My cousin is studying to become a dental hygienist and during my last cleaning session she pointed out that I’m a little tongue-tied. I thought she meant that I couldn’t talk while she had her hands in my mouth, but she clarified saying that I have slight Ankyloglossia.
It might take me a little while to feel comfortable talking in a crowd, but once you get me started it’s clear that I don’t have trouble moving my mouth or making sounds. Although the clinical term is cool to know, the metaphor is so much better. When we talk about being tongue-tied it’s mostly from shyness or embarrassment, from not being able to get our thoughts out of our mouths to form coherent sentences. I used to get like that when answering questions in class or talking to a boy. Once I called a guy I had a crush on to ask him out on a date and instead I asked him for help with homework (even though I was smarter than him).
I’ve gotten tongue-tied during job interviews, on the phone and in person. I’ve gotten tongue-tied during confrontations, losing my backbone at the slightest hint of defeat. I’ve lost my voice in front of complete strangers, while ordering at restaurants, while crossing the border, and even while talking to people about my writing. Becoming tongue-tied has gotten the best of be during book events (most recently when talking to Lena Dunham) — WHAT DO YOU EVEN SAY TO LENA DUNHAM?
BUT I like to think that I’m working on it, one mouthful of babble at a time.
“What happens to me when I’m provoked is that I get tongue-tied and my mind goes blank. Then I spend all night tossing and turning trying to figure out what I should have said.”
― Nora Ephron