Everything I know about love and the twenty-something trajectory
Everything I Know About Love is Dolly Alderton’s debut memoir. You may be familiar with Dolly. She’s one half of the news, pop-culture and current affairs podcast –The High Low – presented with Pandora Sykes. I was late to the podcast party so Dolly Alderton was a foreign name to me this time last year. Now I’m an avid The High Low listener, so much so that listening to the latest episode has become the highlight of my week.
The book is an ode to the female friendship. It takes the form of anecdotal episodes from Dolly’s roaring twenties: from a drunken journey down the M1 to an after party with a man who knew her mum way back when. No matter the form her escapades take, they adhere to a common theme: recklessness.
My twenties began in similar fashion, but soon reversed gear when I met my now boyfriend. I deprioritised socialising and with it, drinking. I’m one of few millennials that’s unacquainted with Tinder. The city after midnight doesn’t beckon me. I can’t match Dolly’s hedonistic all-nighters. It seems, for the most part, our twenty-something experiences have few parallels. So what struck me while reading this book is how relatable Dolly’s story is.
And its relatable on many fronts. Dolly intersperses her memoir with satirical hens party invites, shopping lists and other vignettes of the average twenty-something female’s life, all against the backdrop of the late nineties and early naughties (oh the glory years). She describes wrestling with self-sabotage and unreasonable landlords, failed Rod Stewart-themed parties, flirting on MSN (is that sexting now?), battling with self-sabotage and being dumped. We’ve all been there, done that.
The cruncher for me, though, is when Dolly gives a poignant recap of when her best friend Farly gets engaged, and the foreboding sense of ‘falling behind’ so many of us feel relative to our peers.
I spoke to my girlfriends on WhatsApp recently (we’re all living in different cities). We met in high school, now in our mid-to-late twenties. Some of us are married. One started a multi-million dollar company. Two have a mortgage. In high school, our only disparity was our grades and how far we’d gone with boys. Now we’re worlds apart – literally and figuratively. As Dolly put it in an article for redonline:
“When we are young, there is joy and camaraderie in the fact we pass the same milestones as our best friends at a similar time. There are first kisses (12-14), first Saturday jobs (16-18) and, for some of us, first graduations (20-22). But once we’re let loose on the real world, all formal scheduling is screwed and binned”
Today, the pride and admiration I feel for my girlfriends provoke an incongruous sense uneasiness within myself, regardless of my successes, my personality or my circumstances.
Why is it that our most informative years are the most performative too? We’re meant to be figuring out who we are and forging our own paths, yet we’re weighed down by an incessant need to tick the boxes of the twenty-something trajectory.
There are unwritten rules for this monumental age bracket: You should have a healthy social life, be gunning for a six-figure salary, and all the while balancing daintily on the cusp of marriage. We make the mistake of treating these rules as something to aspire to, a ‘to do’ list of sorts, and we stock take our progress by way of comparison.
While the distress we feel is partly a matter of ego, the issue, Dolly writes, is the “fear of being left behind.” The twenties look different for everyone, but to experience this very feeling is where our collective experience lies. And it rings especially true for women (tick tock goes the biological clock).
“..to limit yourself to the idea that milestones are tied up in children and houses is to adhere to a warped societal attitude that places a premium on a domestic trajectory in a woman’s life”
Here’s the thing. Your journey is not better or worse, behind nor ahead of anyone else. There’s no right or wrong way to get wherever it is you’re going, and wherever you are going is wherever you end up. There’s no first or last place in the marathon of life, only a certificate of participation. For some, milestones may be landing your dream job, the birth of your child in the wee hours of the morning or reciting your wedding vows. For others, it's hitting the tarmac in a foreign country, it’s nailing your mother’s spaghetti sauce recipe, it’s the first day of therapy or a long-awaited apology. Experience, real or perceived, is different for everyone. As is life.
Be content with the pace you’re keeping, and the choices you are making. You’re not late to your own life. It’s already happening, just as it should.