Dolly Alderton talks ghosting, dating, and the freedom of ditching romance
It’s 2pm on a rainy Thursday and Dolly Alderton is still in bed. Correction, she’s spent the morning working in bed.
‘I know you are not meant to but it’s lush,’ she says, then coughs. ‘Excuse me. That’s my fault for smoking cigarettes last night.’
Dating columnist, podcaster and author of a hit memoir (Everything I Know About Love), Alderton is both intimidating success story and the sort of girl you’d happily lose an evening or two with down the pub.
Now she’s added another string to her bow with the publication of her first novel, Ghosts, one of the year’s most anticipated debuts.
The story centres on Nina, a 32-year-old food writer who has just bought her own flat in London. Yet she is naggingly aware that many of her friends are getting married, having babies and no longer devoting their energies to tequila slammers.
She turns to a dating app and before long is in a seemingly perfect relationship with rugged accountant Max. But after a few blissed-up months he suddenly ignores her calls and deletes her profile. Nina has been ghosted.
‘Ghosting has never happened to me but it is a growing fear in heterosexual dating culture,’ says Alderton. ‘And I think the reason men do it – and it’s mainly, although not always, men – is because we now meet people as a 2D image on a screen.
‘The gamification of romance and courtship can mean that when one person is no longer interested there’s a sense that, well, I’ve completed the game, I can now turn it off. Increasingly humans we meet and date on online apps are becoming avenues for us to have a good time rather someone with whom to form a connection.’
There are many other ghosts in the novel, most obviously Nina’s father, who is suffering from dementia. The gradual seeping away of his sense of self runs parallel to Nina’s growing awareness of all the self-curating and promoting that goes on when you start dating online.
Then there is the ghost of childhood nostalgia and for the secure pleasures of life in your twenties compared to the emerging, frightening realities of moving in your thirties. Yet she writes all this with her usual zesty humour.
‘I wanted to write a gnarly love story about a millennial woman who has grown up thinking she can have anything and has to learn that perhaps she can’t,’ says Alderton. ‘You can do that in a way that has hope and feels warm and can make you laugh.’
Alderton seems precisely the sort of millennial woman who indeed has acquired everything she wants. Yet when it comes to her own love life, she implies the last couple of years have not always been a garden of roses.
‘I’ve been reading a lot about aromantics and it sounds very freeing,’ she laughs ruefully. ‘It appeals to me, it really does. I’ve learned that if you want to have a partner in life, it’s important they are a damn good friend.’
Ghosts (Penguin Books) is out now.
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