‘The Mindy Project’/Ines Vuckovic/Dose

Choose yourself.

I was drawn into “The Mindy Project” because Mindy felt just like me: a hopeless romantic who was always imagining her life as if it was a romantic comedy. I remember the first time I watched the show—M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” played as Mindy drunkenly rode a bike home after her ex-boyfriend’s wedding. I thought, “Same.”

As the series progressed, we saw Mindy cycle in and out of relationships with these gorgeous New York men. By the end of the second season, she finally got the guy we’ve pictured her with since the show began: Danny. I’ll admit it: I wanted a Danny. The idea of having this charming man who was my complete opposite, you somehow also my perfect complement, seemed like a dream come true.

If you’re an avid watcher of “The Mindy Project,” you may have experienced the same disappointment I felt during season three. Something seemed off. Danny was more in love with the idea of Mindy then he was in love with Mindy, the person. She was constantly changing herself to try to fit into Danny’s world, but to no avail. She attempted to convert to Catholicism?—?that didn’t work. Things got even more complicated when we found out our hopeless romantic was pregnant.

From that point on, Mindy and Danny clashed more then ever. Though the driven, career-focused Mindy couldn’t imagine quitting the job she’d worked so hard for, she tried being a stay-at-home mom because she wanted to please Danny. Instead of appreciating her sacrifice, Danny just patronized her efforts, implying she really wasn’t doing her womanly duty.

On top of Danny’s sexism, he also became verbally abusive. To be quite honest, we’ve gotten clues about Danny’s real nature all along, but we chose to ignore them because we wanted so badly for Mindy to be with him. It was like wanting one of those life-size Barbie convertibles as a kid—then, with time, we realized that it only went a good two miles an hour and needed to be charged every 15 minutes. In other words, their relationship didn’t meet our expectations.

Danny would take little digs at Mindy that were nothing short of cringe-worthy. If she felt confident in bed, he’d diss her, saying she’s just “okay” or “getting better.” He constantly called out Mindy’s flaws.

Yet Mindy stuck with him. Soon, however, she realized she couldn’t abandon her OB/GYN career. She became passionate about the idea of opening a fertility clinic. Of course, Danny disapproved, but we started to see something different in Mindy?—?she was a stronger woman. So she went against Danny’s wishes and opened her own fertility clinic (Later, Baby) while continuing her work as a OB/GYN.

“I should pick one of the rich, handsome doctors that will have me. I should be happy with whatever I can get. Picking neither would be irresponsible.”

After Mindy and Danny split, a new doctor in the office, Jody, becomes infatuated with the idea of Mindy. Jody is from Georgia, and at first, we think he’s a traditional Southern gentleman, but his racist and sexist tendencies soon come to the fore: Jody constantly shames Mindy for being an unmarried mother. Mindy quickly realizes Jody’s kind of an ass, but the two develop a friendship, anyway. Jody begins to shower her with gifts and goes out of his way to perform grand gestures to win her love.

Jody invests money in Later, Baby, eventually becoming a partner. He even buys Mindy an apartment so she can have extra space for her new son. The two never date, but Mindy recognizes Jody is going out of his way to make her happy.

Later, Mindy invites Jody along for a dinner with her new Indian friends. When Mindy and her friends joke about common comments their parents make, Jody feels left out of the conversation. He desperately wants to fit in, so he mimics his dry-cleaning man. Nice try, Jody, but it’s okay if you’re quiet when you can’t relate. Chill out, okay?

On top of everything, Mindy and Danny get stuck in an elevator and end up sleeping together, leading us to think they’ll get back together. Little does Mindy know that Danny is actually engaged to another woman.

This brings us to the now. Mindy is conflicted, feeling she must choose between two guys: one she has history with, both positive and negative, and another who will give her the world but is extremely problematic. “I should pick one of the rich, handsome doctors that will have me,” she says. “I should be happy with whatever I can get. Picking neither would be irresponsible.”

At that moment, I shuddered thinking about how many women probably accept this line of thinking. So often, we settle because we’re afraid we won’t ever find the love we deserve. Mindy’s own reasoning is that she’s a single mom quickly approaching her 40s. She feels she must “lock someone down,” fearing that if she doesn’t, opportunities will pass her by and she’ll end up without a romantic partner.

Unfortunately, a lot of television and movie love stories tell us we need to choose. Take another show currently on the air, “Jane the Virgin.” I’m obsessed with the show, but I was frustrated when (spoiler alert!) Jane chose Michael.

It’s as if the writers forced a love story between two people who shouldn’t be together. Michael has lied to Jane time and time again, saying that everything is for her “protection.” He lies about dating someone to make Jane jealous, knowing she’s hurting inside. Sorry, but that’s not someone I’d like to date.

Meanwhile, Jane’s other love interest, Rafael (aka her baby daddy), spirals out of control, falling into alcoholism. I mean, I get it. Rafael’s father was killed by his sister’s girlfriend and he finds out that his mother is a crime boss, but that doesn’t make his aggressive nature acceptable.

Jane chooses Michael because she has history with him and things are “easier.” She’d rather be with the man who puts his own desires ahead of her needs because Rafael has some pretty heavy baggage. Alright, Jane. You do you, boo.

When Jane and Michael reunited, I felt sick to my stomach. Jane deserved better than both of her suitors. I thought it would have been more useful for Jane to focus on herself, her baby and the writing career she’s working toward, rather than whom to spend the rest of her life with.

Because the truth is: The days when a woman’s value depended on her marital status are long gone. There are so many roles, beyond just “wife” and “mother,” a woman can aspire to fill. Those titles are just small chapters in the book of our lives. So why does the media force the idea that they’re the only roles that matter?

Back to the “now,” and “The Mindy Project.” Expecting that Mindy’s character would make the same choice as Jane the Virgin, I started to tune out of the show. I rolled my eyes when Mindy began talking to her office’s receptionist, Beverly, about her boy drama.

But then Beverly startled me. The usually-offbeat receptionist talked some sense into Mindy.

“If neither one of these guys is right, wait for someone special to come along,” she told Mindy earnestly. “Until then, get escorts.”

And that’s when I remembered why I fell in love with “The Mindy Project” years ago. Mindy Kaling and her writers provide a funny yet realistic take on what it’s really like to be a woman—a woman with strong and weak parts, a woman who would love to be in love but is confident enough to know she can stand on her own two feet.

A woman who doesn’t have to choose a suitor just to fill a void.

Instead of just forcing a romance with a character who’s the lesser of two evils, Mindy knows it’s okay to be by yourself?—?you’ll survive. Sometimes “the big choice” you think you have to make doesn’t actually exist. The only choice you need to make is if you’re going to accept a partner who doesn’t live up to your expectations. By the end of the episode, the Mindy from season one is back: an empowered woman who isn’t afraid to fight for what she wants and is never down to settle.

As for the guys on “The Mindy Project,” Danny’s still planning to get married and Jody showed his true colors by putting the apartment he bought for Mindy up for sale (after calling Mindy some pretty sexist terms, per usual). Looks like Mindy made the right choice after all.