Why isn’t everyone listening to Mindy Kaling?

in Nonfiction by

Mindy Kaling wonders if everyone is hanging out without her. No, Mindy, we’re all just wishing that you’d come hang out with us. You’re so cool when you tell us about not being cool. We wish we could be that cool. Instead, we’re happy to read about you. We think we might actually be getting cooler through osmosis (and we are sure that’s a thing).

Hanging Out cover 200In her hilarious memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Kaling treats the introduction like a Q&A session, as if we’re standing in front of her, book in hand, weighing whether or not to buy it. (The answer to that question, by the way, is yes.) The imaginary, questioning reader wonders if she’ll be dispensing advice and if the book will be like a women’s magazine or “one of those guidebooks celebrities write for girls”:

Oh, hell no. I’m only marginally qualified to give advice at all. My body mass index is certainly not ideal, I frequently use my debit card to buy things that cost less than three dollars because I never have any cash on me, and my bedroom is so untidy it looks like vandals ransacked the Anthropologie Sale section. I’m kind of a mess.

See, Mindy? We want to hang out with you already. We actually bought your book with our debit card (even though, yes, technically, it did cost more than three dollars, but the point is that we don’t carry cash, either!) and we don’t care about our body mass index. In fact, we love you more because you don’t tell us to care about it. And our bedrooms? Disaster areas.

Even though you think you’re only “marginally qualified” to give advice, you did, as you point out, “fulfill a childhood dream of writing and acting in television and movies.” And we’ve learned from you, even if we never achieved our childhood dreams of being rock stars, astronauts, or marine biologists. Here are just a few things you’ve taught us.

On Revenge

No, not that television show. But we’re in love with television as much as you, so don’t worry about that. We mean real revenge, like the kind one exacts on that bastard who called you a whale in middle school or that bitter network TV lifer who didn’t take you seriously. That old saying, about revenge being a dish best served cold, really is bunk. You’re right, “it feels best served piping hot, straight out of the oven of outrage.” We like the way you’d serve it:

Take care of revenge right away. Push, shove, scratch that person while they’re still within arm’s reach. Don’t let them get away! Who knows when you’ll get this opportunity again?

On High School

We agree that people (and songs) that make you feel like you’re an utter loser if your life isn’t the epitome of perfection in high school suck. And maybe you’re right that “in the genre of ‘making you feel like you’re not having an awesome American high school experience,’ the worst offender is actually a song: John Cougar Mellancamp’s ‘Jack and Diane.’” There are other contenders in the song category, but you make a strong case against JCM’s ode to those all-American pastimes like sneaking beer, making out, and, apparently, never doing your homework. And we all need to hear what you have to say about being the kid who doesn’t do those things:

I just want ambitious teenagers to know it is totally fine to quiet observant kids. Besides being a delight to your parents, you will find you have plenty of time later to catch up. So famous people I work with—famous actors, accomplished writers—were overlooked in high school. Be like Allan Pearl. Sit next to the class clown and study him. Then grow up, take everything you learn, and get paid to be a real-life clown, unlike whatever unexciting thing the actual class clown is doing now. The chorus of “Jack & Diane” is: Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone. Are you kidding me? The thrill of living was high school? Come on, Mr. Cougar Mellencamp. Get a life.

On Kindness

You don’t really have a section entitled “Kindness,” because you’re not writing a spiritual guide to self-actualization, or some other kind of book that’s really hard to categorize but is supposed to make you a better person by the end (or else you’re just damaged beyond repair and that sucks for you). But we applaud you for not applauding the mean-spirited skewering of people for laughs. You’re talking about roasts, but we’re going to extrapolate that into talking about life:

When I watch roasts, I actually feel physically uncomfortable, like when I see a crow feast on a squirrel that has been hit by a car has not stopped moving yet. The self-proclaimed no-holds-barred atmosphere reminds me of signs for strip clubs on Hollywood Boulevard: “We Have Crazy Girls. They Do Anything!” We don’t have to do anything. Let’s bar some holds.

On Bodies and Size

It’s creepy if we say, without ever having met you in person, that we love your body. Hopefully it’s less creepy when we say that we love what you say about your body. We hope you’ll still hang out with us if we say this. Because people, women especially, need to hear this:

 I love shopping and fashion, as anyone who has read more than a paragraph of this book will know. But for magazine photo shoots and things, they hire stylists for me, because they have a certain idea for how they want me to look, and it isn’t necessarily how I would style myself, which is 1980s-era Lisa Bonet. Since I am not model skinny, but also not super fat and fabulously owning my hugeness, I fall in that nebulous “normal American woman” size that legions of fashion stylists detest. For the record, I’m a size eight (this week, anyway). Many stylists hate that size, because I think, to them, it shows that I lack the discipline to be an ascetic or the confident sassy abandon to be a total fatty hedonist. They’re like: pick a lane! Just be so enormous that you need to be buried in a piano, and dress accordingly. For the record, they’re not all bad. I’ve worked with some really badass stylists who make me look so smokin’ hot your face would melt. Monica Rose, who styled me for this book cover, totally gets my body and celebrates it. (Yes, I say things like “celebrates my body” like your old hippie aunt.) But many stylists don’t know what to do with me.

We know what to do with you, Mindy Kaling. We want to watch The Mindy Project and read your book and listen to you talk about being real. Because even if this fake friendship we’ve cultivated (without your knowledge) isn’t real, you are.

Jordan is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon, after spending six years in NYC for college and graduate school (where she earned her MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia) before realizing that her heart belonged in the Pacific Northwest. She (hopefully) puts that degree to good use writing for BookTrib and Publishers Weekly about the vast quantity of books she reads. While Jordan’s literary diet is largely crime fiction—as she was raised, often literally, in Portland’s only mystery bookstore—she’s perfectly content to read novels and nonfiction that lack a murder because good writing transcends labels. Follow her on Twitter @jordanfoster13.

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