TB told this fictional story that her dad used to tell at parties.
“There was this young couple that was deeply in love and they got married, and they bought a home together and they were so excited to start their family… and they gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, um, but the only thing was, was that he was just a head. He had no body, no arms, legs- whatever, he was literally just a head. And they- when he was born they were like, ‘We’re so excited to have a child, we still love him but like, he’s just gonna have such a hard life, like… I don’t know if we are prepared. He’s gonna be bullied, he’s just gonna have such a hard time.’
And surprisingly, as soon as he went to school, he did super well. He made a ton of friends, he was like the most popular guy in school. He was super talented, he’s smart, he makes good grades, he has a ton of girlfriends. He’s an athlete, somehow, perhaps playing the ball. And so then one day, these doctors that have been following this kid his whole life, because he’s like a phenomenon- an anomaly…
They’re checking on him and they said, ‘We think we finally found your son a body. And he can just live and exist as a normal human boy with arms and legs.’ And so the parents like sob, they’re like, ‘We never knew this would be possible, like, this is a dream.’ He’s turning eighteen years old, he can start his life as an adult with a body.
The parents are so excited to tell him, and so on his eighteenth birthday, he’s in his room on his bed, just sitting on his pillow. They come into his room and are like, ‘Son. Happy Birthday. We want you to know we have a really exciting surprise for you, and we have a really good gift for you’ and they’re like crying, repeating, ‘we just have something great.’
And he looks up at them. And he says, ‘not another fucking hat.'”
The informant had heard this joke told by her dad to her and has heard it with many different middle sections but always with the same setup. There are parents with a boy who is born as just a head, they learn of the body, and then the punchline is him being frustrated with all the other gifts he’s gotten given his unique condition. Her dad would then fill the in between with story, as long as possible, so that when it hits the reversal at the end, it comes even more out of nowhere.
This story joke was told by Gilbert Godfrey, someone who TB’s dad would watch often and took that joke and made it his own.
Hearing of the different iterations that this story joke has gone through before it got to me was almost part of the humor. I knew going into it that she was going to be vamping to lead up to some sort of punchline, but in spite of that was still caught off guard by the finish. The story touches on a universal struggle of parents forcing a certain gift on to you based on how they perceive your interests, but taken to a physical extreme. The structure of it also seems to borrow from folk tales that establish a twisted status quo, subvert it with a “but one day” moment that introduces a new opportunity/challenge, and then spins that structure on its head by hitting you with an abrupt stop to the story instead of reaching the stereotypical fairytale ending.