Kangol And Camelot: On Loving JFK Jr. And Carolyn Bessette Kennedy
The Objects of Our Obsession
We all had them, those totally consuming crushes that took over our teenage lives. In our series The Objects of Our Obsession, writers explore the deeper meanings behind those fixations, and pay tribute to the people who we found totally crush-worthy.
He was the son of Camelot, and I was hooked. A greasier George Clooney, with a haircut like a gelled squared hedge, a New York guido, but also not. I’m not sure if it was he, a Kennedy, or she—who became a Kennedy—who I loved and adored more. I wanted both to become and to be, or to usurp in my arms, to be smooshed with white—holier than thou—romanticism.
They were the dream team of politics-meets-Calvin Klein, a Hollywood Story, something made for the screen, and I was obsessed. Pining after them both, wanting to be near them, in their arms, always locked in an embrace.
I think back to them. Her, mainly always in black; chic, like New York in the ‘90s. Hair so bright and golden, sun-licked and freckle-faced, an angular, tight, long but small nose. A Gwyneth Paltrow-type. It’s so sinister how white girls who look like that are always deemed so pure, like an asylum of goodness. He was her opposite, dark and handsome, a cliché. But, even in a Kangol hat, his aquiline nose gleaming, next to her, slender in a turtleneck and toffee-colored corduroys—their downtown look—they were exceptional. Built for the cover of magazines, but with the political genes of American Democratic royalty. To me, they were everything.
I saw them both for the first time on ET—Entertainment Tonight—my love and joy in my tweens. I watched it for mimicry, wanting to transform into what I understood as powerful whiteness. But, I was neither powerful nor white. But a kid could dream. And so, I watched, hooked. I saw him first, his face a Greek tragedy, like Apollo, carved in marble. It was a tight frame of his smiling face, and I, barely 10 years old, thought to myself, Got. Dam.
Then came Carolyn, decked in a Narciso Rodriguez gown, her wedding dress. The deal was sealed. They were made for consumption, a WASPier precursor to the Kardashians. Their appeal was magnetic, and I watched them, shivering in delight.
This was pre-pre-internet, or at least for me. We had an out-of-use Mac which (to my dismay now) was rarely functional, sitting in my room, manhandled to the side, seemingly lacking in purpose. Oh, if I only knew! Imagine all the stalking I could have done? All the hours of Lainey Gossip-esque websites I could’ve scrolled through, longing for my Kennedy-Bessette-Kennedy dream. Searching through image after image, craving a sign that would usher my acceptance into their lives; a way in, so to speak.
“Acceptance” is a word I revisit in my now-decades-later state. I think about how I prioritized white acceptance, in particular, and how the Kennedy-Bessette-Kennedys were perhaps an early indication of a time when I sincerely believed myself unworthy of many things—love, mainly, but also beauty, fame, intrigue. I didn’t believe these things to be in my grasp, but oh, how I longed for them. I wanted to be seen, but I didn’t know how, or even why. Some of us, perhaps, are built this way. We have an appreciation of celebrity, like one would enjoy robust Côte du Rhones.
Him and her, they were both so familiar, and unfamiliar; in my dream state, I believed I deserved to be near them, with them, alongside their reign. Me: chubby, brown, not-yet in my proper teens. When they died, I lit a candle in my heart for their loss. Devastated, I drowned myself in the images of his perfect jaw, her sleek middle part.
My love never fully died—clearly—but I mourned them, and then, soon enough, forgot them. Through the years I began to realize that crushes are a mirror. So often, they are just a reflection of what you see to be in your soul. That’s a good takeaway, I guess: My life can be my very own Camelot.