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?
Oh, Andi! I’m wincing and laughing, and wish I could hug you. Thanks for writing this.
I’m so happy that you would still hug me! Kind’ve thought I might lose some friends over a post like this!
I must confess that I had head lice once, when my middle son brought it home to all of us. The most humiliating part was this: we moved from New Orleans to Indiana right after the headlice infestation, and I spent the entire summer trimming nits out of david’s very thick hair. Right before school started I brought him to a hair salon for a haircut to repair the damage I had done as I desperately chopped. The hair guy (very posh salon) asked “WHO cut his hair?” and I confessed that I had had to remove all vestiges of headlice. He stiffened and stopped talking. Later that day the owner called and screamed at me for bringing a head-louse child to his salon and told me to never do that again, that he would do a HOUSE call the next time.
Ha! That’s like how we found out about T. We went to the hairdresser for their usual summer haircuts and at the end she followed me into the parking lot…”I just wanted to let you know, your son has a case of head lice…” Luckily she didn’t scream. She spoke in a very pitying whisper.