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15 Highly Important Questions About Adulthood, Answered By Michael Ian Black

It has a lot to do with punctuality.

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Comedian, actor, and writer Michael Ian Black is a man of many talents, and he's spent a good portion of his writing career offering wisdom on being an adult. In his 2012 book, You're Not Doing It Right, Black delved into marriage, parenthood, and his career; with his new book, Navel Gazing: True Tales of Bodies Mostly Mine (But Also My Mom's, Which I Know Sounds Weird), he digs even deeper, dealing with issues of middle age, family, and mortality. Who better to turn to with our most pressing, angst-ridden questions?

We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us what they would ask Michael Ian Black if given the chance. Here's what they came up with:

1. What do you do if you want to have guests over, but your house is a garbage hole?

Michael Ian Black: Well, if your house is a garbage hole, and you want to have guests, the short answer is... You clean it. You clean your house. That's what you do. And then if you don't want to do that, you put the people up in a hotel. And you pay for it; you don't make them pay for it. Because yours is the house that's the garbage hole. You couldn't take the time to clean your garbage-hole house, so you're going to outlay 100 bucks so they have a nice room at the Courtyard Marriott.

2. How often should I call my mom?

MIB: You should call your mom minimum of once a week. Not more than three times a week.

What is the ideal length of time for that phone call?

MIB: Fifteen minutes. If you're only calling once a week, you can stretch that to 20 to 25 minutes. But 15 minutes I think is enough to check in, enough to hear about her ailments, enough for you to complain about your job and/or partner, and then "Love you, Mom," "Love you too." Done.


3. As an adult, should I care about my birthday? (Chris Gera)

MIB: No. No! It really only matters up until the age of 25, and it barely matters then. The only reason it matters at 25 is because then you can rent a car, to escape your garbage-hole house. After that, you know, you turn 30 and you're sort of like [weakly], "I'm 30!" and you feel conflicted about that. And then you turn 40 and you feel conflicted about that. I haven't turned 50 yet; I imagine I'll feel conflicted about that. It seems to matter less and less the older I get, particularly because I remain so good-looking. That helps a lot.

4. What's the deal with life insurance?

MIB: Life insurance is really only important if you have kids. If you're married, your partner can suck it up and get a job if you die. But if you have kids, then you really owe it to them to get some life insurance. Because if you drop dead, they need to feel like they're taken care of. But on the other hand, you won't feel bad because you will have dropped dead. So if you don't get it [shrugs] — not your problem.

5. If you don't like your friends' children, is it best to a) tell them, b) stop being friends with them, or c) just suffer in silence? (Scott Lamb)

MIB: One of the options that you just presented to me was tell your friends that you do not like their children. I would argue that that is not going to be your best option, because given the choice between you and their children, most people are going to choose their children. Not all! Most people will choose their children. Having been in this situation many times before, I have found it is best to grit your teeth and endure. But the simple fact is you won't like anybody's children except your own. Everybody else's children are annoying and terrible, and you don't want to be around them.

Most of the time, you won't want to be around your own children, either, but because they share your DNA you will love them. You may hate them, too, but you will also love them. And legally, you are responsible for them. You kind of have to deal with them. And so, if you want to maintain friendships with other adults, you have learn to endure their children. Their horrible fucking children.

6. How early did you start saving money for kids, a house, or retirement, and when do you WISH you'd started? (Emily E. M. Crawford, Facebook)

MIB: Unlike, I think, most of my peers, I started saving money immediately because I grew up in what I always thought of as a financially unstable household, where it always felt like we were going to end up on the street. It probably wasn't the case, but it sort of felt that way, because my mom always seemed worried about money. So as soon as I started making money, I started saving money. I was really good about that until this year when I spent every penny that I have, and every penny that I ever will have, on a house.

At least that's a good investment?

MIB: It's not a good investment.

7. Working out is the worst. How do I motivate myself to do it?

MIB: In my experience, it's nearly impossible to motivate yourself to work out. The best you can hope for is that you end up feeling like such a fat piece of shit that that motivates you to do something, and so you go to the gym or do something else for, let's say, three weeks and then you stop.

Are you still running?

MIB: I'm not running. I'm thinking about running again. But as of today it's 7 degrees outside, so I'm not going to do it today.

8. How much of a priority should finding a significant other be in my late twenties?

MIB: I would argue the answer is the same for both genders, but some women, as they reach the age of 30, start to freak the fuck out, and they feel like they need to meet somebody now, because they want a baby now, because they feel like they're running out of time. I suppose there is some basis in truth to that, however — ladies, you don't want to just impregnate yourself with whatever piece-of-shit sperm swims up your vag. You want to ideally, hopefully, meet somebody you really care about. And if it doesn't happen by your late twenties, don't freak out. You'll be fine. And guys don't really freak out about that.

