Throughout my short tenure at college I’ve discovered one main lesson: being an adult is hard. This is also the lesson that Mindy discovers in the episode “Mindy’s Birthday”. This episode centers around her birthday, but being in her thirties, she is disillusioned with the party her friends decide to throw for her: a glitzy, public bash complete with presents that teach cooking for one and an elliptical. As people grow other, birthdays are no longer what they were when they were kids. Birthdays, events designed to be celebrations of life allow people to become disappointed in the events of their lives. It’s generally a time for people to come to term with the shortcomings of their own lives, as birthdays are milestones that can pass without certain moments of success. For Mindy, this is most evidenced by her lack of a relationship. Thus, the argument here is that birthdays force adults to evaluate their life choices, many times in a harsher way than reality.
The episode demonstrates the introspective, sometimes disheartening nature of birthdays by a series of bad choices made by Mindy. After confronting her lack of romantic relationship, she abandons her friends and coworkers to drink alone at a bar. This leads her to make a group of superficial friends before wandering NYC with her belligerent office assistant. Mindy became transfixed on what her ideal life should be in her mid-thirties, and when she realized she hadn’t achieved it, she ran away. She forgot to be appreciative for the wonderful things she already had in her life – her friends.
This ties back to the larger theme evident throughout the entire show – life is not a fairytale romance. Life is messy, difficult, not always enjoyable, and it certainly will not go perfectly. Mindy is an eternal optimist – she has high expectations and she really, truly believes she can achieve everything she wants. At the times when things don’t go perfectly, she breaks down. The show is technically considered a romantic comedy, and as such, Mindy strives for the same ideals perpetrated throughout the genre: to be happily married, have a successful career, and be perfectly content. She has achieved much of this, but she is still missing a crucial (in her opinion) piece – the relationship. This relates to the crushing expectations placed on women by society – they must be perfect and achieve milestones by specific times in life. As each birthday passes, Mindy feels herself drifting away from cultural perfection. However, as she discovers at the end of the episode, she has enough in her life to be happy. Even though she isn’t at the picture-perfect place in her life, life will always be chaotic, and people have to learn to leave their expectations and plans behind and just live life to the fullest with what they have.