Good Material

Dolly Alderton

January 26, 2024 
The following is from Dolly Alderton's Good Material. Alderton is an award-winning author, screenwriter and journalist based in London. She is a columnist for The Sunday Times Style and has also written for GQ, Red, Marie Claire and Grazia. She's the author of Everything I Know About Love, Ghosts, a novel, and Dear Dolly, a collection of her agony aunt columns from the Sunday Times Style magazine.

Can’t dance. Has no rhythm at all. Used to find it adorable until I saw people laughing at her and hate to say I was embarrassed.

Once overheard her say “Let’s grab a cappuccino some time and we’ll talk” to my teenage cousin who wanted advice about his university applications.

Generally has quite nineties ideas about what is glamorous, like cocktails or spending twenty pounds on a plate of tagliatelle in a “little place.”

Refuses to get to the airport a minute earlier than ninety minutes before a flight takes off.

Don’t have to persuade her to like where we live any more.

When she would go for a run in the evening she would come into the living room, stretch in front of the TV and say “What’s this?” and make me explain the programme I was watching even though she knew what it was, just to make a point that she was exercising while I was watching Help, I’m a Hoarder!

Talked too much and too smugly about coming from a big family, as if it was her decision to have three siblings.

Always used to boast about how she’d reject an OBE if it were offered to her because of her apparent lefty republican values but would never know why she’d be offered an OBE in this fantasy when I asked her.

Would definitely never reject an OBE if it were offered to her.

Would take an hour to go to bed, no matter what time she got in, because she’d do a seven-step skincare routine, browse shop-ping apps and listen to podcasts. And yet only left twenty minutes from her alarm going off to having to leave the flat in the morning.

Always late for me, never late for work.

Can’t drive (childish).

Somehow managed to relate the plot of every film we watched back to her own life.

Her unbearable sister Miranda who carries nonsensical homemade signs at protests saying things like HISTORY IS WATCHING and who I know hates me because she always ranted about “straight white guys” when she came round for dinner, no matter the topic. She used to say “Sorry, Andy” but didn’t by the end.

Her work friends: boring and cliquey and not fun or funny.

All talk about being some big adventurer but never followed through. Wanted to take a year off to travel because she never had a gap year (“next year”). Wanted to move to Paris (“not the right time”). Wanted to get an undercut (“work wouldn’t like it”). Wanted to go to an outdoor sex-themed rave (“when my hay fever gets better”).

Goes to therapy every week and has done since she was twenty-nine but would never tell me what they spoke about and I’ve never seen that she has anything wrong with her.

Was too connected to dogs and spoke to them as if they were people.

Her rude dad.

Her weird mum.

Comes from a family who go on long circular walks and play board games.

Annoyingly loquacious and was on a debating team at her school, which meant I didn’t win an argument in nearly four years even when I was right about loads of them.

Always on at me about biting my nails, picking my feet, too much hair in my nostrils and bum hole etc., despite the fact she’s always fiddling with her cuticles.

Talked at the cinema.

Pretended she’s unsure about wanting children because she cares about the planet, but I think she just didn’t want children with me.

Would never talk seriously about having children, despite knowing how much I want to be a dad, but would some times say “That’s one of my baby names” to people in conversation.

Those baby names included: Noah, Blue (?) and Zebedee.

Snob. Once said that she thought people who wear straw hats at the airport on the way to their summer holiday are “regional.”

Lingered too long in museums at every artefact or painting and would have a go at me if I walked through the exhibition too quickly.

Once saw her nod respectfully at a TINY JADE SPOON in the British Museum.

Only saw her cry a handful of times in nearly four years together and it wasn’t when we broke up.

One time was when we were watching a Joni Mitchell documentary.

Ruined my life.


From Good Material by Dolly Alderton. Copyright © 2023 by Baby Fish Mouth, Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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