Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pediculus Humanus Capitis. *scritch scritch scritch*

OK. So. Lice.

I think the first time we got lice--and you know this is gonna be a good story if it starts with "and the FIRST time we got [a plague]"--was when I was about seven and I went to after-school daycare at the Young Men's Christian Association.

We suddenly had a mandatory "lice check" one day, and lo and frickin behold, I "tested positive." I was stunned. Lice? What? Me? I got sent home. We treated the situation the best we could. It was all new to us, but my poor single mother dealt with it in between working 8 billion jobs and shit.

I remember that the YMCA had a couple more random checks as well, and I got sent home another time too. Talk about humiliation. You go into the nurse's office and you don't return. HMMM. WONDER WHY. WHERE'S JO? LICE MUCH?

When I caught The Lice (and I will forever blame this one girl Gwen and her licey ways), my family did everything that we should have done. We repeatedly shampooed our hair with Rid, we sprayed the carseats, the hairbrushes, and combs, we froze the cloze, we bugbombed the house while we stayed in a Travelodge motel (forever after referred to as The Lice Motel). But if you recall, our house was the Pit of Despair, and we had clothes and laundry and mess and junk and crap and bullshit everywhere; i.e., plenty of places for those crafty lice to hide.

At some point, through heroic efforts, we kept the lice at bay, but only temporarily. It seemed a battle we were always...er, battling.

The next major lice war I remember, it was when I was in 5th grade. I had newly discovered boys, a certain boy in particular. I was in love with one Mitchell Marchant. Love, I tell you. Young young love.

I had also discovered the phone. (This was before my phone phobia.) I was on the phone all the time with Mitchell. I would hide in my mom's room for some semblance of privacy, since that was the farthest that the phone cord would stretch. This was before cordless phones, child, and long, long, long before cell phones. We would talk until the wee hours. And by that I mean 8 pm.

Well, one day at school, the nurse was doing her rounds, and it was time for one of her mandatory lice checks. Got-damn those mandatory lice checks. One by one, she took everyone into the back of the room and carefully combed through their hair with a pick and a magnifying glass.

My turn came.


I was sent home in the middle of the school day. I was mortified. Because that only meant one thing. And worse, Mitchell knew it only meant one thing: His 5th grade telephone girlfriend had lice.

Well, my family did the old routine lice treatment: shampoo, spray, bugbomb, Lice Motel. Rinse, repeat. RINSE, REPEAT. After a few bouts of it, we were done. Again.

Then came 7th grade. And gym class. After (sooooo not) sweating it up during gym, all the girls wanted to share my awesome Sassy hairbrush, since I was the only one who ever thought to bring one. I obliged, wanting desperately to be cool. And like Gwen in those YMCA days of yore, Megan Hughes proved to be my downfall. One day, I noticed how good it felt to deeply brush my hair. I kept brushing. And brushing. Scratching, if you will. And the next day, Megan Fucking Hughes was sent home with lice. And guess who had shared my brush the week before, in gym class? Megan F. Hughes.

That day I went home and looked at my scalp up-close-like in the vanity mirror.

Wham. Lice.

SHITBALLS AND A HALF.  Would it ever end? Fuck you forever, Megan Fucking Hughes.

And this was particularly bad timing. My brother was being baptized that very night. We had found out like two hours before that we had lice. That's right, he was about to become a CHILD OF GOD and here I was, realizing we had a PARASITE OF SATAN on our very scalps. And I was the one who had to tell him. I have to say, he took the news graciously. You can't very well accept the bread of life and the salvation of God and the peace of the Lord and then flip the fuck out on your little sister for catching lice for the 84936584378th time. We treated our hair, prayed to the Patron Saint of Bloodsuckers that headlice couldn't be transmitted via baptismal font, and hoped that we were done with this shit.

Thank you sweet tiny God, we were.

It never happened again.

Finally, victory. Headlice? GTFO!!

Anyway, it may have taken 84936584378 times, but it was at this moment at the age of 12 that a phobia was born. From this point on out, every request to borrow my hairbrush was denied. DE-MOTHERFUCKING-NIED.

People hated and resented me because of it. I was a veritable gym class pariah. It was mortifying at such a tender age. But I stood my ground and said no, you may NOT borrow my hairbrush. I was as afraid of lice as I was of someone vomiting. If I saw someone scratch their head, I was instantly on red alert. But because of that, we never caught lice again.

But that doesn't mean I am not still paranoid to within an inch of my life, especially now that Maya's in school.

And no. You may not borrow my hairbrush, EVER.

