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I Want What They Have, Friendship Edition: Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak

Vogue logo Vogue 10/4/2022 Emma Specter

Love is a many-splendored thing, especially when you’re gawking at it from the outside. In this column, we’ll be examining the celebrity couples—or, occasionally, good friends—that give us hope for our own romantic futures and trying to learn what we can from their well-documented bonds.

Listen: As a gay woman, I have what I think is a more-than-cursory understanding of how annoying it is when people simply insist that you must be in love with your BFF. (Also, straight people, stop setting us up! We will let you know if you have any friends we think are hot, we promise!) That said, I am one of the many who remain baffled by the bond between longtime besties Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak, because...come on, how could they not be in love?

When I was 14, I was an ardent follower of Kaling’s now-defunct blog Things I’ve Bought That I Love, which was, in many ways, the O.G. Strategist. Real ones know; basically, Kaling and a tag team of her comedy-writer friends recommended everything from perfume to karaoke machines to food dehydrators, but it felt charming, not #sponcon-y, especially since Kaling was mostly known for writing and appearing on The Office at the time. This brings us right back to B.J., whom Kaling met in the Office writer’s room and began dating on-and-off, which seems to have given way to a beautiful friendship.

When I was a teenage girl, all I wanted to be was an L.A. comedy writer, and Kaling was my blueprint. It seemed like she got to shop and crack jokes and have fun with her best friends all day, and honestly, I had a bit of a preteen crush on Novak in his role as Prototypical Bad Boyfriend Ryan Howard on The Office. The idea of hanging out in a room well-stocked with snacks and trying to make him laugh for a living definitely appealed to me.

Kaling has recalled many sweet Novak-related anecdotes, including one about him hating theater to the point that he fell asleep at Doubt (is it bad that I’m kind of siding with him?) and my personal favorite: a story about Novak freaking out during airplane turbulence on a flight to New York and looking to Kaling for comfort. Aww! That’s very cute, whether or not Kaling and Novak were kissing at the time that it happened, which I don’t think they were.

I know there are a lot of people out there hoping that Kaling and Novak will eventually get together again, and even they have nodded at the weirdness of their relationship…but TBH? I like these two as friends. Novak is the godfather of Kaling’s two children, and her posts about hitting up the Griffith Observatory with Novak for her daughter’s birthday legit made me tear up. Anyone can be a boyfriend (and, just as quickly, become an ex-boyfriend), but someone who’s willing to trek up a giant hill to watch the stars with your kid? That’s true BFF status, and probably not worth compromising with a hookup—though if Kaling and Novak do get together, I will be treating the blessed event as a royal wedding.

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