Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
By Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”
Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!
In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.
I don’t think this book would be considered a memoir, which we know is a tricky genre for me. I’d say it’s more a series of humorous essays and that works just fine for me. I enjoy the conversational tone of this sort of book. It’s like sitting with a friend who is great at spinning a yarn and making you laugh while she does it.
In the Introduction, Kaling answers anticipated questions by the readers. To “What is this book about?” she responds:
Sometimes it’s an essay or story, and sometimes it’s a pliest, which is a piece with a list-y quality, a term I’ve just made up.
As someone who loves lists, I read this as a good sign. The next chapter is a pliest of alternate titles for the book. My favorite is ‘When Your Boyfriend Fits into Your Jeans and Other Atrocities’.
I kept forgetting that it was written a couple of years ago, when Kaling was still working on The Office. I kept expecting to read about her new show that she writes for, stars in and does a million other things as well. However, hearing about her dorky childhood and dorky adulthood felt very familiar. Despite different backgrounds and families, much of Kaling’s childhood stories sounds like everyone else’s, including mine. You make friends. You make new friends. You lose the previous round of friends and feel mildly conflicted about that even though you’re happier with your new friends. You go to college and make a totally different set of friends, hopefully closer aligned with your interests and who you are.
And this mindset of figuring things out as you go is universal. Whether the stories are your own or about Kaling failing as an intern on the Conan O’Brien show, we all figure out how to be ourselves, and an adult, one misstep at a time.
I found myself chuckling through most of the book. Much of what I read doesn’t make me laugh out loud but Kaling’s observations and turns of phrases are terrific. I hope she writes another book to talk about her (mis)adventures in Hollywood as she embarked on her own show.