I leave you with this:


  1. I scratched my head, like, five hundred times reading this.

    I too fear lice. My daughter has this super-thick hair, and what's more, she hates for you to mess with her head. Could you imagine lice in there? Bleedin' Christ, I don't know what we'd do!

    Great post, as always!

  2. Our house is as germ-free as it can be, but it does get waaay cluttered sometimes (OK a lot), so I can't imagine having to deal with lice. And my daughter has SO. MANY. CLOTHES. Like, you can't even believe. We have a wealthy and very generous friend who gives us all her daughter's things, so where would I even begin?? Ye gods.

  3. Just burn the house down and move, I guess. I think it's the only way I could deal with it.

  4. I am fortunate enough to have never had head lice:)(seriously though-I got a worse kind, that you never, never want, after borrowing jeans from a skank in high school, at least I think that's how since I wasen't exactly sleeping around). Anyhow, I remember all too vividly the nurse telling us to take out two of our pencil crayons and her using them to look through our hair one at a time. I was always releived to hear I haden't contracted the demon spawn.
    As for clutter, what is hidding in it is EXACTLY what scares me, and why Goodwill and Craigslist is my best friend. I seriously drop garbage bags full of crap off at Goodwill at the end of every seasons, and sell anything of value on Craigslist. Baby grown out of bouncy chair-SELL, baby is done with exercauser-SELL. All our clothes are also hand me downs from Dave's sister. As she outgrows them I keep only my very favorite pieces and the pass the rest on to someone else in need...all this and I plan on having another baby, but when the time comes, I know there will be more crap to accumulate as hand me downs, there always, always is :). Still though, living with a toddler, stuff acumulates..like right now I can't see the top of my dressed for the baby monitor, butt cream, wipes, change pad, diaper liners, books ect..

  5. Oh, hey, I just learned something I never knew, just last month or so! Apparently, henna can be used to kill lice! Could be "fun" to have a whole family of redheads for a while, right? ;-)

    So thankful to have boys who like buzz cuts. Seriously.

  6. Carrie, that's fascinating and funny! :) We'd fit right in with the husband. (Actually he's on the blond side of strawberry-blond these days.) I wonder how henna kills lice, whether it smothers them like the mayonnaise treatment does, or whether it outright "chemically" kills them.

    And yes. Buzzcutted-boys FTW! :)

  7. Jaime: It always amazes me that anyone has ever escaped without getting headlice! Although ye gods, I don't think I'd prefer the other kind. Never share jeans, either!! :O

  8. Cause jeans (unless washed in scalding hot water first) have loads of bum bum germs.

  9. Do you know how I can make it so that I get alerted of your responses to my comments without having to remember to come back? There is not check box to allow me to get email responses like some blogs have. Also, I wish your blog could remember me somehow, everytime I come to comment (5x today) I have to re-enter my wordpress name.


    My 6 year old was sent home with lice THREE TIMES in 10 DAYS last year. The third time I had an Honest-to-God breakdown in the parking lot of the school. Complete with sobbing on the phone to: my mother, my husband, the pharmacist at Target and a nurse at the pediatrician's office. It was UGLY.

    I went through the Wash Everything in the House Routine. Three times.

    The third time was it. I had enough. Every single soft thing in the house was either thrown down to be washed or bagged in big black garbage bags and tossed on the lawn to roast in the sunshine. I brought the couch and chair cushions back into the house on Monday after 4 days of banishment to the garage and yard. The remaining cloth items were brought back after 2 weeks of lice-free-ness.

    And my daughter got a pixie cut because I couldn't hunt through her long hair with any kind of accuracy.

    I spent the rest of the school year peering at her scalp frequently AND freaking out every time she scratched her head.

  11. See Erin, you totally get it. It is just one of the worst things ever, and it is truly a plague on your house, and it is so fucking hard to get rid of. We went to extreme measures--froze things for weeks, bagged things for MONTHS--when they say that one or two weeks is sufficient--and still the lice returned.

    My poor mother. Like, you think *I* felt bad? Now that I'm a mom, I can sympathize more with how absolutely helpless and hopeless and depressed she felt every time it returned. She was broke as a joke and had to spend all this money to constantly treat our hair and house, and our home was so messy anyway, and just...UGH. Massive frustration for her.

    And I know exactly how you felt every time you saw someone scratch their head. I felt that way for years and years. I would PANIC and immediately assume they were colonized, and I would avoid them. Still do have a bit of that panic, somewhere deep down, even though I haven't had lice in more than 20 years.

    I just hope so desperately that we're lucky enough never to catch it again. Let's hope those Patron Saints of Bloodsuckers are listening, because I'm praying, sister, I'm praying.