As I navigate the 250 word count of an atomic essay (and failing miserably despite my best efforts), I’ve been thinking a lot about the cutting room floor and the stories we leave behind.
For example, in Ali Wong’s standup Baby Cobra, she talks about a pregnancy that ends in miscarriage. The audience is quiet with the tension that builds.
Where is the punchline?
Eventually she gives the audience the relief they were waiting for: she reveals her miscarraige was a blessing in disguise because they were twins.
She extends the joke further, talking about how she used it as leverage for a Beyonce concert. And how she got a miscarriage bike out of it, that she loves very much. With that final punchline, she moves onto the next joke.
The first time I watched the Netflix special, I moved on as well. It wasn’t until I read her memoir that I understood there was so much more she chose not to reveal.
In the book, she talks about her feelings of shame and questioning her body’s ability to do what we are biologically programmed to do. How she took edibles every weekend to cope with her grief.
She chose to omit the grief and healing of a painful moment; abandoned on the cutting room floor as an editorial decision. As a woman who is thinking about starting my own family soon, I would have learned so much if she processed this experience further.
But Ali Wong had a constraint: she has to fit every ounce of comedy she can into a 60 minute show. The same applies to these atomic essays.
In my earlier essay on kindness, the tense relationship with my father never made it into the story. Nor the fight that resulted afterwards in this conversation, when I made some snarky retort, angry that he wished I had more kindness in me.
And so this makes me wonder:
What untold stories have been left behind?
And what untold truths?