The Media Column: The McCartney-Mills Marriage, like the Fluoridation of Water, Is a Subject on Which I Have Never Been Able to Form an Opinion. Perhaps I Am Too Incurious

By Wilby, Peter | New Statesman (1996), May 29, 2006 | Go to article overview

The Media Column: The McCartney-Mills Marriage, like the Fluoridation of Water, Is a Subject on Which I Have Never Been Able to Form an Opinion. Perhaps I Am Too Incurious


Wilby, Peter, New Statesman (1996)


Tolstoy had it wrong. Unhappy families do resemble one another: they all blame their unhappiness on the media. At least, those in the public eye do. In one sense this is rubbish. Very rich people, such as Paul McCartney and Heather Mills McCartney, can buy privacy more easily than most of us. And they are not obliged to inform the media when they go off to Canada to commune with seal pups. In another sense, the media are entirely responsible, just as they are responsible for everything in celebrities' lives, including their sense of who and what they are. The McCartney-Mills romance began at a Daily Mirror awards ceremony. At the time, Mills was due to marry a man called Chris Terrill. "We did a deal with Hello! magazine," he recalled in the Sunday Times. As one does.

The McCartney-Mills marriage, like the fluoridation of water, is a subject on which I have never been able to form an opinion. Indeed, I cannot imagine how I would begin to form one. Even when close friends and relations split up, I express little more than vague regret or a sage "never thought they were suited", feeling too ignorant (perhaps because I am too incurious) of what happens in other people's homes to speculate further. This may explain why I have never attended "crisis talks", which, if the press is to be believed, occur regularly in most families.

Fleet Street seemed well-informed to the point of omniscience about the McCartney-Mills marriage. They had a "very hot sex life", revealed Alison Boshoff in the Daily Mail. Unfortunately, Heather didn't do enough baking. (That's as in baking cakes; it's not some arcane sexual practice like dogging.) She spent too much time working out, whereas Linda, McCartney's first wife, was so busy mothering she "didn't even shave her legs".

In the Independent on Sunday, however, Germaine Greer knew that Heather had "given the marriage everything she had" and was now "running on empty". This, Greer explained, was the trouble with being married to a "billionaire". "The job is 24/7, no meal breaks, no time off for good behaviour ... You have to anticipate the wishes of your spouse and fulfil them as if they were identical with your own." If Heather had embroidered her life story, it was "a somatic continuation and externalisation of the psychic battles of her childhood".

Not content with the unimpeachable authority of a professor of English (though not one who, so far as I know, has married many billionaires), the IoS also sent David Randall to "investigate" the reasons for the split. …

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