As Katie Holmes emerged from her New York apartment in a pair of strappy heels, a contingent of women scattered throughout the world will have punched the air with joy.
I searched through the pictures of her first appearance since filing for divorce feverishly on my iPad. ‘Come on, come on, let’s see the feet,’ I muttered, as I scrolled down. I need not have worried. There they were, gloriously arched in a pair of ostentatious, leopard-print stilettos. The battle was joined. The fightback had begun.
Let there be no mistake. This Cruise divorce is a battle of ideas in which everyone will take sides. Our very belief systems are on trial. Scientology will be put under the spotlight as never before. Perhaps even more crucially, so will controlling men. A crisis point has been reached in the increasingly suspect trend for capable women choosing to submit themselves to dominant males, as if the past 100 years of female emancipation never happened.
And so, as the girl from the Midwest realises her mistake and tries to get the hell out of Dodge, I say ‘Go Katieeeee!’ He hated that, you see. He tried to change her name to Kate.
Controlling men. They are not so sexy. Fifty Shades of Grey is a fantasy novel, which grew out of a vampire saga. Does that not tell you something, ladies? Something about them sucking the lifeblood out of you?
Trust me, you don’t really want a Christian Grey, the manipulative billionaire who takes control of the virginal heroine in Fifty Shades. I wouldn’t know any more than that, I haven’t read it. Like Katie, I’ve had my fill of high-octane men. They may be sexy and exciting at first, but the trouble that comes with them grinds you down pretty fast. I can only imagine what happens when you throw Scientology into the mix.
Rupert Murdoch was right when he talked about evil, though not the evil of the Church of Scientology per se, which is disputable. It might do a lot of good with its drug outreach work.
But it seems to me that what a lot of male Scientologists believe is just souped-up misogyny: that a woman should be seen and not heard, even when she is giving birth.
Katie is doing well to get out after five years of conditioning. I managed to eject after three. The danger is you get addicted. You get stuck because they squash the fight out of you, disorientate you with their wacky ways.
My ex suffered from mood swings and had a bad, bad case of tidiness, which was fine at first, but not when he started to tidy me. He once insisted that I get down on my hands and knees on the floor of a hotel room and rearrange my shoes. ‘I don’t like them there. Move them. Now.’
He bought clothes for me in muted colours like taupe and grey, and a range of flat ballet pump shoes. He was about the same height as Cruise.
It would have been terrifying were it not so absurd. Or possibly it was the other way around. In any case, it was perplexing to be bellowed at for petty offences, like not paying attention when he was talking to me, or looking at him the wrong way.
There was a lot of: ‘You sit in that chair while we talk about this.’
It wasn’t like you could avoid his censure by being good. There was no telling what would annoy him.
I once infuriated him by buying a Britney Spears CD at a service station just outside Paris — for a laugh, you understand. After throwing it away, he rang the George V to cancel our reservation. ‘You don’t deserve to stay in a nice hotel after that sort of behaviour,’ he chided, although he later relented.
If anyone thinks that is sexy, they need their head examining. It’s not, it’s ridiculous.
I know, I know, what was I doing? But honestly, he could be charming too. They sweep you off your feet, these guys. They buy you diamonds and fly you around the world. They make you believe in the return of an old idea, which probably never existed. They sell you a dream, they promise you A Happy Ending.
Katie Holmes married the movie star from the poster on her bedroom wall. She ended up with a husband who wanted, we are told, to put her daughter into the Scientology boot camp called the ‘Sea Org’.
My ex was not a cult member, but he did have a strong set of moral beliefs, complete with jargon.
Whenever we had a row, he told me to ‘own my stuff’. He was forever telling me how ‘valid’ his anger was. He didn’t audit me with an e meter, but he once got hold of a pillow and said, ‘I want us to play a game. This pillow represents my feelings. I need to throw the pillow at you to give you my feelings.’
‘You mean you want to hit me with the pillow,’ I said.
‘No, the pillow is symbolic.’
‘You’re going to hit me with that pillow, aren’t you?’ He didn’t. It turned out he only wanted to pass me the pillow, but it was still mighty confusing.
I lost a stone. My nerves were shredded, I was speeding on adrenalin. I developed hyper-vigilance. Friends said my personality shrank. I think I figured that if I made myself small enough I wouldn’t get into trouble.
Treading on egg shells, I acquired a hunted look. I fancy I can see the same look in Katie Holmes’s eyes as she clings limply to her husband’s hand in the last pictures of them together.
The gaunt cheeks, the hollows under the eyes, the streaks of unkempt grey hair. While controlling men demand that you look good at all times, this becomes impossible because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to keep him happy and go to the salon to get your roots re-touched.
As you fall to pieces, he starts to look better and better. In fact, he thrives. I’m really quite serious about that vampire analogy. I’m really quite serious that this is about fighting the good fight.
I’ve ordered my ‘Team Katie’ T-shirt. Let the battle for the soul of womankind begin.
Melissa Kite is the author of Real Life: One woman’s guide to love, men and other everyday disasters, which is published by Constable.