Paying Homage To Your Twenties: Everything I Know About Love

By Caitlin Evans

Dolly Alderton has me in a chokehold. She is the creative genius who I truly aspire to be. However, this piece isn’t just going to unpack my newfound obsession with Alderton. Not in full. This piece is going to unpack my obsession with the series of Everything I Know About Love - the series that has made me fall in love with the very novel that started this magic in the first place. Alderton is raw, relatable and romantic - but not in the typical way you'd expect. She encourages you to fall in love with yourself and your friends, not just other romantic interests. Everything I Know About Love is 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. I’m going to let you in on how Alderton’s book has given me some much-needed perspective on being in my twenties, a perspective that I hope will help you in some way too.

Everyone moves at their own pace

This series has given me a much-needed shake. It has woken me up to the fact that WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT. There is no one set way to do your twenties. Just because my parents met and fell in love when they were my age, doesn’t mean that path is destined for me. Don’t get me wrong, I've never felt that pressure from them - it’s just a pressure I’ve put on myself.

I’ve also realised that love and heartbreak is not just a concept associated with romantic relationships, but with friendships too. In the series/book, childhood besties Maggie and Birdy drift apart as Birdy gets into a serious relationship. As Birdy experiences her first love, Maggie is left dealing with the likes of Street: typically edgy, care-free and not into commitment (if you know, you know…) She feels left behind, whilst also feeling like she’s missing out on the kind of love Birdy has found. This is something I know far too well after my relationship with one of my best friends at university completely broke down. I have never experienced romantic heartbreak, but that brought me pretty close to what heartbreak is. Maggie’s complete vulnerability triggered me to reflect on this time in my life, but it also allowed me to refocus. I have moved on from that time in my life. And, dealing with the loss of a friend was perhaps one of the biggest lessons that I have had to learn in my twenties.

We are still growing and learning

There are so many touch-points in the series where we are given scope to see characters grow and learn. We see Nell learning about who she is and what she wants out of a relationship, we see Amara educating Maggie on racism, we see Birdy learning how to fall in love, and we see Maggie learning how to be professional and herself simultaneously. These aren’t the only lessons we learn, but these were the standout moments for me. Your twenties are a period for growth and learning, and the show reminded me that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them.

It’s okay to be a mess sometimes, but you always need to find your way back home

Your twenties are a great time to see some of the world for yourself and to travel. But, as we see in Maggie’s work trip to New York, it’s possible to lose more than just your passport. You can sometimes lose yourself to the world, but it’s important to re-find purpose and control, and sometimes that takes to calling it quits and going home to ground ourselves.

Running away from feelings is something I am too guilty of succumbing to from time to time, and it only tends to heighten them in most situations. Things can get a bit too much, and I try to shut away how I feel. But it always seems to catch up with me at some point. Maggie’s homecoming reunion with her mother is a particularly poignant demonstration of this, a moment where she actually spends time with and listens to her mother’s advice. You should never be afraid to ask your nearest and dearest for advice. Especially those who have seen their twenties through - they’ll know better than you how to prepare and console you.

The importance of reconciling: take a step back from your stubbornness

Why are we so afraid to let our friends in? Why are we so afraid to be honest and say I MISS YOU or I FEEL SHIT? Saying that over the phone is always so much harder than saying it in person. Coming down the stairs of your shared uni house at 4pm in your dressing gown, wanting to eat ice cream, watch a sad Disney film and cry a bit is usually the perfect way of getting out how you feel.

Or, a personal favourite would be to head off on a long walk where you can just TALK. For hours about everything and nothing. This can either be with a friend, or it can be by yourself. No, I have never taken myself on a long walk to cry by myself like a main character, I don’t know what you mean… Regardless of whether I was alone or with my friends, I’d go back to the house and feel a weight off my shoulders. That’s one gap for me in the series, the girls don’t just sit and talk. They are silly and they have fun, which is very relatable (who else has countless videos of them dancing to Calvin Harris at full volume with their housemates on a Tuesday afternoon?! I hope it’s not just me). However, the foundations of my best friendships are just being able to sit. And talk. To be honest, I talk so much I am surprised I actually have any friends left to listen to me drone on! Even though we’re all different, I will always stand by letting out how you feel. It doesn’t always have to be talking, it can be screaming into a pillow or it can be during a run where you listen to some amped up music. No matter what you prefer to do, there has to come a point where you need to just let it all out.

Is there a right way to do your twenties?

I have built up such an idea that your twenties have to be full of partying, sex, and non-stop fun. Staring at your empty bank account and thinking ‘yeah, that was worth every penny’. But Everything I Know About Love has been a welcome reminder that we all do our twenties differently. There isn’t a template for how we have to experience this period of our lives, and we should stop worrying about how our life looks to others. There is no right way to do your twenties, there is only your way.

Do you believe in fate?

Among all of the lessons, Dolly Alderton’s series left and still leaves me hopeful that fate DOES exist. The lovely New York boy is the embodiment of this. That heartwarming meet-up was exactly what Maggie and I needed. Life can surprise you, and sometimes you just have to let it do just that. And if it’s excitement and surprises you seek, there’s nothing stopping you making your own adventures along the way. You can’t just rely on life to surprise you.

Thank you, Dolly.