Overthinking the Face

A micro essay

Lisa Renee
Human Parts
Published in
2 min readSep 27, 2021


Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

I came to dinner thinking about my hyoid.

The hyoid is a bone in the neck that supports the tongue. I’ve been around awhile and have never heard of the hyoid — but there it was, in a book. It’s a book I don’t want to read, about murder and corruption, one that my book club unaccountably selected in spite of my down vote. It’s my book club, I started it and should have veto power, but I don’t. So tonight, before dinner, I learned about the hyoid bone. Along with various unsavory details about makeshift, creekside, 19th-century autopsies.

I really just want to read a novel full of music and good dresses.

Eating chicken with a blossoming awareness of the hyoid gives rise to a certain mild panic — the type of panic experienced when thinking too much about things like breath or eyeballs. Things are fine, they work, until one day you wonder why and suddenly each breath, every blink, is a question.

Why? How? Why? How? Existence is exhausting, if you think about it.

The tongue, particularly, lends itself to freak-out. There’s a big hunk of meat just lolling around in your face, all the time. It’s fine until it’s not. Every face is filled with moving parts, all of us smacking away on the chicken, blinking and breathing, nattering on about weather and whatnot. It’s best not to think about it.

And now, there’s the hyoid — a bone that anchors the tongue. A broken hyoid is a coroner’s dream, a neon sign screaming strangulation. But short of strangulation, it’s a hardworking bone hiding in plain sight. I suppose something had to be holding the tongue down all these years. Who knew?

Then, amid cheesy chicken and Hungarian wine, the ghost of Shakespeare’s tongueless Lavinia somehow appears and dinner is changed. Dinner becomes a dodgy game of chew-and-swallow, the rules of which require polite conversation and, at the very least, a sane expression. All in the company of the newly met hyoid. A little information is a vexatious thing. The mind has a mind of its own.

Breathe, chew, swallow, smile. Breathe. Repeat.

Existence is exhausting, when you think about it.