. She was obviously fascinated by publicity and power, and some Washington friends tried several times to introduce her to Kennedy before they were finally brought together at a small dinner party. As Jack later recalled: "I reached across the asparagus and asked her for a date." The courtship that followed was frequently interrupted by Jack's trips to Massachusetts to campaign for the Senate. Nevertheless, he managed to keep in touch with Jackie. As she remembered it: "He was not the candy-and-flowers type, so every now and then he'd give me a book. He gave me The Raven, which is the life of Sam Houston, and also Pilgrim's Way by John Buchan." (Jackie's favorite reading, however, was Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.) Kennedy and Jacqueline were married in a brilliant society wedding in Newport, R.I., in 1953, when Jack was 36, and Jackie 24. During their 10 years together, they seldom expressed their affection in public, but Kennedy was obviously proud of his brilliant and stylish wife. On one occasion, he showed off her knowledge of antiquity by taking out a book on Greek civilization and quizzing her in front of their friends for half an hour. As President, he was delighted with the attention that she received everywhere, and on a trip to Europe he once introduced himself as "the man who accompanied Jackie Kennedy to Paris." Over the course of the marriage, Jackie was pregnant 5 times; but she suffered 2 miscarriages and her last child, Patrick, died when he was 2 days old. Kennedy had never been particularly fond of children before his marriage, and once, when the 4-year-old daughter of a friend recoiled rather than kiss him, the father quipped: "I don't think she quite caught that strong quality of love of children-so much of the candidate's makeup-which has made him so dear to the hearts of all mothers." Nevertheless, when he had children of his own, Kennedy was a doting father, and his favorite hours of the day as President were the occasions when Caroline and John-John were allowed to run wild in his office. Kennedy also delighted in touring toy stores with his children and running up bills for hundreds of dollars.

When Kennedy was elected President, one of his top aides privately predicted, "This Administration is going to do for sex what the last one did for golf." Naturally, there was constant gossip concerning the handsome young President's extramarital adventures. The most persistent rumors centered on movie stars Marilyn Monroe and Angie Dickinson-Ms. Dickinson was a friend of the Kennedy family. Though it is certainly true that Kennedy maintained his eye for beautiful women, the stories of passionate love affairs are outlandish and unsubstantiated. The evidence suggests that he always considered women a pleasant diversion, but that in his later years he hardly had time for them. Moreover, he was much too careful a politician to risk exposure with a public that was already suspicious.

His days as "Washington's Gay Young Bachelor," however, were another matter. Kennedy dated a dazzling succession of debutantes and Hollywood starlets, and no one claims that his interests were exclusively platonic. During his Senate campaign in '52, his Republican opponents got hold of a snapshot showing the young congressman reclining on a Florida beach beside a nude and spectacularly buxom girl. His worried aides brought the photo to Kennedy's attention and the candidate studied it for a moment with obvious interest. Finally, he smiled in recollection: "Yes, I remember her. She was great."

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