Does Your Head Itch Yet?

Lucy told me she thought she had lice on Wednesday. "My head ITCHES!" she said. I filed this under Dramatic Fake Illness, alongside "I can't see" (wants glasses), "My ankle stings" (wants out of PE) and "My finger is broken" (wants out of PE and after-school gymnastics). Then when I was volunteering in her Spanish class Friday morning, I watched her sit and scratch. And scratch and scratch her head. If she had been a dog, she'd have lifted her hind leg up there to scratch it. My own head began to itch as I helped make the Mexican hot chocolate. I shuddered, realizing we might have a problem.

After I left Spanish, I returned to my work and...forgot. The deeply skeezed out part of my psyche was overtaken by the busy Pollyanna part (this is the same coping mechanism that allows me to spend so much time in hotels without pondering the existence of bedbugs). Lice shmice, my brain said.

But this morning on the couch, cuddled up with my darling children watching "Curious George," Lu lay her head in my lap. So sweet, until I noticed this rash blooming from around her ears and neck. I shuddered. My scalp began to itch. I got Internet and a flashlight. One look confirmed the lousy truth. For those of you who don't know (and I hope you never do), lice are harmless. But they are really fucking gross. Bugs on your head? Yes, actual bugs. Crawling. On your head.

The first thing I did — after making Lu get off the couch and away from us and all fabric surfaces — was to send an email to the people Lu may have infected in the past two days. This seemed like the mommy version of calling recent *ahem* partners to tell them you'd been diagnosed with a harmless but gross STD.

Then, I went to CVS to get some lice treatment (The shame! I swear the checkout dude scratched his head after he put the box in the plastic bag.) Then, we shampooed and doused and poisoned. Then, like ma and pa gorillas, we picked the bugs from Lu's head. This was an hours-long process.

Good news: none of the rest of us seems to have it (despite a desperate case of psychosomatic lice for yours truly). More good news: she was a trooper, and we had a fun day rewarding all her cooperation with the nit-picking. Bad news: if for some reason this treatment fails, the next remedy has us slathering her head in mayonnaise under a shower cap overnight. Gross as that sounds, it's better than bugs on your head.