Lice Lice Baby

Stop, why does my head be itchin
And my whiny children be b**chin
Something in my hair's not rightly
Feels kind of crawly both daily and nightly
Will it ever stop? Yo, I don't know
Grab the tiny lice comb and let's go
To the extreme, I rock that comb like a vandal
Sit in my chair while this problem I handle
Lice Lice Baby (ba-dum-ditty-dum-ditty-dum-dum)

So, I was going to rap this entire post, but that is both annoying and a waste of what little mental resources I have left.  Needless to say, friends, this past week both our luck and the evidentiary support for one of my key parenting theories ran out.  After years of evasion, the lice finally found us.

As you may recall, I believe very strongly in maintaining a basement-level standard of personal hygiene for my kids for several reasons:
1) They are kids, they don't smell much, and if they do, people kind of expect that.
2) Some dirt and grime help develop their immune systems.  I didn't breastfeed much so they need the assistance.
3) My particular kids perform very little physical activity and rarely leave the couch, limiting their ability to actually get dirty or sweaty.
4) As I may have mentioned, one or two or 23 times, I went to boarding school, where no one makes you bathe. So I didn't bathe much, pre-puberty.  And I was fine.
5) More generally, and as I may have mentioned one or two or 39 times, I grew up in Africa.  And I didn't bathe. And I was fine.
6) I have never heard of a single American dying from not bathing.
7) And now we get to the heart of the matter.  Not bathing my kids or forcing them to bathe is one less thing I have to do.  Because I am lazy, have an anxiety disorder that is triggered by multi-tasking,   and have devised a parenting strategy that weeds out every unnecessary thing.  Like bathing. And it is fine.

8) Most importantly for our purposes here today, LICE HATE CLEAN HAIR.  I am not making this up, everyone knows this. Google it.  In fact, that is almost certainly why there is so much lice in America and not in Africa.  I lived in a BOARDING SCHOOL for goodness sakes, FOR SEVEN YEARS, where we shared EVERYTHING including things I will never admit to sharing except under oath, and never heard of anyone, ANYONE having lice. Not a single case.  If they have it there now it is probably because of American tourists and creeping Americanism in general, no pun intended.  Americans go all over the world bringing their fast food, bad reality shows, obesity, sneakers, denim, overly-extraverted culture, and THEIR LICE, leaving one to wonder which country is the real s--hole.

And now, American lice have found our African-ish home.  Last week, Charlotte casually mentioned to me that her head had been itching. For a few days, actually.  After my blood ceased to run through my veins and my nervous system momentarily shut down and I shrieked AND YOU ARE JUST NOW TELLING ME THIS?! I got up and pawed through her hair.  It was undeniable.  She did not have ambiguous maybe-nits-maybe-dandruff-maybe-remnants-of-a-snack.  She had actual living creatures.  In her hair.

I quickly texted the parents of the 3 children who were at our house earlier that day to tell them the horrifying news.  Of course they had all had lice before, because their children bathe, so I also asked them to TELL ME WHAT TO DO.  This is in fact what I do in any and every crisis, I look for leadership (not even necessarily good leadership either) because I am a youngest child and we must have leadership.  In a truly major crisis I call my friend Sarah in Oklahoma, who will tell you exactly what to do with the dead body you just found with the confidence of a serial killer even though she has only metaphorically killed people (and that she has done many times, only using her eyes, and without the person's knowledge).  Sarah was my next call, but fortunately, one of the parents not only told me what to do, she said she would come over and do it for me.  In my book, that type of person is pure gold, regardless of the results.  I'm a cult member waiting to happen.

So Bette very kindly came over with her supplies, sat Charlotte down and started combing.  And friends, there was like a whole nation of lice in there.  They had not only procreated, they had built roads and bridges and schools and established a government more functioning than what we have right now in the United States (I hear, however, that lice do not like African hair--you can also look that up too--begging a comparison between the Lice President and the American one.  But I digress).  They had completely colonized Charlotte's head.  I of course began fearing for the rest of us.  Charlotte is, fortunately in this case, not a cuddler, but she is a wrestler of brothers, and that brother is very much a cuddler...I could see a clear path of lice imperialism before us.  However, I looked through everyone's hair and found nothing visible.

