Dolly Alderton gets real about love, monogamy and the books that changed her life

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“I don’t want to lie on my deathbed with FOMO,” says the Everything I Know About Love writer.

What is the meaning of life?

The closeness, connection, intimacy and truth of your personal relationships. More and more I’m convinced that’s the only thing that matters.

What is the difference between right and wrong?

It isn’t as black and white as society would have us believe. Deliberately inflicting pain on another is wrong; other than that, I’m more interested in exploring the way people behave and why, rather than dictating parameters of perceived morality.

Where is your happy place?

Walking through Regent’s Park or Hampstead Heath listening to the Desert Island Discs archive. Or any floor of Liberty.

Nature or nurture?

We like to think it’s predominantly nurture because then we can take the main credit in creation of self. But my mum tells me she could have guessed who I would be at 30 from the little girl she knew at three.

Is it more important to be liked or respected?

Respected. Respect is the filling, long-lasting, energising porridge to the tasty, short-lived MSG sensation of being liked.

If you could be remembered for one thing what would it be?

Making people feel less alone.

Who or what is your greatest love?

Sir Rod Stewart – the music and the man.

When did you last lie?

I just wrote, “Really looking forward to it”, about a meeting in an email. I have never knowingly enjoyed a meeting. A writer friend of mine calls them “nonversations”.

Does the supernatural exist?

I’d have to ask my psychic, Linda, that.

Are you fatalistic?

No, I’m an optimist. I think too much, which probably creates more anxiety than necessary. But I’m also often reminding loved ones who accuse me of overthinking that the very activity of overthinking is how a writer pays their rent. We are neurotics by trade.

What is your greatest fear?

Death, mice, life-long monogamy.

Animals or babies?

I’m nuts for both. If there’s something or someone small enough to pick up and nuzzle, that’s where you’ll find me at the party.

What talent do you yearn for?

So many. I’d love a photographic memory, to be able to play piano and enjoy team sports.

Do you like to be complimented? 

Yes, of course. And anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

Do you have a high pain threshold?

I’m not sure. I have been incredibly lucky to not experience huge amounts of pain in my life so far. I’m good at putting on a brave face for my wax every month.

Dolly recommends reading Nora Ephron’s Heartburn to learn (even more) about love 

What book do you recommend most to others?

Heartburn by Nora Ephron (will teach you about love), Any Human Heart by William Boyd (will teach you about life), Delight by JB Priestley (will teach you about gratitude) and Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe (will make you howl with laughter).

Which lesson has been the hardest to learn?

That not everyone will like or understand you and that is not only not a failing but entirely inevitable if you want to live with an iota of integrity.

What food sums up happiness?


What have you never understood?

Most things to do with numbers. Division, the stock market, mortgages, tax, centuries.

What is the one thing you want to know before you die?

I wish I could know everything about my parents’ lives before they had my brother and I.

Are you scared of dying or what happens when you die?

I am petrified of dying with unanswered questions, unvisited places, unfinished business or unattained dreams. I don’t want to lie on my deathbed with FOMO, basically. What happens afterwards doesn’t bother me so much.

Quinoa or Quavers?

I have space in my life and cupboards for both.

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton (£8.99, Penguin) was published in paperback on 7 February. You can buy it here.

Image: Courtesy Penguin


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