CULTURE & ARTS

8 Crucial Life Truths Everyone Can Learn From Mindy Kaling's New Book

"Self-pity gets results" and more timeless wisdom.

Mindy Kaling would probably be horrified to see this article. I'm assuming this firstly because the article is spinning a rather serious takeaway out of a hilarious, self-deprecating book, but also because Kaling judges the hell out of media coverage of her.

Here's an example, from her reaction to a blog post titled "Mindy Kaling Sure Likes to Pose with Her Hand on Her Hip": "I thought, Wow, this poor sad guy. I pictured all the time he must have spent scouring through photos of me to find the ones where my hand was on my hip ... This was a grown man. And that was his job."

Ahhh!! Please don't hate me, Mindy, I'm really nice, and I too like dessert, like, A LOT.

Anyway, that was the first lesson I took from Why Not Me?, a new book from the creator, star and showrunner of "The Mindy Project." The second: Kaling's next show (or first movie!) should definitely be drawn from her imagined second life as a Latin teacher at Dalton, featuring a torrid romance with a curmudgeonly history teacher with a heart of gold.

But if you don't blog about Mindy Kaling or decide which shows of hers to greenlight, this book is also packed with more broadly applicable lessons, ranging from the earnest ("confidence is like respect; you have to earn it") to the flippant ("self-pity gets results") to the mildly dangerous ("it's OK to drink tequila in the car if you just had a really good meeting"). So you don't have to read the book yourself*, here are the most meaningful, potentially life-changing pieces of advice I gleaned from the snort-chuckle-inducing pages of Why Not Me?

Spend money on tailoring, not clothes.

It’s painful to spend more money on clothes you’ve already purchased, but nothing makes an outfit look sharper than the right fit. If you must, start by raiding your grandma's closet.

Trying to make yourself look cool is boring.

Mindy knows perfectly well that we all get her TV characters mixed up with her actual self. It’s not uncommon with actors. Thanks to Mindy’s own creative choices, her characters are kind of awful -- but she chooses to put herself in those unflattering situations, because that’s what comedy demands.

A few of the things she lists as “Things Mindy Lahiri Would Do That I Would Not”: “Think Rick Santorum is hot,” “Flirt with a fireman while he was fighting a fire and be miffed she doesn’t have his undivided attention,” and “Sue a Boston Market for giving too-small helpings of sides.” All kind of absurdly terrible, but all way funnier than having a mild, sweet female lead. Being vulnerable and out there might open you up to judgment, but it’s a lot more interesting than walking on eggshells.  

Don’t be apologetic about who you are.

Mindy loves rom-coms. Mindy loves making out and pasty white guys. Mindy tries to look conventionally hot. Mindy just wants a real love story with a “sweet, mature, normal, loving guy, with no baggage. And who has an absolutely enormous penis.”

It can be hard to admit what you actually want or like. We’re desperately curating our images to show we’re not “basic” or “unfeminist” or “too feminist” or “too girly” or “too weird.” Being that chick who likes rom-coms and just wants to have a perfect meet-cute and fall in love is a bit uncool, especially in the Mindy Kaling world of bro comedy writers and career-driven ladies. But that’s who she is, and she owns it. 

Seriously though, rom-coms are a totally acceptable thing to like.

"The Mindy Project" is basically a rom-com, on TV, and it's hilariously awesome and heartwarming. Let's just collectively pretend we never saw "The Ugly Truth," okay?

Be entitled, but earn it.

“Confidence” has come to be one of those nebulous things that women should have more of, but no one can tell us how to develop. If you’re a confident woman or girl, that’s fantastic. But Mindy has some words of wisdom for the undeservedly confident men, and the self-doubting women: "Entitlement is simply the belief that you deserve something. Which is great. The hard part is, you'd better make sure you deserve it."

Nothing gives a confidence boost like becoming better at whatever it is you do, and putting in hard work that you can feel good about. But if you’re doing that, it’s past time to give yourself permission to act entitled to recognition. (If you’re a white guy, try reverse-engineering this one: Have you earned that ballooning sense of entitlement?) 

Growing up means your friendships will probably change, and that’s okay.

A lot of portrayals of female friendship are so aspirational it can be hard to watch them as an adult woman. Unless you have a tight-knit, nearby gang of bffs, á la “Sex and the City” or “Girls,” these shows can feel like a guilt trip for not calling your bestie back home often enough.

“The Mindy Project” got some crap for how Mindy Lahiri’s married-with-kids best friend rarely turned up in the show, but this, like her take on adult friendship in Why Not Me?, actually shows she’s learned a painful reality about friendship: As you grow up, you typically leave behind the time when you can devote yourselves completely to your friends and vice versa. That doesn’t mean you don’t still love each other, but you have different responsibilities and obligations now, and that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with any of you.

Still, friendship will always mean being there for each other as much as possible.

So don't whine about being a bridesmaid (too much). And don't wish you could be BFFs with Mindy Kaling instead of your loyal, supportive actual BFF. (Apparently she's just "a good friend, but not that great," according to her best friend Jocelyn.)

Accept your relationships for what they are.

Mindy’s weird, complicated friendship with her old “Office” costar B.J. Novak probably reminds a lot of us (right? right, guys?) of a time when we were infatuated with a friend who didn’t want to be with us, or who just wasn’t the right match for us.

Sometimes it seems like you’re actually soul mates, and they just can’t see it. But probably you’re just not soul mates, and you can’t accept it. But Mindy has the perfect way of summing up her friendship with B.J.: “‘Soul mates’ is what you aim for, but soup snakes is what you get sometimes.” When a relationship is close but no cigar, you can fight the inevitable, or you can sit back and enjoy it for what it is.

 

*J.K. you still have to read it; I left at least one Important Life Lesson out. Psych!

 

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