We would like an invite, please.
Kal Penn is an enigma, in that he has achieved success in both the political world and in acting. It is very rare for people to oscillate between those two high-powered fields, but with his magnetism and panache, Penn made his own blueprint. For those who aren’t familiar, Penn played one of the titular roles in the Harold and Kumar franchise, as well as roles on House, Designated Survivor and How I Met Your Mother. During the same time he also served as the Principal Associate Editor in the White House Office of Public Engagement under the Obama administration. Penn pretty much nailed two different dream jobs simultaneously, and now he is stepping into a different kind of cultural role: queer icon.
We don’t want to fetishize anyone’s sexuality, but representation matters and we celebrate everyone sharing their version of love is love with the world. Penn made the announcement ahead of the release of his new book You Can’t Be Serious, in which he shares details about his 11-year relationship with and engagement to his fiancé, Josh. Penn told People, "I discovered my own sexuality relatively late in life compared to many other people. There's no timeline on this stuff. People figure their shit out at different times in their lives, so I'm glad I did when I did.” While being incredibly personal, that’s a vital kind of statement for people to read from a public figure they admire — it is so important to spread the message that in a complicated world full of homophobic traps, that the journey of self-discovery, especially around sexuality, can happen on your own timeline. Take it from me, a kid whose southern dad came out at 43. You can be gay whenever you want to be!
Penn continued regarding the book, which came out on November 2: “Figuring out the narrative, of how to respect who they really are, with telling my story — that includes: my work life, both in Hollywood and DC, it includes my love life with Josh and how we met, it includes my parents, to the extent that I'm willing to share stories about their upbringing...So that was the most important thing for me. I wanted my story to be authentic from my perspective and told in a way that makes you feel like you really get to know me." It sounds like a complicated web of narratives to parse out into nonfiction, but we’re glad Penn did. I try not to get excited for celebrity memoirs often, as they’re usually, probably ghost written, and getting a self congratulatory book cycle out of being famous just seems a little too easy. But this is a celebrity book I will absolutely buy and put on my nightstand for two to three weeks before I eventually read it (that is a compliment, I promise). Stories of working for the Obama administration and inside baseball Hollywood stories all in one place?! Sign me up.
Someone else who’s excited about this new era of Kal Penn fandom is the one and only Cardi B. In a Twitter exchange that lit up the internet, Cardi responded to Kal’s tweet about seeing her on his flight and then dreaming that she officiated his upcoming wedding. In true 2021 fashion, Cardi B responded to the call, and now we have a queer wedding Sex and the City only wishes it could claim to look forward to.
Not going to lie though, I’m also thrilled to get more glimpses into Kal and Josh’s courtship like what he told People of their first date, when Josh arrived at his apartment with a case of Coors and turned to NASCAR on the TV. He elaborated, “I thought, ‘This obviously is not going to work out. I have one day off from The White House and this dude is unironically watching cars go around and make left turns?’ Next thing you know, it's been a couple months and we're watching NASCAR every Sunday. ... I wanted the reader to enjoy the love and the humor through all of those stories.” Penn added that he hopes the book feels like the reader gets, “to feel like we're having a beer together.” Penn isn’t just opening eyes to the fact that the queer community contains multitudes, but he might just be opening up the worlds of bar flies to reading. This is the kind of feel good story we need more of to round out this rough year.