I’m on a terrace overlooking Windermere. I’m thinking I might be content, if not happy. And then my friend says, ‘I read your exhusband’s piece in The Telegraph.’
Oh. ‘It made you seem even more notorious,’ she added quickly, seeing my face fall. ‘I doubted it upset you.’ It did upset me. I’ve been putting off responding, as to reread his piece is heart-wrenching. I thought we parted on civilised terms. Turns out he thought all along I was an old hag who tricked him into marriage.
Our relationship was toxic, apparently. Which is odd, as a while back he wrote in the same paper a piece with the headline, ‘Why I only date older women.’ He wrote a 26-year-old woman, ie one his age, wouldn’t have been able to take him to Jamaica to stay in Ian Fleming’s house, which is ‘where we fell in love’.
How different, now, when he says, ‘I can’t say we hit it off.’ That he never proposed. Worst of all, that I wheeled him out as some sort of dark-skinned trophy. He brings up an abusive childhood, which isn’t my fault; in fact, after he had committed yet another act of adultery, and I threatened to throw him out, he left a note: ‘Please don’t dump me. You’ve given me the only secure home I’ve ever known.’ Ludicrously, he writes I increasingly wrote about his infidelity, as if that were the crime! Cruelly, while he makes much of his own depression, he belittles my struggles with anorexia, calling me ‘the toughest woman I’ve ever encountered’. He teased me about being older – I confessed before we married to shaving five years off my age, but his constant slights wore me down: ‘Don’t break a hip.’ ‘Come on, old lady.’ I never once berated him for his morbid obesity. Instead, I hired him a personal kick-boxing trainer, and bought him a bicycle. Which makes this line puzzling: ‘Her shabby flaunting of a brown and virile toyboy.’ Virile! We rarely had sex.
When we first met, I found his pursuit of me attractive. He was well read, intelligent, funny. He wanted to be a writer, so I agreed he could give up his career at the BBC (I didn’t exactly find him in a Delhi slum) and spend years writing his book. I got him an agent. I got him a column about new technology at my newspaper, despite the fact he’d never changed a plug. I introduced him to newspaper editors and famous authors. He complains I took money writing about him, but when I finally filed for divorce, he sold his story to Grazia. His novel was largely based on a New Year’s Eve party in the Cotswolds I took him to, stuffed with Booker-nominated authors, literary agents and beautiful women. Conversely, he was jealous of my career. When I was panicking that I had 20 minutes to file 2,000 words on skinny models for the Daily Mail, his response was, ‘Tell them to f*** off.’ When I was sacked from Marie Claire, even that didn’t spur him on to get a job.
I showered him with gifts, which he says now were unwanted. Great! Return the Rolex. I sold mine to buy you food. There’s no self-awareness: he had, apparently, ‘beauty, vigour, eagerness to please’. My God, he’d have friends round to my beautiful house and wouldn’t even introduce me! Ah yes, the beautiful house. He says he deserved half, plus alimony. I don’t know how rich he thinks I was, given I was declared bankrupt. I had an interest-only, million-pound mortgage. He bought not one stick of furniture. He put not one pound towards the deposit. I paid for the platinum wedding bands, his suit, the honeymoon. Oh, and he did propose. ‘I want to be tied to you, Chubby.’ And if he never loved me, isn’t he the fraud? As one of my fans tweeted, ‘It’s not the Hotel California. You can leave.’ And if he felt exploited dating a white woman, why cheat on me with myriad other white women?
Why has he written this now? Wounded, perhaps, by the fact I’ve just been made Columnist of the Year? Shocked, I dig out a photo taken a month before we met. I look hot, young. Why did I value myself so little I didn’t demand a modicum of respect? He will never meet anyone funnier, more generous and kind. He said himself, clinging on by his fingernails, ‘No one will ever love me as much as you do.’ Oh, and that car I gave you? You needed to learn to open the bonnet and put oil in it. Not leave it, like our relationship, to rot by the side of the road.