Voices: Ever felt hopelessly uncool? Everything I Know About Love proves you’re not alone

·5-min read
‘Being fun is not easy,’ Birdy tells Maggie. She’s right – it’s not  (BBC / Working Title / Universal International Studios Limited)
‘Being fun is not easy,’ Birdy tells Maggie. She’s right – it’s not (BBC / Working Title / Universal International Studios Limited)

This article contains spoilers for Everything I Know About Love

On Monday, the long-awaited Everything I Know About Love premiered on BBC 1 (with all episodes also now available on BBC iPlayer). Adapted from author Dolly Alderton‘s 2018 memoir, the series follows Maggie (Alderton’s fictional counterpart) as she moves into her first home in Camden with three friends and navigates her early twenties.

Cue a riotous stream of hedonism (punctured by crippling hangovers, an omnipresent patch of damp in the kitchen and frenetic job applications): the wine keeps flowing, the girls keep dancing, the tequila is downed without so much as a grimace; and it’s a quick matter of dashing into work with a marmite and lettuce sandwich before the next night — and the next adventure — begins.

Maggie is the show’s protagonist, and it’s no secret that she’s based on Alderton. But despite the routine close-ups and regular voiceovers offering us insights into her internal monologue, I don’t relate to Maggie in the slightest. I relate to Birdy, Maggie’s best friend: because, unlike Maggie, Birdy is hopelessly uncool. Just like me.

I couldn’t ever conceive of kissing someone I’ve just met on a station platform like Maggie does. I couldn’t achieve Maggie’s exquisitely flowing waves of hair if I made it my sole purpose in life; I get nervous meeting guys for the first time in bars, let alone going to their house immediately after exchanging no more than three messages with them on a dating app.

What I do relate to is Birdy hesitating to take cocaine because she’s scared it’ll kill her (to this day, I’ve never done a drug in my life). I relate to her reluctance to roll down the hill because she’s worried it’ll make her dizzy. I relate to her need to get to her job interview several hours early so she can “familiarise herself with the location”, and to play cringey, cheesy songs when getting ready for a night out. When teenage Maggie and Birdy are looking out at the London cityscape — and the adulthood it represents — Maggie sees excitement and possibilities, while Birdy sees “something completely terrifying”. So did I. I still do.

“Being fun is not easy,” Birdy tells Maggie. She’s right; it’s not. Being “fun” — and, with it, being “cool” — is so often categorised as wanting to get drunk all the time. It’s being utterly unfazed by how little sleep you’re getting. It’s being comfortable taking (or, at the very least, being around) drugs. It’s being spontaneous enough to go in search of a party just because you’re bored. It’s losing yourself in at-home karaoke without feeling inhibited, and flinging your limbs around when you’re dancing while still managing to look alluring and confident. It’s saying “yes” all the time, rather than “no”.

I should add: I’m 28, and the characters in the show are 24. When I was 24, I had my fair share of boozy nights out and work hangovers; but I’ve never been ‘fun’ in the way that Maggie is. When looking at flats on SpareRoom a few years ago, I was instantly put off by the ads that requested a “fun” housemate, because I had a feeling I wouldn’t be fun in the way they meant. I’m a Birdy, and I always will be.

But neither Birdy nor I are defined by all the things we’re not. One of my biggest pet hates is when people call someone “boring”, as Birdy’s housemates later suggest she is (though to be fair, that’s more to do with her intense new relationship, which is a slightly different issue). It’s such a casually dismissive descriptor, often used when someone doesn’t adhere to the contemporary definition of ‘fun’; and it’s also incorrect.

It’s impossible for anyone to be boring, by dint of the fact that we’re all humans on this earth with our own unique brains, personalities and souls. If someone seems, at first glance, to have a more muted personality or fewer hobbies than anyone else, then maybe it’s worth taking time to get to know that person to figure out why that is; and, in turn, who they are.

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Birdy and I are not any less interesting because we have a definition of fun that’s different to the norm perpetuated both by contemporary society and by Maggie. Birdy tells Maggie: “I’ve spent years trying to learn how to be fun”; which broke my heart a little bit, because I have no doubt there are a great many real-life people who’ve spent years trying to fold themselves up or stretch themselves out into what they think society and their friends want.

To my relief, Maggie tells Birdy that she is fun; and Maggie’s right. It’s just a different kind of fun: one that relies on rules, sure, but if that person is happy and enjoying themselves, who’s to say they’re not having as much fun as everyone else?

Everything I Know About Love is a hugely relatable series; it just depends who you relate to. For me, it’ll be Birdy every time. She’s one of the best representations of an “unfun” — and simultaneously warm, bubbly, caring and interesting — friend I’ve ever seen; and I’m so happy to have found the friends I can be loudly, proudly myself with, while also having the most fun I’ve ever had.

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