I Wish I Hadn’t Looked
Like most women around the world, I recoiled when I saw the now infamous photographs of Nigella Lawson with her husband, Charles Saatchi’s, hands around her throat at a London restaurant. The look in her eyes made my blood run cold and caused me to mutter under my breath that I would kick the man to the curb without pause. Who could look at those pictures and not form an opinion of similar intensity?
The media, vociferously outraged on Ms. Lawson’s behalf, proceeded to plaster the pictures over every outlet available to them all the while declaring her to be “a very private person”, an admission that perhaps served to highlight the disingenuousness of their concern. They trailed the culprit as he sauntered into Charing Cross police station to accept his official caution and one could almost visualize the salivation of editors as they reprinted his far less than contrite explanation of the event. Later in the week, photographers aimed their lenses at each item removed from the house when Nigella packed up and left, paying almost comical attention to her collection of cookware. As a perhaps fitting coda to this hideous episode, Saatchi, ever the gentleman, chose to announce his decision to start divorce proceedings from his wife in The Daily Mail.
I certainly have no great sympathy for Charles Saatchi in this cringe-worthy affair. Domestic violence is a scourge and it is difficult to see those repugnant photographs and not label them as such. But in their laughable pretense of concern for Nigella’s well-being, haven’t those who chose to cover the aftermath of this story in such invasive ways grasped this private woman around the throat as well? And am I not culpable for reading and looking?
If one happens to glance at what passes for news these days, one cannot help but witness the dark warnings of celebrity, even as one is encouraged to believe in its allure. A starlet, obviously suffering serious mental health disorders or addiction is followed by cameras night and day in the hopes of catching her stumbling in the shadows, her blue wig askew. Mug shots are featured, calls to emergency centers are played back ad infinitum. All the while tut-tutting and shaking their heads, the media wallows in every weakness, every sin, every tragedy. And everyone is diminished.
My heart goes out to Nigella Lawson. I cannot imagine how dreadful her days are at present. Perhaps there are those women who found the courage to flee abusive relationships as a result of her pain. One can certainly hope for such a outcome. But for the woman herself, I cannot help but think her humiliation in the face of this
unasked-for and invasive notoriety must be acute. I remember seeing Diana, Princess of Wales, with her hand up to her face in an ultimately futile effort to protect herself from the ceaseless, unblinking pursuit. Fame is a monster which, once beckoned, cannot be tamed.
And once again, I wish I hadn’t looked.