Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns)
What's not to love about Mindy Kailing? Her rapier wit and oh-so-clever pen are hysterical. Any fan of The Office can tell you that...
Her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) has been out since 2012, but has been getting additional attention drafting off the success of Amy Poehler's book Yes Please. You could probably argue her initial success was drafting off Tina Fey's book Bossypants.
In fact, the comparison between her book and Tina & Amy's offerings is inevitable, not just because they are in the same genre (humorous essays), but because all three women have similar sensibilities.
And by that I mean, you would want to take a cross-country road trip with any one of them. They are all worthy of every girl-crush they've earned.
Unfortunately for Mindy, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? suffers from the comparison. While the book is funny in its own right, it's best read either before you've read Yes Please or Bossypants. The brilliance of the other books was how consistently funny each essay was and how the writing made compelled you to read portions out loud to whomever was nearby.
Mindy's book is decidedly more uneven.
In fact, there was only one paragraph I made Billy listen to when I read it:
“I'm the kind of person who would rather get my hopes up really high and watch them get dashed to pieces than wisely keep my expectations at bay and hope they are exceeded. This quality has made me a needy and theatrical friend, but has given me a spectacularly dramatic emotional life.”
This was fairly early in the book, but later chapters seemed stray and could have been cut entirely. Other stories felt flat.
Perhaps some of the reason is her age relative to Fey/Poehler's age (8 years younger) and the fact that Mindy didn't launch her career in improv. The Second City and SNL experience is what gives Fey & Poehler an incredible depth of experience and oh-so-funny stories. Reading about Mindy's childhood friends and co-writers simply isn't as engaging.
Still, if you read this book and can judge it on its own merits, it's worth the quick read. For instance, I very much appreciate Mindy's ability to share her thoughts candidly, and I LOVE the way she is unapologetic in expressing her values.
“I don’t think it should be socially acceptable for people to say they are “bad with names.” No one is bad with names. That is not a real thing. Not knowing people’s names isn’t a neurological condition; it’s a choice. You choose not to make learning people’s names a priority. It’s like saying, “Hey, a disclaimer about me: I’m rude.”
I also appreciates the way she encourages people who are "late bloomers" to hang tough. In fact, this paragraph alone is worth the read:
Teenage girls, please don’t worry about being super popular in high school, or being the best actress in high school, or the best athlete. Not only do people not care about any of that the second you graduate, but when you get older, if you reference your successes in high school too much, it actually makes you look kind of pitiful, like some babbling old Tennessee Williams character with nothing else going on in her current life. What I’ve noticed is that almost no one who was a big star in high school is also big star later in life. For us overlooked kids, it’s so wonderfully fair.”
And in a similar vein:
“I just want ambitious teenagers to know it is totally fine to be quiet, observant kids. Besides being a delight to your parents, you will find you have plenty of time later to catch up.”
Though I wasn't ever a quiet kid (or quiet anything), no one could ever accuse me of peaking in High School.
As you read the book, you see Mindy clearly loves her family. In one section she describes crying every time she hears a song from her childhood because she misses those days:
“Later, when you're grown up, you realize you never really get to hang out with your family. You pretty much have only eighteen years to spend with them full time, and that's it.”
Yes!! This is why I harp on numbering your days!!
Mindy isn't afraid of expressing her opinions and she gets away with saying things I could only dream of. Her thought about people saying they're stressed is pure genius:
“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.”
Yes! Can someone trim this down and put it on a t-shirt?
Finally, one of my favorite things about Mindy is her love of lists. Many of her chapters are simply lists of things she likes or wants to do. One of my favorites is a list of alternative titles for her book. I LOVE the title she went with, but if I had to choose from the other options she offers up, my first choice is:
“Sometimes you just have to put on lip gloss and pretend to be psyched.”
Words to live by!!