Why Not Me? is Mindy Kaling’s second essay collection. I have talked about how much I loved the first at length. In this second offering she has managed to give us even more of herself. Her mission statement for the collection is this: ‘If my childhood, teens and twenties were about wanting people to like me , now I want people to know me. So, this is a start.’
She proceeds from there through a collection that covers showbiz beauty standards (they are always hair extensions. Always.), dating in your thirties (apparently there is less drama) and the question of where she gets her confidence. She also talks about Ike Barinholtz’s alarm that one time she got behind on washing and wore her padded bra to the office. I too own a padded bra, though I have never summoned the courage to wear out of the house for this very reason, so I can imagine what that must have been like.
Mindy Kaling deals with a lot of crap. In every other interview some journalist feels the need to remind her that she doesn’t look like a ‘typical’ famous person. She has a constant stream of press asking where do you get your confidence? in a way that sounds like a backhanded compliment. Asking someone so incredulously and consistently why they are so confident starts to feel like you’re telling them they shouldn’t be really fast.
Her answer to the confidence question is this: work hard. Get good at the thing you want to do and show it off. Hard work is the central theme to much of the book. She wants us to know that her craft is something she has worked hard to hone over a lot of years. I loved this. So much of what we consume is designed to appear effortless. We consider ‘talented’ a way of being rather than something we have to strive for. It’s easier to assume that a writer emerged from the womb clutching a book of original poetry than to go through the years of hard work that led up to it.
True to her intentions, at the end of the book, I do feel like I know Mindy Kaling a little better. Through small asides and quick anecdotes she does a wonderful job of sketching out the identities and personalities of her friends and loved ones. Her mother passed away a few years back, but she remains is a clear and constant presence in Mindy’s life. She calls her mum her best friend. Mindy also gives us some insight into her much discussed relationship with BJ Novak. They have a tumblr dedicated to them. It is absurd that she waited for this long to give us more information. From what I can gather he’s a funny guy who’s on his phone a lot who also happens to be very kind. Mindy Kaling did an amazing job of giving us pieces of her life to explore while keeping the whole as her own. (or maybe she’s just making sure she still has material for the next memoir. You’d have to ask her).
Reading Why Not Me? is like the midnight conversations you had in your kitchen at university. We get to gossip about being famous and going to the white house. We learn how to look spectacular (I would also refer you to Mindy’s Instagram for this) and what the average day in her life looks like. But she also shares with us her 4am worries (‘19. Is my father lonely? Would he tell me if he was?’) and that some days she obsesses about celebrities she’s skinnier than. She also reminds us of all the ways in which Mindy Kaling is not Mindy Lahiri.
Mindy Kaling does a really great job of making you feel like you’re probably going to be okay. I recommend this book to anyone who needs reminding of that.