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11th April 2023

Dear Dolly Live: Sex, breakups and tipsy confessions

Find out Dolly Alderton’s thoughts on everything from messy breakups to writing sex scenes at Dear Dolly Live, where “she just makes you feel better!”
Dear Dolly Live: Sex, breakups and tipsy confessions
Photo: Alice McQuail @ The Mancunion

Popular journalist and author Dolly Alderton took to the stage at the London Coliseum to impart her wisdom to her doting audience.

Alderton spoke about her book Dear Dolly (2022) which is a collection of her writings from her popular agony aunt column for Style at The Sunday Times. She responds to queries like “Help! Men are put off by my height” and “I’m a lesbian but I can’t stop seeking the approval of men.” She tries to give a compassionate view of all sides mixed with her own anecdotes to help without judgement. 

The London Coliseum was an impressive venue with gold-clad statues and an intricately painted ceiling. As soon as I found my seat, I noticed something about the audience. I was in a sea of people who looked just like Dolly Alderton. They were mostly women in their late twenties to early thirties who were sat with overpriced glasses of wine. I even heard someone tell their friend ‘It’s like a cult’ which was comically true. 

The guest interviewer was Raven Smith, a fellow Sunday Times writer and author of Raven Smith’s Men. Dolly Alderton entered the stage dressed in a long flowing skirt and looked majestic as she waved to her crowd of adoring fans.  

The evening had a very informal tone and felt at times like listening to a podcast. Alderton’s chemistry with Raven, whom she was clearly friends with, added a lovely intimate atmosphere to the evening. She even admitted she was glad the event wasn’t being live-streamed so they could drink wine and let loose. 

Alderton spoke about how one of her main goals when writing is destigmatising sex and removing shame from it. However, she admitted she sometimes found it difficult to write sex scenes because they are a reflection of her own sex life. When writing her new novel Good Material (out November 2023) she refused to let her editor discuss sex scenes with her because it was too awkward.  

She also opened up about her hatred of criticism and that she deals with it “very badly.” In an ideal world, she wishes her writing could forgo any rigorous editing and be printed straight from her home. 

Alderton also spoke about how she was interested in the way sex is portrayed on television. When working on her show Everything I Know about Love adapted from her memoir, she was surprised by how sex scenes are filmed and sometimes found them uncomfortable to watch. However, she disagrees with the idea that sex scenes are always unnecessary and advocates for them when done in a safe environment. 

She discussed how the most frequent problems sent into her column are about breakups and how to get over an ex. Alderton admitted she struggled with this as it is something she hasn’t quite mastered yet. She confessed that she is an excellent social media stalker when it comes to her exes but that she does not recommend it as a cure for heartbreak.  

Another common problem is how to meet someone other than on dating apps. Alderton said she often falls into clichés with this question and answers with ‘when you’re confident with yourself then you’ll find someone’, but she understands how infuriating those responses are.  

The second part of the event was focused on questions and problems sent in by the audience. This felt like an extension of her novel with her witty and thought-through responses. The questions again covered popular subjects like dating and breakups but there were a few surprising ones such as “What do I do if my best friend gives me the ick” and “I’ve found out my mum has an STI.” She also covered more delicate topics like female fertility, which she also talks about in her book. 

She dealt with the topic of virginity as she noticed a spike in queries from people in their older teens and early twenties who were worried about still being virgins.  Alderton realised that because of COVID, where it was literally illegal to touch anyone outside your bubble, people were losing their virginities later. This led Alderton to say the last good decision she made when it comes to men was the person she lost her virginity to so as to not rush into it. 

The audience became very vocal in the second half with loud gasps and sighs at certain questions. At a question from a woman whose boyfriend said he found her less attractive after gaining weight, the audience loudly booed in solidarity. Alderton has clearly built a solid community with her fans, even saying to the audience, “These are my people.”

Alderton has become a big sister advisor figure who has helped and influenced a large number of people, including myself. Her memoir Everything I Know about Love helps to remind us that our twenties are all filled with career anxieties and messy breakups, so we don’t feel quite so alone. 

Although her column now focuses on other people’s problems rather than her own, they are still as entertaining to read. They also make her more of a Carrie Bradshaw figure from Sex and the City – a favourite show of hers. As I was leaving, I heard someone say, “She just makes you feel better,” which I think is exactly her intention.  

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