As a Grown-up, Alex Kuczynski Learned That People Are Both Gay and Retarded

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Photo: Patrick McMullan

Alex Kuczynski was stressed. She was trying to throw the perfect Upper East Side fête for her uncle, National Book Award winner John Casey, whose new novel Compass Rose hit stores this month, but despite the fact that she was impeccably put together in a little gray dress, the heat had just been turned on in her building, 740 Park Avenue, and combined with the unseasonably warm weather, the prewar duplex she shares with her husband (investor Charles Porter Stevenson Jr.) was boiling, and the couple does not have central air. "Central air is so ... gay," she told us. Oh? Was that an adjective she casually uses? "Ten years ago, I sort of thought it was important to bring back the term gay," she explained. Gay, like, happy? "No. Gay like happy?! I'm not, like, Oscar Wilde. Jesus! What am I, like, Hannah Arendt? No, I wanted to use gay in the colloquial language. Like, 'That is so fucking gay.' Like, that is so fucking, like ... gay! Gay-tard.You know? Like, all that stuff we said when I was 10."

So to, like, ironically own it? "No. Ironic owning — quote unquote," she said with her fingers in the air — "does not actually exist. There is no more ironic owning." So, just gay in the pejorative way. "Now, I don't think that's cool anymore," she admitted. "It's not funny. It was funny ten years ago. But central air conditioning is so gay. I'm sorry. It doesn't even have to be in the bad way — not that there is a bad way!"

Would she ever sneak slang-gay into the Times? "No," she said. "But 'horny' first appeared in the Times under my byline, in a story about female use of Viagra, and I wear that as a badge of honor. But, 'That's so gay?' 'Gay-tard?' No, I'd never put that in the Times." At parties, however, there are different rules. Later that night, Kuczynski noted how "retarded" something was, mid-story. Again? "I used retarded once when I was at this lunch, like ten years ago," she explained. "And I said, 'I think we should bring back retarded, you know? But every time I say we should bring back retarded, somebody says, 'Oh, guess what? My brother's retarded!'" And this girl goes, 'Guess what? My brother is retarded.' And I was like, 'Shut! Up!' But, actually, her brother was retarded. He lives in a halfway house in Yonkers for the developmentally challenged. God. So it wasn't funny. I hate to say it, but when you're a grown-up, you realize people are both gay and retarded. So you can't just make fun of that."