Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse.
About a week ago I noticed that my head was itchy. Like, crazy itchy. Particularly around the nape of the neck. This was concerning, as lice had been going around the first grade at MJ’s school for awhile. We’d dodged it so far, but I knew that couldn’t go on forever.
I checked with MJ to see if she was feeling it, too.
“Yes!” She replied. “It’s been driving me crazy forever.”
I looked at her with an alarmed expression. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
She shrugged, and turned back to her game. She’s created a whole imaginary land in a corner called “Fairyarea.” I find her there muttering and singing all the time. There’s something vaguely demonic about it, but also cute.
MJ was off school, and Mike was planning on taking her to work with him. Let them go, I thought. I’ll check my head when they leave. Probably just being paranoid…I’m sure we’re all fine.
Amazing that I could still believe that about anything, but denial is a powerful force.
They left; I showered, and broke open a lice comb I’d purchased months ago. It only took a couple of passes to find that, indeed, I had them. Lice. Because apparently a cockroach infestation and an electoral apocalypse weren’t enough for one early autumn.
When I was done swearing I called Mike. “We have lice,” I announced. “Or I do. Which means that MJ does. And probably you, too.”
There was a surprisingly long silence on the other end. Like, a one-man Quaker meeting. Finally Mike sighed.
“Don’t panic,” I said. “I’ll come get her and take her to the salon. You’ll have to come, too.”
The salon I was referring to was Hair Angels, one of several lice removal places in the L.A. area. Hair Angels does no cuts, no blowouts, no dye-jobs. It’s just four unflappable women at pink stations banging lice combs into bowls of water. And, lest you think this is too small of a niche for a business, they’re busy all the time. We’ve been there twice for false alarms in the past; there’s always a crowd.
We headed there that afternoon. And it did, indeed, turn out that MJ and I had lice. Mike, even with his long hair, did not.
“The dads almost never get it,” my technician said matter-of-factly. “Doesn’t matter if they have long hair or short. Lice just don’t like ’em.”
“Typical,” I muttered, as she pulled another section of my hair through her comb.
MJ and I were there for over two hours, but when the treatment was done the lice were gone.
“Just like that?” I said.
Our gal laughed and nodded. “Just like that.”
Curious, I asked how long she thought we’d had them.
“You, not so long,” she said. Then she jacked her elbow towards MJ, who was now muttering over an ad-hoc Fairyarea in the waiting room. “She’s had ’em for about two weeks.”
My eyebrows shot upwards. “Two weeks?”
She nodded and shrugged. “Sometimes it’s hard to know until you’re fully infested.”
Once I was done being grossed out I did the math and realized that two weeks prior would have brought us to…election day. How ironic. And how perfectly fitting. Why wouldn‘t the worst day of my life also involve household pests?
But with a bit of time I’ve decided that the lice were a blessing. First of all, they pulled me out of my slough of despond. You can’t mope on the couch all day when the furniture has to be vacuumed. You can’t lie on the floor in a fetal position when there’s eight loads of laundry to do. You can’t stay in bed when all the bedding needs to be washed. You have to get up. You have to get busy. You have to deal.
Because lice suck, but they’re treatable. They have to be addressed; they can’t be ignored. But the idea of them is worse than the reality. Because the idea is that they’re impossible to defeat. The reality is, we have the knowledge, the expertise, and the equipment. We have Hair Angels. We know how to eradicate them. So, one nit at a time, we do.
This is true, I tell myself, for many kinds of unpleasant phenomena. Fear is the greatest enemy. It makes things seem unbeatable that aren’t; immobility ensues. Hysteria is unhelpful; footwork is all-powerful. Most infestations can be cleared; patience is critical, perseverance, too.
And vigilance, as any Hair Angel will tell you, is the absolute key. So I, for one, will be keeping my lice comb handy.