You will likely come across Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) when purchasing Tina Fey’s Bossypants on Amazon. Amazon’s algorithm will helpfully suggest that you add this second title to your basket. Amazon may be an evil empire that will one day put all publishers out of business, but you should probably take their advice just this once.Here are three reasons you should buy Kaling’s book:
1. Her Love for Nerdy Girls
She praises all those girls who were too busy taking Princeton Review practice tests to actually have a social life in high school outside of dorky outings with equally dorky friends. When giving advice to young women, Kaling writes “stay in school and be a respectful and hardworking wallflower, and go to an accredited non-online university.” Sorry University of Phoenix, but she’s right. What she is also saying here is that you aren’t entitled to anything simply because you exist and that any type of success will involve real, boring work. And even if you work hard, the success isn’t guaranteed, but it’s a hell of a lot more likely than if you spend your high school years trying to figure out how best to impress some boy you will likely never see or even think of after graduation (unless this boy’s name is Ben and yours is Felicity).
She undermines the American obsession with high school and teenage bonhomie with a refreshingly ethnic argument. Criticizing the ubiquitous John Cougar Mellencamp song “Jack and Diane,” she writes:
I wish there was a song called “Nguyen and Ari,” a little ditty about a hardworking Vietnamese girl who helps her parents with the franchised Holiday Inn they run, and does homework in their lobby and Ari, a hardworking Jewish boy who does volunteer work at his grandmother’s old age home, and they meet after school at Princeton Review. They help each other study for the SATs and different AP courses, and then, after months of studying, and mountains of flashcards, they kiss chastely upon hearing the news that they both got into their top college choices.
Nguyen and Ari aren’t sitting around “sucking on a chili dog outside the Tastee Freez” waiting for whatever there is “after the thrill of living is gone.” They are working to position themselves in the best way possible to ensure a successful, remunerative future. Unlike many middle-class white teenagers who display an alarming self-confidence, believing that everything will work out even if they don’t work at all, the children of immigrants see their parents working their asses off and realize they need to act in kind.
Most of us nerds who were too busy studying for AP US History to engage in high school excitement may find ourselves wondering if we missed out on some magical period in our lives. We had no drama at prom, no bad boys our fathers disapproved of, no forbidden parties our parents came home early to discover. We just had lots of flashcards. Kaling confirms what I’ve always thought. We didn’t miss a thing. Today’s screenwriters were yesterday’s nerds, so they keep constructing an image of high school they didn’t experience either. I’m pretty sure high school melodrama never really existed for anyone who ended up gainfully employed.
2. Her Love for Health Benefits
Although I may despise the health insurance industry, there is something pretty awesome about the first time you get a real job with a real health insurance card. Do you really want your parents to see that you just got tested for chlamydia again? Do you really want to have to constantly pray that you will never be run over by a bike messenger? It’s good to have healthcare. When discussing her first full-time job working on the set of a television psychic, Kaling reveals that “the description of the PPO was more exciting than the job itself.” She points out that her mother is a physician, so this may have something to do with her obsession with healthcare, but what she is talking about here is more than just the joy of a PPO. She is talking about becoming an adult.
Her parents were basically telling her: “Look, we paid a lot of money for you to get a degree. We are bucking the immigrant-parent stereotype and letting you “follow your dreams” of a creative career in NYC. We are probably still helping you out with your cell phone bill and flights home for the holidays because we understand that it may take you a while to get established. But you need to be trying. You need a day job. You need healthcare.”
Thank you, Mindy Kaling. Thank you for pointing out that the desire to be an adult is not boring or bourgeois or any other lame word. When you go to a school like NYU or Columbia and have friends with rich parents who are willing to support them indefinitely, you get really sick of hearing people say things like “I could never work in an office” or “I just want to freelance.” Yes, no one dreams of working in a cubicle. Everyone wants an awesome creative job that offers flexibility. However, you first need a job—a real, boring job. Otherwise, you will never really be more than a child, and most of what you have to say will likely be insipid and self-absorbed. Thank you, Mindy Kaling.
3. Her Hatred for the Stereotype of Career Women with Shrinking Ovaries
One of the best essays in the book, which was previously excerpted in The New Yorker, details the many stereotypes of women in romantic comedies that need to go—now. My personal favorite is her description of the “working woman” who spends all her time shouting while wearing her hair in a bun only to have some man show her how to become a feminine being who must sacrifice her career for the sake of her womb. This is bullshit. Kaling uses this pesky thing called real life to discredit this myth: “I, Mindy Kaling, basically have two full-time jobs. I regularly work sixteen hours a day…. I didn’t completely forget how to be nice or feminine because I have a career.”
Everyone—male, female, and in-between—is really busy. Many busy women also manage to have social lives, remember how to have sex, and treat people with respect. It is true that in career-driven cities like NYC or Los Angeles, some women may have to take work calls while hanging out with friends or have to cancel a date because work got crazy. Most of these women will apologize profusely and rarely engage in this behavior if at all possible. I have seen far more men engage in such behavior, but this never makes them seem less masculine. There is, of course, the cinematic stereotype of the workaholic man who discovers that he is missing out on what really matters, but men never actually watch these movies. Women, however, do watch romantic comedies, so they should stop being brainwashed into thinking that having a career will make them humorless, estrogen-starved shrews. An interesting, demanding career may actually make you a more attractive, interesting human being that other attractive, interesting human beings would like to sleep with. At the very least, it will give you health insurance.