The first day of school the sun was high, the sky was blue, the day was lovely and my hair smelled like piperonyl butoxide. Why yes, I treated myself for lice the night before. Did I have lice? No, I did not have lice. But I thought I did. Two months ago my oldest son had lice, and ever since then I’ve been convinced that I have it, too. I have raked my scalp, examined my hairline, badgered my husband until he peered into my roots. Even though we found no evidence of lice, even though I wash my hair every day, even though I haven’t been to camp since I was eight, I had no doubt I was infested. For two months I have been petrified to go to my hairdresser for fear of the woeful looks I’d get. For two months my posture has been exemplary as I try desperately to keep my head off the furniture. The shame, it is great.
Finally I decided: let’s take care of the problem with a good, old fashioned chemical solution. I tipped my head into the kitchen sink and applied the special shampoo leftover from my son’s treatment (he went to camp, and it’s summertime which means he washes his hair maybe once a week. Maybe). I rubbed. I massaged. I waited to feel panicked bugs fleeing across my scalp.
Do you know how hard it is to treat yourself for lice? M offered to help but I refused. We’ve been married for 13 years and we have three kids and we’ve seen each other in remarkably awkward situations, but this, I knew, would ruin the romance forever.
After waiting the recommended ten minutes, I rinsed the shampoo out of my hair. I tried to spy lice in the sink, but all I saw were bubbles. Then I went to work with the fine comb. I combed, and combed, and combed and…nothing. “Maybe I don’t have lice after all,” I finally said to my husband.
“That’s a shocker,” he replied, trying to contain both his righteousness and laughter. Dear one.
I think of lice now every time I write an email to my boss in which I express a strong opinion. I always want to add a post script: “I really think all of this is true but you should know – a couple weeks ago I treated myself for head lice. Even though I don’t have head lice.” So far I have managed to refrain, but it’s hard. I like being honest with her, she’s a good boss. She should know I don’t really have a clue.
How many of us do?