The year is 2014. I am two months into writing a dating column for a national newspaper and I am aware that I’m going to have to really deliver a corker for my first Valentine’s Day. This is the time for a big scoop. I am Carl Bernstein; this is my Watergate.

Alex, a man who I met on Tinder and went for a completely pleasant but quite platonic date with, invites me to his flat for a Valentine’s Day dinner. He asks me to bring two single friends. Persuading my friends Sabrina and Belle to go to a singles' dinner party is quite some task. Sabrina’s reservations aren’t helped when, by chance, on the morning of the dinner party, she is watching an old rerun of the trashy ITV programme Dinner Date and spots Alex as one of the contestants.

“He was on Dinner Date?!” she yelps. “Why didn’t you tell me?! That’s a very vital piece of information to miss out.”

“OK, well, I didn’t know that. He’s lovely.”

“He didn’t get chosen. He came across really badly.”

“Well there are two other ones as well,” I say reassuringly.

“When we go in, do we ask who is allocated for who?”

“I don’t think it works like that,” I say. “Look, you might meet the love of your life tonight.”

“It’s more likely that I’ll grow a third boob than meet the love of my life tonight.”

We arrive at his beautiful West London pad and Alex presents all the guests with a red rose. It’s a nice touch, one that would have earned him extra points on Dinner Date, at least. He’s brought two friends, one beardy and a bit zany, one more clean-cut in good knitwear. They’re both easy on the eye, but not my type, and I know for certain they aren’t Belle or Sabrina’s either.

We begin drinking heavily. I corner Alex, Sab takes the beardy one, and Belle takes the one in the roll-neck. At 10pm, we have the starter. Alex apologises that he doesn’t have much in the way of crockery or chairs, and Sabrina and I have to sit on a sofa footrest, our chins just grazing the table as we share a plate of mezze served out of the Nisa Local plastic containers they were purchased in. We also have to take turns with the sparse cutlery. Sabrina wonders aloud whether the flat and perhaps even the friends are all rented for the night.

The girls later tell me that the point they knew I was not enjoying the evening was at the moment I queue up for the loo in the hallway of this man’s flat with my handbag over my shoulder like we’re in a nightclub, to avoid sitting at the table and having to make conversation with Alex.

Dolly Alderton on Valentine's Day

With nothing else to talk about, we sit and silently adorn him with all our bangles, necklaces and hairclips as if we were playing a game of human buckaroo

The main course comes at midnight, and we’re all completely trashed – if it were an episode of Dinner Date, the producers would have already booked our Addison Lee taxis home for health and safety reasons. We know the chances of romance are off because, before I’ve finished my plate of chickpea stew, one of them is ferociously tucking into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s with a spoon. This hunch is cemented when, for some reason I will never be able to understand, we all gather round on the sofa and watch the opening ceremony of the Sochi winter games on an iPad, for an hour.

We divide into a disparate party of two: girls on one sofa and boys on the other. Later, Belle tells me she felt the atmosphere at this point was that of a university seminar when the tutor asks the class to divide into groups to discuss a topic. We interact across groups only once, when the man with the beard asks to try on all of our jewellery. With nothing else to talk about, we sit and silently adorn him with all our bangles, necklaces and hairclips as if we were playing a game of human buckaroo.

We leave at midnight. The cold air hits us and I’ve been drinking like Oliver Reed all night. I trip over my stiletto and stack it down the stairs. I stand up and dust myself off. “I think that went quite well,” I say. “Happy Valentine’s Day”. 

  • Everything I Know About Love


    'There is no writer quite like Dolly Alderton working today and very soon the world will know it' Lisa Taddeo, author Three Women

    'The book we will thrust into our friends' hands. Alderton feels like a best friend and your older sister all rolled into one and her pages wrap around you like a warm hug'
    Evening Standard

    Award-winning journalist Dolly Alderton survived her twenties (just about) and in Everything I Know About Love, she gives an unflinching account of the bad dates and squalid flat-shares, the heartaches and humiliations, and most importantly, the unbreakable female friendships that helped her to hold it all together. Glittering with wit, heart and humour, this is a book to press into the hands of every woman who has ever been there or is about to find themselves taking that first step towards the rest of their lives.

    'Alderton is Nora Ephron for the millennial generation' Elizabeth Day

    'Steeped in furiously funny accounts of one-night stands, ill-advised late-night taxi journeys up the M1, grubby flat-shares and the beauty of female friendships, as Alderton joyfully booze-cruises her way through her twenties' Metro

    'Deeply funny, sometimes shocking, and admirably open-hearted and optimistic' Daily Telegraph

    'A sensitive, astute and funny account of growing up millennial' Observer

    'I loved its truth, self awareness, humour and most of all, its heart-spilling generosity' Sophie Dahl

    'Alderton proves a razor-sharp observer of the shifting dynamics of long term female friendship' Mail on Sunday

    'It's so full of life and laughs - I gobbled up this book. Alderton has built something beautiful and true out of many fragments of daftness' Amy Liptrot

    *Winner of Autobiography of the Year at the National Book Awards 2018*
    *A Waterstones Paperback of the Year 2019*
    *A Sunday Times paperback of the year 2019*
    *Selected for Stylist's The Decade's 15 Best Books by Remarkable Women*

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