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Rock chick jezebel mother of four? Do her a favour

How much pain do we want Paula Yates to be in? Following the suicide of Michael Hutchence, the father of her child and the man she was set to marry, we have heard enough ghastly details of her agony.

Paula's screams and wailing could be heard from outside her home. Paula, out of control with grief, on the flight to Australia. Paula blaming her ex-husband Bob Geldof for Hutchence's death. Paula weeping with her baby daughter in her arms. Whatever comments she has made have been reported. No allowance has been made for the fact that this is a human being in terrible distress who may not even be aware of what she is saying.

But then we have never made many allowances for Paula. There is an air of "I told you so" about this horrible story. Such a lifestyle would have to take its toll. Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll is one thing, battles over children something else.

Real life in all its mundanity somehow interrupted the fantasy and the fantasy imploded. For Paula was always very good at fantasy, at make believe. This required ruthless determination. She wanted Geldof and she got him. She wanted to make a family life that came straight out of the 1950s, with mummy at home in an apron baking biscuits and potato printing, so she wrote a book saying that is what motherhood should be about.

I remember interviewing her at the time. She was tiny, wan, worn out by breast-feeding her third child and you didn't have to be a shrink to realise that the perfect childhood she was trying to create for her own children was very different from her own when in fact she felt pretty miserable and abandoned.

She refused to see the contradiction between being a working mother and telling other mothers not to work. Female solidarity has never been her forte. She seemed almost to belong to another generation, and when she told me that after 10 years of living together Saint Bob had asked if they had a washing machine I saw how hard she worked to maintain the facade of domestic bliss.

What strenuous work it must have been to be a rock chick, a mother of four, a "steaming jezebel", all at the same time yet Paula pulled it off becoming a compelling love/hate figure for the tabloids. Like Diana, she is perceived to have made a Faustian pact with them that involved both pursuing and complaining about the publicity she continued to generate, and like Diana her flaws were obvious for all to see.

Her chief flaw though appears to have been one that is acceptable in a man but not in a woman. She committed adultery. When she ran off with Hutchence and had her breasts enlarged she was subjected to the routine misogyny of Ian Hislop on Have I got News for You as well as being continually compared to Helena Christensen the supermodel Hutchence had dumped in order to be with her.

How could a short thirtysomething mother of three compete with such a perfect creature and win? We didn't really know, but the idea that she had done so through sheer force of personality cheered many of us up. However, Paula Yates has always been a difficult woman to defend in that despite her obvious intelligence and resourcefulness everything she has done appears to revolve around men.

From professional flirt on The Tube to drooling interviews on the Big Breakfast bed, her brand of femininity attention-seeking, coquettish, spoilt, little-girlie has been as irritating to women as it has been attractive to some men. Eventually though she had to grow up and the battles with Geldof over their children might have made her do so had she not also been busy describing her sexual exploits with her new love.

Her constant need for male attention and reassurance often feels not like the act of Little Miss Trouble - the slogan on the T-shirt she cheekily wore - but of a deeply insecure little girl, which of course she once was.

She will not be able to play that game any longer and I feel desperately sorry for her. The one thing she needs right now may be privacy but I doubt it will happen. She may be a grieving mother of four, not the adjunct of a famous man, but we still want to see her tears, to see if she continues to behave well or badly. Desperately juggling all her roles - mother, lover, career woman, little girl, harlot, journalist, ex-wife, she now has to play the one that nothing could have prepared her for - widow.