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Dolly Alderton Chats Modern Dating & Her New Ghosts Book

Dolly Alderton Chats Modern Dating & Her New Ghosts Book

Dolly Alderton is millennial catnip. Her relatable dating column covering everything from dating apps to break ups was our must-read, her dulcet tones (the vocal equivalent of wine-drenched-velvet upholstery) fill our earbuds weekly on The High Low, her podcast with fellow writer Pandora Sykes, and her 2018 memoir Everything I Know About Love… was nothing short of a cultural phenomenon.

In sharing her life with us- particularly her amorous escapades- Dolly became our Bridget Jones, our Carrie Bradshaw. Most millennial women I know are lowkey obsessed with Dolly because they feel they know her. She’s relatable. It’s no wonder her current mantle is agony aunt for The Sunday Times Style. Who wouldn’t want to ask Dolly for advice, like the friend we feel she is? Preferably over white wine and cigarettes in Camden.

This October, Dolly is following up her bestselling memoir with her first ever fictitious output; her debut novel Ghosts. It is as funny, whipsmart and charming as Dolly herself but crucially…it’s not about her. And that, for Dolly, is not only a striking career move- it’s a huge relief.

Finally, she’s not the story.

“Writing this book has been the greatest creative pleasure of my life,” she tells me- alas not over white wine and cigarettes- but coffee and a phone call, “And honestly, the year that I was writing it I think, was the happiest year of my life. I felt completely free and unencumbered and able to use my skill set in a completely different way.”

Dolly has always dreamed of being a novelist and is – through Ghosts – finally achieving it. Yet she realises she may forever be defined by her work as a memoirist, by the confessional work that introduced her to us and made her so endearing.

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“I spent ten years of my life writing about my real life. So I probably will have to write five novels before I have a right to be annoyed about that!” she laughs, but notes that – whilst she is inordinately proud and grateful of her columns, of Everything I know About Love… and what it brought her, she is drawing a line in the sand between these two stages of her career.

“The only way that I can make sense of it now as a 32 year old woman, who is starting to really value privacy as the most sacred gift above all else,” she says, “the only way that I can make my peace with the fact that I wrote those columns and I wrote that book is that the idea of self and personal values and what keeps us safe, is a very, very fluid thing that is in a state of flux our entire life.”

Simply put, 26 year old Dolly is not the 32 year old woman I am speaking to today. The woman who wrote Everything I Know… is not entirely the same person who has scribed Ghosts. It took the fame that came with the rollercoaster ride her memoir took her on (sold out book tour, hugely popular spin-off podcast, being recognised across the globe) for her to realise; “I’m a really private person! Who knew?”

Dolly’s gradual shift into privacy is not, however, just an individual response, but one she sees as slowly ubiquitous for women her age, as more and more of us shy away from constant chronicling on our social media.

“I don’t know one sane person in their 30s, who’s not having a big moment of really thinking about what they share online and how private they are,” she says, “One by one, nearly every smart person I know is shutting it all down.”

Dolly is exceptionally good at knowing how millennial women think. This understanding, combined with her confessional output, is what has landed her the moniker of “voice of a generation.” It’s a label often affixed to women like Dolly, whose work is seen as somehow broadly representative and definitive of an entire age bracket’s life experience. But it does not come without its pressures, nor its problematic assumptions.

Dolly, for one, would like that everyone to stop assuming she is a millennial mouthpiece.

“The fact is, MC, I’m hugely unrelatable!” she says, “That has to be pointed out. I am privately educated and white. I live in London and am financially secure without a partner. I am middle class. I’m CIS. There are lots of things about me, that make me very unrelatable. Particularly when women like me are over represented in the media and in publishing, I don’t think it’s helpful for me to be touted by others as someone relatable to a whole generation. Because if I was someone different and people were telling me that this woman with all the privilege she has, is entirely representative of all my experience in the world, that would fucking piss me off.”

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Dolly may not be willing to carry the weight of all millennial womankind on her shoulders, but she does often tackle issues that have a startling relevance to us- namely the sticky, knotty quagmire of modern dating.

The jumping off point for the narrative of Ghosts is the dating phenomenon of ghosting and there has perhaps never been such a nuanced depiction of its emotional and psychological cost- one overwhelmingly and disproportionately felt by women. Tackling this issue; not as a flippant dating trend, but a deeply unsettling facet of modern romantic warfare, was a conscious decision on Dolly’s part.

“I’d never really read something properly analytical about what that knock on effect is for the person who has been ghosted and how they then look at love afterwards, how it affects their ability to hope,” she explains, “Every woman who’s been ghosted knows what that is like. It’s really all encompassing and, and confusing and often a bit terrifying. You’ve been incredibly intimate with someone and they have just disappeared.”

The fact most ‘victims’ of ghosting are women is not accidental but- Dolly believes- a true indictment of how the patriarchy still calls the shots when it comes to dating. We may be striving for gender equality across the board, but there is still something distressingly unequal at the core of our heretrosexual romantic lives.

“I wanted to look at what the roles of courtship are,” she explains, “I wanted to look at the freedom that gives men for self expression, for instinctive decisions, for fun and joy and how it keeps a lot of women feeling just anxious and fearful.”

Dolly believes what is often at the heart of millennial women’s frequent sense of hopelessness when it comes to being single and wading through the trenches of dating; is how often we were told we could do and be whatever we wanted. Something we can’t control as much as we would like to – is who falls in love with us, when we meet someone. No matter how much self-improvement we do, how many dating apps we log on to; so much of love is luck, chance and coincidence.

“I think I think our generation finds that particularly unacceptable, because we can control everything else,” she says, “In a way, Ghosts goes on to completely contradict what I was saying in my memoir. I actually particularly dislike that idea now, that the onus is still on women to get themselves to a place of balance and self acceptance and stability and love will just come, because it’s just not true. Love is luck, surrender, coincidence, and timing.”

She is already planning her second novel- about friendship and fortune and is- for now, happy to luxuriate in a new role that does not demand so much of her soul. Dolly the confessional columnist has been put to bed, but her career as a novelist looks set to skyrocket after Ghosts.

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For she may not be the voice of our generation, but this generation is still more than eager to listen to Dolly Alderton.

About the author

Alice Jacob

Alice Jacob

Alice is the senior writer, responsible for Hollywood movies news at thenewspocket. She is also very passionate about the stars and always looking around to use them in an innovative way in daily life.

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