Nigella's trouble no 'playful tiff'

ROSEMARY MCLEOD: "Ms Lawson has to leave this prat and make it snappy."
ROSEMARY MCLEOD: "Ms Lawson has to leave this prat and make it snappy."

"A playful tiff"? Give us a break, Charles Saatchi.

The hand around the throat, the pinching of a nose – in public view in a big city – you can't help wondering what Mr Saatchi's last wife meant when she divorced him for "unreasonable behaviour".

As painful as it must be for Nigella Lawson to have the whole world know about her predicament, it's important that we do, not in some cheap women's magazine tell-all expose, but in the adult world of real life.

BEFORE THE STORM: Nigella and Charles Saatchi.
BEFORE THE STORM: Nigella and Charles Saatchi.

We now have proof that when a woman is beautiful, clever, famous and independently wealthy, it's no protection against domestic violence, because that's what an observer photographed on June 6.

Here is all the evidence you need that it doesn't just happen among the under-classes of the world, the people who are not like us

The sequence is so familiar that an estimated one in four women knows about it first hand.

There is seduction, of course, the apparent meeting of minds, the talk of respect and protestations of love.

There is a shoulder to cry on, good advice given, humour appreciated, the life of the mind and of culture savoured together. Men at every level of society can manifest such things to women who believe a man is necessary to feel whole. Then, slowly, it changes.

This man shouts, Ms Lawson is on record as saying, and then she goes quiet and resentful, she says, as women do, because they don't want a man's anger to escalate.

Where do we learn to be this craven? I call this – the shouting – violence already, because it's about domination and control of another person through fear. Possibly some women behave like this and they are no better, but this week it's about a celebrity woman cook and a famous male art lover.

It may seem strange that a man will love art so much, implying an enlightened sensibility, yet behave so inappropriately in his private life, but it isn't strange at all. People with tempers, people who lay hands on other people to force them into submission, are able to mentally cut off the side of them that is outwardly competent, and the competent side will be all that the world sees. We know that families endure the dark side of these outward achievers, because the story is so familiar.

Nobody interfered in the exchange between Ms Lawson and her husband, reinforcing the idea that we shouldn't interfere in the dynamic of a marriage, however sick it may appear to be.

Where did this idea come from? From the belief that women are men's chattels and in marrying men they become slaves to their emotional dramas, which is more than shocking – it's sick.

But there are reasons why we don't get involved and they're complicated. We try to respect other people's privacy, even when it's probably damaging for them that we do, and we know that women go back to loutish men time and again because they hear the apologies and promises of reform, see the tears and they are tired, sad and have lost hope.

There's a bigger reason: shame. Public acts like Mr Saatchi's shame a woman who is universally liked, whose recipes are a standby for millions, possibly as many millions as Mr Saatchi has dollars. Nobody wants to see her put up with it.

It's significant that the couple were in the only restaurant where they can dine out together, because he can smoke there.

Her first husband died of throat cancer. What must she feel about that?

Mr Saatchi claims not to enjoy her cooking: "I'm sure it's fantastic, but it's a bit wasted on me. I like toast with Dairylea, followed by Weetabix for supper."

Is something about that denial of her talent supposed to be funny? It sounds competitive and undermining to me.

But analysis is just a game. Ms Lawson has to leave this prat and make it snappy.

The Dominion Post