President Obama spoke about his time at Columbia University. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

He looks back at his college years and, at 55 years old, wonders who he was and why he couldn't seem to express himself adequately. Or go on more dates with girls.

“In retrospect,” said President Obama, speaking in an interview released Monday, he realizes he was “wildly pretentious.”

As he prepares to write a post-presidential book, Obama told old friend David Axelrod, he is reading his “old journals” and letters to girls he was “courting.” He is chagrined at what he wrote.

“They’re impenetrable,” Obama said in an interview for “The Axe Files” podcast. “I mean, I don’t — I don’t understand what I’m saying . . . I’m like, what — what are you talking about?”

Obama’s comments about his time in college and the years that followed, particularly when he was a junior and senior at Columbia University, from which he graduated in 1983, come in the wake of the release of the Netflix movie “Barry.” The movie focuses on his relationship with a white woman who is a composite character of those he dated at the time and on his developing views on race relations and his estranged father. The movie depicts him smoking, dancing, dating and partying.

Obama, while not referencing the movie in his interview with Axelrod, remembered himself as decidedly stodgy. He was, he said, a “monk” and “humorless,” begging off from parties because he had to read the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. The women on campus found him “too intense.”

Looking back, said the president of the United States, “I should’ve tried, like, you know, ‘Wanna go to a movie?’ ”