Listen, it’s hard for me to believe that there is another 30-something Black woman out there addicted to The Mindy Project, a show written/produced/starred in by Mindy Kaling, a former writer and actress on The Office, but I believe it. I’m used to this feeling, though. I had the same feeling in high school when I would head to class looking for an eye-to-eye connect with a brown girl who had also spent the night toiling over Dawson and Joey’s love/despair. I felt this way in college while talking about The Gilmore Girls with folks who looked exactly like Rory and less like Lane or me.
By my mid-twenties, I’d given up. There is no one on this earth into the shows that I love. Don’t get me wrong, I hung with Mr. Copper with the best of them and wanted Khadija to be my roommate. It’s just that, those stories weren’t mine. I wasn’t the same age as the characters and I wasn’t going through the same growing pains at the same time as them. I laughed at them and cried for them, we never experienced those things together.
Then, last year, I sat on my sofa in a sulk that was due to an intolerable amount of adulting and too little time. I grabbed my wine glass with one hand, my remote with the other and went to Hulu in search of some mindless show that would make me forget the woes of my responsibility-laden single life. I was Olivia Poped out, I needed a funny rom-com to get me over the hump. And there she was, this brown girl with bright eyes and whimsical pattern pairings. “Sure, I remember her from The Office,” I said. “Let’s see what The Mindy Project is all about,” and the rest is history.
Over my winter break, between baking and thinking up lesson plans for the new year, I indulged in Mindy Lahiri’s 30-something quirkiness and awkward encounters with men. Some things I just didn’t relate to, like her seeming need to only date white dudes and her obsession with all things pop culture. Other things I related to all too well. She was my Indian soup snake, I mean soul mate (a big HA! for all of you fans of The Office). I’m telling you this girl was reading my mail!!
Here we were, Mindy and I, beautiful 30-somethings who went to college and did everything right. We both have careers that we love, great friends, and our own apartments, yet we were single and not the beauty standards of the mainstream, too busy to date but too old not to (according to our family, friends, and the ticking time bomb in our ovaries). We were everything that we could think of that someone should want and somehow, we found ourselves being the last on so many lists.
Dr. Mindy Lahiri is, or was, a serial dater. I was never that. I wasn’t a serial monogamist either, but I was chalk full of professional development presentations, grad school classes and moving up the old ladder, so to speak. Mindy is a doctor in her own practice, she opened a second practice specializing in fertility. She is awkward and laughs at her own jokes. I too laugh at myself more than others do. Like, tears streaming down my face, belly laughing at myself. She was cheated on, dumped, told that her standards were too high or too low and she confided in her friends even when it made her vulnerable.
Time has passed for the two of us. I watched Mindy fall in best friendship with her co-worker Danny and it reminded me so much of a friend of mine and how our friendship began. How we emerged from an association to an uncanny friendship. Mindy’s relationship soon grew to a greater affection and I found myself yelling at the television feeling like this heifer was just reading my mail on prime time for everyone to see (like she’d done many times before). I had fallen in love with the aforementioned friend and had no idea how to act, what to say, how to even eat my yogurt in front of this person anymore. Then, the unfathomable happened. Everything fell into place. For Mindy and Danny and for me and my love. How in the hell did that happen? Well, Hennessy played a big part in mine, but I just couldn’t believe the timing with me and Mindy, ya know? Who does that?
Sometimes I feel as if I shouldn’t adore this show. Like, it’s crazy how she idolizes Beyonce and I’m not a Beyhive allegiant (don’t kill me y’all). Mindy is constantly calling herself fat and I’m looking at her like “Girl, you don’t even know fat until you’ve stuffed a size 22 into some old size 18 jeans,” but then again…that’s what it’s about. Tackling perspectives and perceptions. Dr. Lahiri is also a lover of texts and emojis, like any true-to-heart 80’s baby who still yearns for the days of Lisa Frank should be. Not that I needed my emoji addiction justified by anyone, but it’s nice to know that I’m not alone. I mean, anyone can send a text that says “I love you,” but when you add a winking kissy face to it, I know it’s real.
She is nothing that we’ve stereotypically seen of an Indian woman and that’s okay. Olivia Pope may not use emoji’s non-stop with the president, but she isn’t what mainstream America was used to seeing of a Black woman either. So be it. We’re all shapes and sizes. We all have different obsessions. We all love and we all deserve love, even if it’s not the love that anyone else “sees” us deserving.
The Mindy Project is for this 80’s baby who had given up on seeing herself on TV because Friends and Dawson’s Creek would never be enuf.