Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) is a book of smart and funny personal histories, essays, and reflections by writer, actor, and director Mindy Kaling. She tackles topics as diverse as growing up chubby, discovering one’s passion, making and losing friends, chasing one’s dream, singing karaoke, Hollywood, dating, fashion, body image, and more. Along the way, there are plenty of entertaining anecdotes and laugh-out-loud – and even laugh-out-loud-in–public – lines. But turning the pages, you’re just as likely to come across a laugh as you are a piece of hard-won wisdom, a nugget of golden advice, or a sharp, insightful observation about the strangeness and, at times, unfairness of American society and culture.
Fans of Kaling’s work will enjoy learning about her early career, and will love the handful of behind-the-scenes peeks at the making of The Office. But anybody interested in spending some time with a gifted writer who is in love with laughter will enjoy this book. For all the jokes she aims at her own vanity, laziness, and materialism, Kaling quietly shows herself to be an intelligent, driven, talented woman, full of depth and, of course, humor.
The following passage appears in an essay about the various day jobs Kaling took on her way toward becoming the television writer she always wanted to be. It is an example of the kind of wise insights and gems of advice hidden among her larger, often hilarious anecdotes.
While a production assistant on a TV show in which a psychic wanders about a studio audience delivering messages from guests’ dead relatives and friends, Kaling works directly under a woman who is perhaps unhealthily obsessed with Sex and the City and who talks almost exclusively about how stressed out she is. After introducing her boss, Kaling takes a brief detour to discuss this increasingly common tendency among people of all ages and walks of life – we all seem to think we’re busier and more stressed than everyone else, and that it’s okay, or even right, to let everyone else know this. Kaling offers a corrective to this behavior – and gives us, as usual, a few laughs along the way.
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From “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns),” by Mindy Kaling
A note about me: I do not think stress is a legitimate topic of conversation, in public anyway. No one ever wants to hear how stressed out anyone else is, because most of the time everyone is stressed out. Going on and on in detail about how stressed out I am isn’t conversation. It’ll never lead anywhere. No one is going to say, “Wow, Mindy, you really have it especially bad. I have heard some stories of stress, but this just takes the cake.”
This is entirely because my parents are immigrant professionals, and talking about one’s stress level was just totally outlandish to them. When I was three years old my mom was in the middle of her medical residency in Boston. She had been a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist in Nigeria, but in the United State she was required to do her residency all over again. She’d get up at 4:00 a.m. and prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner for my brother and me, because she knew she wouldn’t be home in time to have dinner with us. Then she’d leave by 5:30 a.m. to start rounds at the hospital. My dad, an architect, had a contract for a building in New Haven, Connecticut, which was two hours and forty-five minutes away. It would’ve been easier for him to move to New Haven for the time of the construction of the building, but then who would have taken care of us when my mom was at the hospital at night? In my parents’ vivid imaginations, lack of at least one parent’s supervision was a gateway to drugs, kidnapping, or at the very minimum, too much television watching. In order to spend time with us and save money for our family, my dad dropped us off at school, commuted the two hours and forty-five minutes every morning, and then returned in time to pick us up from our after-school program. Then he came home and boiled us hot dogs as an after-school snack, even though he was a vegetarian and had never eaten a hot dog before. In my entire life, I never once heard either of my parents say they were stressed. That was just not a phrase I grew up being allowed to say. That, and the concept of “Me time.”