A woman claiming to be one of John F. Kennedy’s former lovers is opening up about their alleged affair.
In an essay published on Saturday on Air Mail, Diana de Vegh said she engaged in an affair with the 35th President of the United States when she was 20 years old.
The relationship allegedly began in 1958, making him twice her age. De Vegh, now 83, said that Kennedy would often say there was “something special” about her, which admittedly captured her attention.
But this, she said, “is not a romantic story.” In fact, she said it took “years to recover” from the romance — “almost as many years” as it took for her to come forward with her story.
Ignoring Kennedy’s marital status was both “easy” and “emotionally convenient” for de Vegh as well. “He never mentioned it, so … I decided not to think about it,” she wrote in the essay (Kennedy was famously married to wife Jackie Kennedy from 1953 until his death in 1963).
De Vegh said that she was a junior at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass., when she attended her first political dinner, a benefit for Kennedy. She even got to sit next to the man of the hour, who had hinted at a potential presidential campaign in a speech during the event.
Later that evening, de Vegh recalled, she and Kennedy locked eyes from across the table. At one point, the Massachusetts Senator asked someone to give up their seat “so a tired old man can sit next to a pretty girl,” leaving the college student starstruck.
The two supposedly met up several times following the benefit. Eventually, de Vegh said, Kennedy invited her back to his apartment in Boston.
“In this apartment, something different,” she wrote. “He was leaning toward me, with such a sincere gaze. Yes, I knew how he felt about me. How could I doubt this moment of such profound connection? This was love, for sure.”
At that moment, de Vegh said she knew the two were about to begin a romantic relationship, though she admittedly was not thinking about potential repercussions.
As time progressed, however, their connection became strained as Kennedy gained political power. Still, de Vegh said she stuck with the popular politician, dropping out of graduate school and moving to Washington, D.C., after he was elected President in 1960.
Shortly before the election, de Vegh said her father had attended a business dinner with Kennedy. Neither man knew of their connection to each other at the time, she claimed.
Kennedy discovered the connection during the festivities for his presidential inauguration in January 1961 after the two had grown distant, despite de Vegh’s move to D.C. Years later, she now wonders “what might have been going on in his head” when it clicked.
It was then that de Vegh said she realized she was “generic” in Kennedy’s eyes.
“The man with whom I believed I was having a love affair did not want to connect certain dots,” she wrote. “In fact, he wanted me to be as isolated as possible, alone on the vast sea of his attention.”
De Vegh said she soon “began to hear certain names” that apparently were floating around his circle. While she didn’t know them personally, she said the “jealous” 22-year-old version of herself “read about them with obsessive interest.”
During a subsequent rendezvous, de Vegh accused Kennedy of no longer loving her. She said it was in that moment that he had “avoided” using that word with her all along.
The relationship ultimately fizzled out, and de Vegh left her position with the National Security Council to start a new life in Paris. She eventually found a passion for social work and opened a private psychotherapy practice of her own.
In retrospect, de Vegh believes Kennedy was purposefully separating her from her peers, who she said “might have offered some emotional ballast” had they caught wind of the situation.
“What could I have been thinking?” de Vegh said, adding “I was feeling, in full movie-star-infatuation mode.”
De Vegh has also questioned the parameters of consent, especially in wake of the #MeToo movement, which she believes “has provided a specific context for needed re-evaluation.” Inequality and idealization, she said help fuel toxic celebrity relationships.
“For a Great Man, he was still in the throes of the male mythology of his time: see pretty young woman, have pretty young woman,” she wrote.