The next day, though, I began to feel creepy sensations on my scalp.  Of course, I considered that this was purely psychosomatic, but I very wisely decided, nah, best to get this checked out.  As I thought it too much to call Bette to comb out our entire family and try not to do anything DIY if I can help it, I called in a professional.  Her name was Fatima, and she is the most beautiful, talented, kind, and brilliant woman who has ever walked the earth.  She also sold us combs for twice the price than they are on Amazon, but I shall forgive her for this.  Because she combed and combed and combed.  She discovered that all of us, ALL OF US, had the lice.  She got another dozen off of Charlotte and a couple off the rest of us.  And lots of nits.  She gave us an extensive combing tutorial and a detailed lecture on the life cycle of the lice.  She showed us nits under the magnifying glass.  She gave us advice and made us feel empowered.  I truly feel I am now a better person for having met her and think that if she could go comb the hair of everyone in Congress, we would soon live in a utopia.  She told us to comb everyone out every day for 14 days. FOURTEEN. DAYS.

And then SHE LEFT, after I begged her, crying, to just move in with us and raise our children.  She assured me that You will be fine, You can do this, I have taught you everything I know.  I wanted to believe her.  But more than that, I wanted her not to leave me alone with four heads and a comb.  For 14 days.

Now, friends, here is how my life works.  I have carefully analyzed everything I really really have to do (using the toilet, holding down a job, pacifying legos), what I am able to do without panicking (cooking pre-packaged food while my children watch TV), what I need to do for my sanity (exercise, writing, and zoloft), and I have carefully arranged all of those things in a rigid, non-negotiable schedule of events.  I have people in my life who I really like and with whom I would like to spend time, but it's probably not going to happen unless they work with me, can cook for me, can entertain my children, run with me or attend the tortuous strength training class I go to (this last one in particular weeds a lot of people out).  I'm sorry, I really am not a diva, I really do like you, but that is the way it is.  I have a very tenuous grip on my sanity and my time.  I do not, incidentally, have any of the resources needed to spend up to an hour each day FOR 14 DAYS combing people's hair.  I just don't.  But sometimes you don't have a choice and then other things have to give and civilization erodes and that is just the way it is.  My life has spun completely out of control and I no longer brush my teeth.

Just to skip over the dull hours of combing, I have been combing for 7 days now and have found nothing.  Which is good, right? Or not.  Perhaps I don't know what I'm doing and am just missing everything.  Perhaps there is a stealthy band of lice who know they are dealing with an amateur and have done underground to wait things out, like all good guerrilla fighters.  It's like my very own hairy Afghanistan, waiting to bite me in the butt (I would apologize for comparing the Taliban to lice, but I think they deserve it, so I'm just gonna let that ride).  We obsessed over every speck pulled from a scalp.  Is that a nit? an oil globule?  a grain of sand from last year's beach vacation?  We considered buying a high-powered microscope (we may still do that).  But we have found nothing, for 7 days.

We've now decided to live a bit dangerously.  Sure, Fatima said 14 days, but the internet mostly says 7 is fine.  And I have a life I want to live, goals to achieve, dreams to pursue. None of those dreams involve any sort of hair utensil.  Pride may goeth before a lice reinvasion but another week of combing goeth before full nervous breakdown.  I'll take my chances.

I'll leave you with some takeaways, pending round two of the lice.  First, while I still maintain bathing your children is largely unnecessary, not bathing them is not a sure-fire preventative of lice.  I will continue to allow my children to live in filth, but I won't judge you anymore for your cleanliness.  You're welcome.

Second, the song Ice Ice Baby truly is a classic, no matter if Vanilla Ice brazenly stole the beat from Queen.

Lastly, I feel our society is completely off-base in assigning value to different professions.  If Fatima and I were both at a cocktail party, our fellow guests would no doubt think I am the more impressive, interesting person with my doctorate in something blah blah and my yuppie job.  They would probably brush Fatima aside, or rather comb her aside (jokes like that are why I am sure to be a famous writer someday).  But I ask you, who is performing a more worthy function in society?  This woman is going into desperate people's homes (sometimes twice, when they ignore her advice and only comb for 7 days), removing actual vermin from their actual human heads, imparting extensive knowledge about said vermin and how to eradicate them, and offering them hope that they can and will once again toss their hair about in a carefree manner as if they were in a L'Oreal commercial.  Fatima, I don't know if I'm worth it, and I'm thinking probably not, but you my dear woman, YOU ARE WORTH IT.

But just so you know, your combs are available on Amazon for half the price.  Just saying.


  1. This is my worst nightmare. And I got scabies in Zimbabwe. So I know a thing or two about lice.

  2. I love this post, hilarious friend, and good luck with days 8-14.


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