This post has been updated to account for the verdict handed down.
When culinary darling Nigella Lawson accused her ex-husband of "bullying her with lies," it had the whiff of familiarity to anyone who has been torched by a painful divorce. How many of you have felt the shock of having the person you thought you knew so well shape shift and with a cold-hearted face twist facts like a pretzel to support their edited life story which seems -- and usually is -- so far removed from anything remotely resembling reality? I know. There are a lot of you who like Nigella have been emotionally cut by deep to the bone betrayal.
But Nigella's wounds must be deep. She's had a double whammy.
During the summer, under a shaded restaurant umbrella, a camera lens surreptitiously caught the inside of her marriage and it wasn't a pretty airbrushed picture. The gelid cold eyes of art collector Charles Saatchi was menacingly staring at his terrified wife while his jelly fish like fingers squeezed around her neck. After that alarming headline-making episode, Lawson swiftly moved out of their posh London house ending their 10 year marriage. Saatchi called it a "playful tiff" until he got slapped with a police caution for assault. Later, Lawson said he was miffed, not tiffed, that the sultry TV chef didn't "clear his name" and as punishment, threatened to destroy her.
An opportunity conveniently popped up. Adding to distress over her crumbling marriage to a controlling demanding husband was the discovery that her two long time trusted assistants, Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, had allegedly used the couple's credit cards like a personal ATM. The fraud trial was another betrayal. Worse, it was used as an opportunity to fling hurtful lies and puffed up morsels of truth.
It's the morsel of truth that gets you because it can be stretched like salt water taffy and stick to all sorts of damaging exaggerations. Suddenly Nigella -- who by her own admission casually did drugs including marijuana and cocaine -- could be depicted as reckless, someone who was willing to let the Grillo sisters steal almost $1 million to conceal her drug habit.
In fact, they testified that the magic ingredient to creating all those cookbooks was her rampant use of cocaine, which is a bit of a mystery because doesn't cocaine make you skinny and she is someone celebrated for her curvaceous sensual figure. There's something fishy about this depiction. Perhaps like many wives she just wasn't paying attention to the monthly credit card bills which Saatchi possibly oversaw.
To the dismay of many, the Grillo sisters were acquitted. Lawson released a statement lamenting that she was attacked "without the right to respond." "The jury was faced with a ridiculous sideshow of false allegations about drug use which made focus on the actual criminal trial impossible," she said. Furthermore, as she said, "not one witness claimed to see me take drugs."
Lawson added that she hopes that her experience will "highlight the need for reform that will give witnesses some rights to rebut false claims made against them." Because this problem is not unique to London courts.
Having witnessed this too many times, I've started the kNOw BS campaign (knowbsplease.com) kNOw BS, to benefit anti-bullying organizations. You have to kNOw BS and not accept all the news and drivel we are fed as gospel.
Lawson understandably didn't want to be put on the stand this month but Saatchi reportedly insisted on it, which she described as "just another form of bullying."
Because as Connecticut matrimonial attorney Richard Kent, of Myers, Breiner & Kent, says, "statements in court or used in depositions aren't subject to libel laws." Furthermore, a financially flush tycoon has the opportunity of hiring a PR machine or bringing in many expert witnesses along with the pit bull lawyer who can plant innuendo and ask "Aren't you a drug addict?" or damaging questions along those lines. "It just gives license to take a little bit of information and run with it," explains Kent.
In court, Saatchi denied "gripping, strangling or throttling" his ex-wife and said he was trying to make "her focus" on what he was saying. Hmmm. Lawson said the fight was stuck when she saw a young child and wistfully said she was looking forward to grandchildren, upon which Saatchi, known as a control freak, hissed, "I am the only person you should be concerned with."
Ooh. As I wrote in my book, "The Need To Say No," a dominating spouse often appears as a savior and systematically stops interactions with the outside world. At first, the person is dazzled by all the attention and the desire to monopolize all free time and in the case of Nigella, possibly rescue her after her long painful ordeal of watching the love of her life and father of her two children slowly die from cancer. Saatchi moved in right after her husband's death. The wife -- and sometimes husband -- gradually loses their ability to express their desires and accepts the conditions in exchange for security. Of course, this is a form of control, not love.
Recently Lawson says she was never beaten but felt emotional abuse. A lot of people can also relate to this feeling. But you put up with it until you don't. She loved her husband and wanted him to change and kept waiting when all the evidence showed otherwise. But hope can be a fool's GPS and lead you astray.
Luckily, Lawson didn't need to worry about being bullied by a cash rich spouse to cave into a settlement because the Domestic Goddess had created her own fortune from her TV shows and best-selling books.
However, like others, she had to deal with the searing pain of having your heart sautéed in a frying pan as her former husband "savaged" her reputation to defend and deflect his own despicable behavior; and for an extra dollop of pain, now the Grillo sisters justified their bad behavior with a similar tactic.
I think Nigella Lawson got a raw deal. But I don't think it's going to ruin her career. She may have to lick her wounds instead of her fingers - as is her style on camera - but there are many recipes for success. Perhaps she would like to collaborate with me on my next book - "Recipes to Heal When Your Ex Makes You Sick."