Cambridge Edition February 2019


“I’ve always had records, be it public or private, but I had no idea what the book was going to be about”

anyone, to push those boundaries is not only acceptable, but to be expected. I find it bewildering that this should be something we punish or shame women about.” “You can celebrate being alive with many things: you can celebrate it with hard work, raising children, falling in love, charitable work, connection with others, achievement, being in nature… but you can also celebrate being alive by going out and drinking two bottles of rosé between two friends, dancing to Common People , doing the worm on the floor of a pub with a dance floor and then going home with a bloke you’ll never see again. It might not be for everyone, but it certainly was for me and I know lots of women who it was also true for.”

together Everything I Know About Love relatively straightforward. “I’ve always had records, be it private or public, of things that were happening in my life, but I had no idea what the book was going to be about when I started – I knew I was following certain themes and stories,” she explains. “I knew I wanted to write about my relationship with men and intimacy and romance; I knew I wanted to write about living with girls; and I knew I wanted to write about growing up, and going through your 20s, and facing realities – about coping mechanisms and hedonism. But it was only by the time I got to the end that I realised what the book was actually about.”

Once all the stories were written, Dolly’s editor pointed out the lack of a strong narrative thread – so the writer set about the task of finding one. “I looked back retrospectively to edit and signpost, and to come up with a satisfying conclusion – and I realised there were two massive themes,” she says. “The first was my relationship to myself, and how that wasn’t very good in my younger life, and how that manifested in dysfunctional relationships – and I also realised that in every single anecdote there was a chorus of women, these recurring characters. And then I thought – oh – this is a love story, about these people that have been in my life at every moment, and they are in this book on every single page. I didn’t realise it was about friendship until I’d reached the final chapter.”

With two hit podcasts, scripts in development, regular columns and the emotional labour of everyday life to tackle – plus as Dolly says, “maybe doing something as radical as going on a date, and falling in love and having a family at some point” – it’s fair to say the writer has A Lot On. “I have so many different things going on in my work life with so many different people that if I start thinking about all the components of my career in a macro way I immediately want to cry, because I can’t see how I’m ever going to be good at all of them at the same time, and keep everyone happy and create good work,” she says. “The only way I can deal with my career now is to think day by day, and what I have to do that day – otherwise I just feel crushed by it.”

To navigate a smooth course, Dolly creates structures: she sets aside Monday to go for a long walk or run, and holds monthly planning meetings with editors for her weekly column to lay out the four or five topics ahead. “It’s really difficult coming up with a column every week. Sometimes something big will happen in my life, or I’ll have an interesting experience and I’ll change [the plan], but I like having the four in my head because it means I’ve done a lot of the writing in the back of my mind before I sit down with the page, which is such an important part of the process. For example, I know I’m going to write about vaping – so every dinner I have with a friend, every party I go to, there’s a little box open in my subconscious mind that’s looking for material and stories and anecdotes – and by the time I get to write it, I open up that little box and I’ve absent-mindedly been absorbing all the detail for it, so writing it is easier.” Having kept diaries and notebooks her entire life and worked as a journalist for almost a decade, Dolly’s plethora of source material made the act of piecing

Though the book’s open approach is a huge part of its appeal, one conceivable challenge of having revealed so much in the pages is the perceived imbalance of familiarity: audience members and readers feel deeply connected to the book and its creator, yet Dolly knows nothing about them or their lives – though this isn’t something that fazes the author. “I don’t mind it,” she says. “When you’ve made money and taken people’s time by telling them all about yourself, who you are and what you stand for – to then, when anyone shows you the great compliment of taking an interest in that or feeling like they have some sense of intimacy, turn round and say ‘you don’t know me’ is shitty. Because they do and if you don’t want them to, then you shouldn’t open up your life, your heart and your thoughts to them. Sometimes it’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s a small price to pay for feeling very close with a lot of people I’ve never met before. That’s a really profound sense of loveliness.” l Dolly Alderton: Everything I Know About Love Live is at Cambridge Corn Exchange on 20 February, tickets are £23.


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