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lice, you ain’t nice

Every time I see an email about lice from my kids’ school, I read it with a shudder of revulsion and then try to figure out which kid in the class has the lice. Then I try to prevent my kids from coming in contact with the perp, all without actually mentioning the word “lice.” It’s tricky.

Me: “Hey Finn. So how about those Blazers, huh. Say, anyone at school get a haircut recently?”

Finn: “What?”

Me: “You know. A haircut. Like anyone cut their hair super short? Or…I don’t know. Any of your friends get a new hat?”

Finn: “Like what kind of hat?”

Me: “You know. A hat. Like, a baseball hat. Any kind of hat.”

Finn: (Long pause). “No.”

Me: “Ok, that’s cool.” (Pause). “Hey, maybe don’t do any reading today in the reading corner.”

Finn: “Why not?”

Me: (Pause). “Well, you can read. Just don’t, you know, touch any of the pillows. Don’t do any lounging. And maybe, you know, don’t touch any of your friends today.”

Finn: “Why not?”

Me: “Because.”

Finn: “Because why?”

Me: “Because I said so, ok?”

Finn: “But why?”

Me: “BECAUSE THERE MIGHT BE BUGS ON THE PILLOWS OK?? Now eat your breakfast.”

The thing about lice is that centuries of human familiarity with lice hasn’t robbed it of its power. It’s like leprosy. I haven’t heard of anyone having leprosy in a really long time. But anyone who has seen Ben-Hur knows that leprosy is no joke. Your skin falls off, and then your fingers fall off. I don’t want leprosy, and I don’t want lice. Lice isn’t a sexy old-timey disease like consumption, which makes you think of Chopin coughing delicately into an embroidered handkerchief and seems kind of romantic. Yes I know that consumption is technically tuberculosis. But do YOU know that lice is BUGS? In your HAIR??

Feel free to start screaming. I did, when we got the call. I buzz my kids’ hair on a regular basis and we’d avoided five rounds of lice at my kids’ school, so I thought we were home free. Nope. Tate had a bug near his ear, and needed to be picked up. The school checked Finn as a precaution and said he was clean, but my older son was leaving for outdoor school the next day, and I wasn’t taking any chances. My car screeched into the school parking lot and I left the engine running while I ran in to grab Finn. Tate had already been picked up by Tom and with any luck, was at home being fumigated. Inside the school, Finn sensed my distress and reacted accordingly.

Finn, digging in his heels: “Wait, why are we going home early?”

Me: “Ha ha, happy to see you too, sport. Hey Chandra!” (Waving to another parent). “I just, you know, felt like picking you up early because…I missed you.”

Finn: “But I want to play soccer!”

Me: (Leaning close, grabbing shirt, and hissing). “Listen, buddy. Your brother has BUGS, ok?? IN HIS HAIR. We need to leave. RIGHT. NOW.”

With Finn in the car, I sped off for Lice Knowing You. The only nice thing about lice in the modern age is that there are places like Lice Knowing You. Lice Knowing You is a real place that actually exists. It is a salon, just like any other salon, except that this salon isn’t marked from the outside and the only service they offer is the removal of bugs from your person. The school had told me that Finn was clean, but, no offense to the school, I needed a professional opinion. I screeched into the parking lot and dragged Finn into the salon, where I tried to be really chill about not touching any of the surfaces. There, a lady sprayed conditioner in Finn’s hair and then gave Finn the first combing of his life. No lice.

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I packed Finn into the car and we peeled off for home. I arrived to find Tom and Cuz stripping all the beds. Tate was running around the house stark naked. I waved to Tate from a safe distance and turned to Tom. “So, did you do the lice treatment?”

Tom looked up from spraying a mattress with an expression that suggested that he had been dealing with lice and spraying the mattress for approximately seven years, instead of the 45 minutes that had elapsed since he’d left the school with Tate. “I didn’t find anything,” he said.

What did he MEAN he didn’t find anything? Tom wasn’t like Finn, who often asks where his glasses are, when they are on his face. Tom is a FINDER. Tom’s ability to find things is like number 4 on the top ten things that I love about my husband. If Tom didn’t find lice, there were no lice. But still. The school wouldn’t have sent Tate home on a TUESDAY unless they had found some serious lice. Would they?

“What do you mean you didn’t find anything?,” I asked. “Do you even know what lice look like? They look like little white grains of rice, Tom. Like little white eggs. Did you even look at any pictures??!!!” I could feel myself sounding and looking like a howler monkey and was powerless to stop it. Tom stopped spraying and pulled his body up to full height. “Yoona. I know what lice looks like. I know what nits look like. I looked at the pamphlet in the kit. He didn’t have any lice.”

Well. He didn’t have to get all hysterical about it. I gave him a look and hauled both my boys to the bathroom, where I clipped on my trusty Number 1 guide and buzzed them clean.

Try clinging onto that fuzz, you nasty lice. And you nasty nits, too. ‘Til next time.

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