When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming a grown up, journalist and former Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all.
In her memoir, Everything I Know About Love, she vividly recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you’ve ever been able to rely on, and finding that that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out.
It’s a book about bad dates, good friends and – above all else – about recognising that you, and you alone, are enough.
Many times, I would invent a person in my head and create our chemistry as if writing a screenplay and by the time we’d meet again in real life, I’d be crushingly let down. It was as if, when things didn’t go as I’d imagined, I’d assumed he would have been given a copy of the script I’d written and I’d feel frustrated that his agent obviously forgot to courier it to him to memorise.
I’m torn between how I feel about Dolly Alderton’s memoir. Yes, I devoured it with the fervent desperation of a twenty-something desperately seeking answers in the wisdom from someone who’s just hit their thirties. However, upon finishing it, I felt a bit like I’d spent the last few days glued to the seat of a train going nowhere.
Look, Alderton comes across as quite relatable – especially to me. Lost, unlucky-in-love writer in London? Come on, I couldn’t help but lap up her autobiography. You’ve just described me! She’s certainly lived a colourful life with much of the book recalling Alderton’s self-absorbed, boozy twenties. There are in-depth descriptions of many a night spent blind drunk, making reckless decisions and alas, battling heartbreak. It’s territory that I find all too familiar, but after a while, Dolly’s intoxicated exploits wear thin.
Sure, it has its moments of comedy and, much like me, you’ll find yourself rolling your eyes and nodding your head in unison recounting you’re own similar experience. It’s self-indulgent babble with very little lessons learnt which I probably enjoyed as haven’t I, too, been known to be partial to narcissistic ramble? However, it teeters the line between ‘Oh, Dolly, I’ve been there too!’ and grabbing you by the shoulders, screaming ‘I’m quirky!’ with all the oddball energy of an early 2010s Jennifer Lawrence.
I’m not going to knock Alderton because hell, I’m hardly one to talk when it comes to taste in men and you know, seeing someone echo my sentiments and experiences was like a reassuring hug from the older sister I never had. I won’t deny that it was an easy, fun read and truthfully, it’s not entirely without substance.
You see, for every inch of silly that Alderton gives us, she also gets serious. Opening up about her eating disorder following a rough break-up, her experience with therapy, and the death of her best friend’s sister; it’s the more sombre moments that served as a jarring reminder of the brutality of life. It even had me reaching for the tissues at some points! Amongst all the one night stands and smooches, the focus on the importance of friendship and self-love are what stick with you once you bid Dolly farewell.
Her writing is witty. If you took certain excerpts of Dolly’s exploits and published them as a stand-alone blog post or in a magazine column, you’d instantly believe her to be a comedic and literary genius. Funny and clever at writing, she is. Genius with a wealth of wisdom to impart, a stretch. That being said, the antics and anecdotes of a boozy singleton who hasn’t learnt all too much in the world of love can only carry you so far in a memoir spanning ten years of your youth. And it seems Alderton, or at least her editor, was aware of that too; hence the half-arsed recipes for dishes like scrambled egg and a crazy comedic attempt at fictional satirical emails. Cute thought, but I found my attention span instantly wavering whenever I got to one.
From the hype that surrounded Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love, I was ready for some life-altering wisdom to be imparted on my fragile twenty-one year old self. Don’t get me wrong, I did shed some tears, but I mostly got a few light-hearted laughs and a so-so way to the pass long airport hours. There’s nothing extremely out of the ordinary about Alderton’s upbringing, but the memoir oozes the need to sell it as unique and quirky. Alas, while there’s no passing of profound knowledge from Dolly to the reader, her passage about being ‘good enough’ struck a cord with me. It was like an encouraging thumbs-up that you are enough as you are and everything will work out fine. Again, nothing new, but still pleasant.