9. Do you think flossing is important? (Scott Lamb)

MIB: Look. When it comes to flossing, I do not pursue it as ardently as I pursued savings in my earlier life. I'm told, by my wife, who's a hypochondriac, that if you don't floss, little bits of tooth matter will dislodge and travel to your heart, and kill you. I suppose that's conceivably possible. I've never heard of anybody dying like that. I do floss, probably not more than once a week. It's probably not enough to keep my dentist happy, but it's enough so that I'm assured that I will never run out of dental floss.

10. Year-end/holiday cards and newsletters: yes or no?

MIB: Cards, yes; newsletters, no. Nobody wants to hear your whole life story. It's not interesting to anybody except you. I know, because I wrote a book about it, and nobody's buying my book. So I'm proof of this. Incidentally, I'm a professional comedian. My newsletter, that I put in book form? Terrific. Everyone should pick that one up. The reason I object to newsletters is that they're not honest, and there's always a sheen of "we're doing great, we're doing great!" — which they say through gritted teeth, as the perspiration leaks down their faces. With my book, I'm saying, "We're not doing great. Everything's a disaster. And here's why you should laugh at it." So it's better than a newsletter.


11. What's the best career advice you ever received? (Janson Lalich, Facebook)

Michael Ian Black: "Be 10 minutes early." Punctuality is most of the game. Just be on time. When people show up late, it's annoying, and it's frustrating, and it makes you think less of them as professionals. Time is valuable. Don't make someone else's time about you. Make your time about you, and keep their time about them. Which means: Everybody agrees to be at a certain place at a certain time. Let's be there. Now, that does not apply to parties. Show up at parties 60 to 90 minutes late — particularly if, like me, you only want to be there for 20 to 30 minutes.

Right, because if you're early to a party, it sometimes stresses the host out.

MIB: Yeah, well, we often entertain at my house, and we'll say 7 o'clock, and we're ready at 7 o'clock, because I'm punctual. But there's no way I'm showing up at somebody else's 7 o'clock party at 7. You just don't want to be the first person there. Unless — if you're a good friend of the host or hostess, it's actually probably doing them a favor to show up fairly early. Because as the host or hostess, you don't know who's going to be the first person to show up. If it's somebody you don't know that well, then it can be awkward. So if you're good friends with the host or hostess, show up 30 minutes after the announced start; if you're not that close, 60 minutes. And if you're just looking to wave and go, 90 minutes.

Do you believe in the—

MIB: Irish exit? Yes. Strongly. I strongly believe that I don't need to say goodbye to every fucking person here. You saw that I was here; now I'm not here. Nobody's wondering where you are. Nobody cares enough about you to wonder where you are. If you see somebody on the way out, sure — "OK, I'll see you later, bye!" — then just go.

12. When in the shower, should I be washing my hair before my body, or washing my body before my hair? (William Gallagher, Facebook)

MIB: I always wash hair before body. Here's why: You want to let gravity do its job. If you start with your hair, then you've rinsed out the soap; you've already got a pre-wash going on from the shampoo running down your body. If you start with the soap, and you rinse, and then you do the shampoo, then it's like you've added a second washing. It's a post-wash, an unnecessary addendum.

13. How do you not let your daily struggles defeat you? (Michaella Lopez, Facebook)

MIB: Oh, I let my daily struggles defeat me every single day. Every single day. I walked in here today defeated. But, I don't know what it is — somehow by the time I wake up in the morning, I have renewed optimism. Now, how long that optimism lasts varies greatly. It could be over by 10 a.m. It could last for weeks. Just allow it. It's like with working out. You're not going to motivate yourself to work out, and you're not going to snap out of it. Sometimes it's just hard. Be OK with it being hard.

14. Why do I still not feel like an adult? (Anthony Colon, Facebook)

MIB: What people don't realize is that when you're a child, you essentially think of yourself as an adult. You essentially think of yourself as an agent of change in the world, an entity making rational decisions to the best of your ability as you navigate your way through the labyrinth that is the world. And it is confusing, but you're learning as you go. That feeling, that agency, is what defines us as humans. So, as an adult, you're only replicating what you did as a child, with more information. There is no moment when you say to yourself, Ah, now I have discovered the truth. I am an adult. In fact, the feeling that you have from birth to death is the same.

But when you were a kid, did you think adults were very different from you?

MIB: Yeah, I thought adults had a certain amount of secret knowledge that I didn't have. And they did when it comes to fucking, but that's about it. So, I believe in the wisdom of experience, and I think that can help you make informed decisions, but in general, you're the same as you were when you were 12. And you're not gonna change that much.

Navel Gazing: Tales of Bodies Mostly Mine (But Also My Mom's, Which I Know Sounds Weird) is available now.


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