Those of you who don’t have young children may be unaware that a strain of head lice known as “Super Lice” have taken elementary schools hostage. Super Lice have outsmarted tried-and-true OTC pesticides, which is why, every few weeks for the entire school year — and I mean every few weeks — I’ve gotten an e-mail from my daughter’s school warning me of yet another lice outbreak in one class or another.
Until this year, we had escaped the hell that head lice rains down upon a household. We had escaped for so long, in fact, that I had gotten a bit cocky. I didn’t think that “those families” who got head lice were slovenly, exactly. But on some subconscious, holier-than-thou level, I thought they just weren’t that careful.
And then, one Monday morning last January, I got another e-mail from Franny’s school. Another e-mail with “Head Lice Outbreak” in the subject heading. I read the heading with a tacit yeah-yeah-yeah…until I realized that my scalp had been itching madly all weekend.
So I went into my bathroom at work and stared in the mirror. I put my fingers on my hairline and a bug wandered out, as if on cue.
“Hmmm,” I thought, in my lice-only-happens-to-other-people way, “I must have caught fleas from the cat.”
So I called a mom in Franny’s class who’s a nurse, and I described what I’d seen crawling out of my scalp, and how, by the way, my scalp had been itching all weekend, and did she think it could just be fleas?
She did not! She told me I had head lice and I needed to treat them right away!
I left work. I drove right to one of those fancy Head Lice salons and I showed them my scalp.
The head-lice picker (yes, this is a job) peered at my scalp, looking through swatches of hair.
“You have lice,” she said, definitively. “In fact, you have a severe case. You’ve probably had them for months.”
“Months?! But how did I not know? I didn’t see anything!”
“Nits tend to be brown on people with brown hair. You don’t always see them until they hatch.”
She put a smock on me and put goop in my hair and began combing. Combing out nits and head lice, one by one. I sat in a chair in a room full of 8-year-olds looking up at me from their DSes and Nintendos.
For four hours I sat in that chair. The lice-picker combed and washed, and combed again. She sold me special shampoo and conditioner, and this stuff you put on your scalp to chase lice away which is probably useless but by this point I would have put a dead chicken around my neck if I though it would do the trick.
She gave me instructions on shampooing, and washing bedding, and putting clothing in bags for 48 hours. Then she told me to come back in two days for another treatment.
“Check your kids,” she said. “They have to have them.”
Except they didn’t. I checked, Prince checked, Prince’s wife who’s a former nurse, checked. They didn’t have them. Just me.
I don’t know quite what to make of it, how I wound up with lice-resistant children. But thank God that I did, because my two head lice treatments at the swanky lice salon cost me my Anthropologie spring wardrobe budget.
I now have head lice PTSD. I am hypervigilant, scanning my hair, and my kids’ hair, for lice. Any sensation on my scalp and my heart starts to race.
But today, I’m thankful for not having head lice.