Disclaimer: I asked my son’s permission to write the below piece. He read and signed off on its contents prior to publication.
My oldest son is now 14 years old. For the past few months, he’s been crushing on a TV actress. Nothing surprising about that.
What is surprising is the TV actress he picked: Mindy Kaling, creator, writer, and star of “The Mindy Project.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I happen to be a fan of Mindy myself. My husband and I watch her show regularly. (Though my son actually stumbled on it while on an airplane, and proceeded to binge watch the entire first season. Then he read Mindy’s book. And then he followed her on Twitter.)
My surprise stems from the fact that I expected my son to go the more predictable teenage boy route and obsess over some six foot tall, blonde, Amazonian, busty supermodel type (not that there’s anything wrong with that, either; we all have to work with what we’re given). Mindy Kaling is none of those things. She is relatively short, relatively curvy, non-white and, at least based on the character she plays on TV and the character she plays in interviews (I’ve worked in the media too long to believe anyone is ever being “authentic” in front of a camera), smart, hard-working, an independent thinker. And very, very funny.
In other words, she’s this mom’s dream girl.
(Yes, I realize that Mindy isn’t Jewish. But just like my African-American husband claims that being a New Yorker and an engineer makes him an honorary Jew, Mindy Kaling also fits the bill. In her book, she writes about having Jewish friends, immigrant parents, going to Jewish summer camp, and, in a take-down of “Jack and Diane,” posits how a song about her teenage years would be less about a hormonal couple sitting around loitering, and more about an Indian girl and Jewish boy studying for their SATs together, then sharing a chaste kiss to celebrate getting into their first-choice colleges. Finally, as Mindy wrote here: “I, like the rest of the North American world, have a fondness for witty, East Coast-y, over-educated, well-dressed Jewish guys.” Does she mind if they’re still in high-school?)
Prior to my son’s fascination with Mindy Kaling, I’d given no thought to what kind of partner I would hope he ends up with down the line. Honestly, I have so much going on in my life with three kids, one husband, and a half-dozen part-time jobs I am desperately trying to cobble together into something resembling a single full-time one, I haven’t even thought about what we’re doing for Thanksgiving this year, much less about my 14-year-old’s long-term romantic future (not that I think a single iota of it will be up to me; this is more of an intellectual exercise).
I’ve got to admit, though, his (temporary; he’s a kid, after all) infatuation with Mindy Kaling has made me disproportionately pleased. She really is the perfect woman–for me.
When she writes about her immigrant parents, her upbringing sounds exactly like mine, down to the fact that with both of them working several jobs at a time, they didn’t care how much television their latch-key daughter inhaled daily, as long as she kept her grades up. When Mindy writes about her path to TV stardom, she stresses hard work, making your own opportunities, and no unproductive self-pity about how the odds are against you because you’re A) a woman in Hollywood, B) a woman of color in Hollywood, C) a woman of color who doesn’t fit prescribed stereotypes in Hollywood, D) a woman of color who doesn’t fit prescribed stereotypes and insists that you can be girly and brainy in Hollywood. (That all may be true, but what’s complaining going to get you?)
That said, for all I know, what my son sees in Mindy may have nothing to do with any of the above. Maybe he just likes her shiny, pretty hair. Or her ample boobs. Or the fact that she takes pratfalls like a champ.
For now, though, I am going to let out a small breath of relief that I didn’t even realize I was holding until the subject came up, and assume that my son has good taste in women. He likes them smart, funny, independent, bold, outspoken, and truly original.
So maybe that means his father and I are doing something right?