I didn’t trust my first reaction to Alex Kuczynski’s cover story in Sunday’s NYT magazine. The story is about how she, a very rich woman with a “successful investor” multimillionaire husband, had a child with the help of a surrogate, obviously far less fortunate, although not the white-trash rent-a-womb you might be expecting. We know this because Kuczynski, in explaining her reasons for choosing Cathy Hilling to be her designated vessel, makes an issue of it:
When we came across Cathy’s application, we saw that she was by far the most coherent and intelligent of the group. She wrote that she was happily married with three children. Her answers were not handwritten in the tiny allotted spaces; she had downloaded the original questionnaire and typed her responses at thoughtful length. Her attention to detail was heartening. And her computer-generated essay indicated, among other things, a certain level of competence. This gleaned morsel of information made me glad: she must live in a house with a computer and know how to use it.
See? She lives in a house with a computer and knows how to use it. So much for any class guilt.
But what am I talking about? Alex Kuczynski suffers from no such thing. If she did, she might have hesitated at posing for the remarkable photos that accompany the piece. For starters, there’s the cover…
…which sort of suggests someone thought stretch marks and fat ankles would totally not go with that black sheath dress. The copy contradicts that — Kuczynski did indeed try to get pregnant herself for years before hiring Hilling. But then there’s the real money shot, inside:
That was taken “at home in Southampton, N.Y.,” just one of the couple’s fabulous homes. Note the “baby nurse” standing at attention, waiting for Mistress to hand off little Max, about two months old, should he need something only a nurse is qualified to provide, like maybe a diaper change.
I’m aware that my reaction to these photos seems pretty by-the-book. I can scarcely believe Kuczynski is so clueless that she didn’t know what the pictures would suggest. (There’s another porch shot, of Hilling on her own. You should not be surprised to learn it isn’t nearly so grand. Go ahead and click to see it, because I’m done hot-linking.) So I have to believe she planned it this way, for the “buzz.” As long as I’ve been doing this job, I’ve always held my most toxic contempt for people who say or do things they don’t believe, just to get the phones ringing.
So I’ll refrain from taking the bait, and hope little Max Dudley Stevenson is soon kidnapped by loving fairies who will spirit him away and raise him far from his horrible parents, perhaps on a farm in Iowa, like Clark Kent. (Kuczynski is her husband’s fourth wife, and Max either his sixth or seventh kid.)
I asked a bona fide member of the eastern media elite what he thought of this, and while he hadn’t read the story yet, he offered an interesting observation I hadn’t thought of:
Before the great weeding out of newsrooms, didn’t every shop have (or should have had) a pampered richie-bitchy? Whom all the male editors could not wilfully ignore? In features? (Or metro g/a? If nothing else, I’ve seen it in ingenue photogs, who just arrived from the Eddie Adams Photo Workshop and had long blond hair and only weeks or months into their extended internship do you learn she’s, like, a Rockefeller or something.)
I think he’s right. One of my first colleagues in Columbus used to speak of a former secretary, who cashed her paycheck every Friday and promptly took the loot next door to an upscale boutique, where she spent every penny on a new outfit. There was a columnist at the other paper who gave the accountants fits; they had to remind her to please cash her paycheck, because she always had half a dozen stacked up in her drawer, and they needed to get them off the books. And now that I think of it, I recall a copy editor in Fort Wayne who had married well and was passionately devoted to the cause of animal rights. She refused to wear leather, although she made an exception for the upholstery in her Mercedes.
And Caroline Kennedy interned at the New York Daily News. So I guess it could be worse.
My Monday-morning moping went away almost as soon as I expressed it yesterday. On my way to the gym, I returned a missed call to my cell phone. A man with a heavy Indian accent answered, and when I asked who had called me, said he represented something like Tech-Ar Corporation, and if I’d share a little personal information, he’d be happy to tell me about their exciting financial services.
“Please put me on your no-call list,” I said.
“We are not selling products or telemarketing,” he protested.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“I am …Don …Junior,” he said. I started to laugh. In the background, I could hear another Indian accent saying, “Ma’am? Ma’am? I am not harassing you!”
I finally told Don Junior that if he made another call to a phone I have to buy minutes for, I’d be reporting him to the attorney general. Total b.s., but I figure they have their hands full in Mumbai these days, and really don’t need to be calling me.