Praise be, there is a mini-Mindy in the world!
Just when I thought that 2017 was officially going to be classified as a total dumpster fire of a year, Mindy Kaling turned it all around. In a single week, she appeared on the cover of Time alongside her Wrinkle in Time co-stars—and fellow badasses—Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon; then the trailer for surefire summer blockbuster Ocean’s 8 dropped, in which Kaling stars alongside a stellar all-female cast including Rihanna, Sandra Bullock and Sarah Paulson. And, most exciting of all, this absolute superwoman gave birth to her first child, Katherine Kaling, on Dec. 15.
In case this past week wasn’t evidence enough, Kaling refuses to let anything hold her back from living her best life—including society’s expectations about motherhood. From the very beginning, Kaling stated that her pregnancy was “an unexpected surprise,” but refused to entertain questions about the child’s father. I’m sure she and her publicists have been hounded with this question, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone at TMZ is digging through paparazzi shots right now for any hint of her romantic connections from approximately nine months ago, but Kaling won’t let this become a talking point—and that is completely badass.
Don’t get me wrong, I would freaking LOVE it if Kaling revealed who the father is Maury-Povich style, but I am seriously inspired by how confidently she has defied people’s prying questions about her daughter’s paternity. Whether she had a one-night stand, a secret lover or a fling, it doesn’t matter because—and it kind of shocks me that this needs to be said—it is NO ONE’S DAMN BUSINESS.
“My professional life is the only thing that I feel I have a lot of control over—romantic stuff is a little bit more mysterious,” she told American Airlines in-flight mag American Way back in September. “I think a lot of women respond to that.”
Hi, hello, yes, I do.
The pressure to follow the conventional idea of motherhood—the concept of meeting a man, falling in love, getting married and then popping out a few perfectly healthy babies before you’re 30—is a stress that many women feel. I know I do. These expectations are doubly reinforced in South Asian communities, often by prying aunties who react to my single status by angling their eyebrows in concern and mentioning that I’m running out of time, as if I have an expiration date. One uncle literally told me that I had until 25, and if I wasn’t married by then, he would start looking for a husband for me. And that is in addition to the stigma surrounding “getting knocked up” before someone puts a ring on your finger—which society has literally turned into a curse word.
That is why watching Kaling, who is half Tamil, half Bengali and fully American, become a mom at 38 is freaking groundbreaking.
“Nothing gives you confidence like being a member of a small, weirdly specific, hard-to-find demographic,” Kaling wrote in her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?. And now, as part of the Hollywood’s v. small group of celebs who had children without revealing who fathered them, Kaling’s confidence radiates like a beacon of hope for all women.
But then again, considering that Kaling has consistently created characters that defy society’s expectations of what single women of colour look and act like, I shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, The Mindy Project’s Mindy Lahiri, who is loosely based on Kaling’s own mother, blazed the exact same path that Kaling is now on IRL, becoming a single mother later in life. And through Lahiri, Kaling and her team defied many stereotypes about motherhood. It’s almost like Kaling wrote her self-titled character as a way of showing audiences what is possible, and then *actually* lived the example she set in the show.
If Kaling decides to reveal her baby daddy at some point in the future, that’s cool. The point is that she is doing things on her terms and on her time, and that is something to be admired.
In a year that has felt like a 365-day-long bikini wax, Kaling’s journey into motherhood is the cooling aloe gel that soothes the burn and reminds us that everything is going to be OK. Why? Because there are women like her raising the next generation.
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