Apparently there is a bad outbreak of headlice at the local schools.  These things happen, and of course we don’t attach any stigma to it nowadays because we are enlightened, aren’t we …

My girls are delighted.  They came home from school and announced that they didn’t want their hair washed as lice love clean hair!  “Okay” said I, totally laid back about it all and didn’t bother to wash their hair!  However, I did pick my way through their flowing locks in search of nasties, and had to grin at the nit-picking memory it brought to mind.

It was shortly before I was due to move to America with the girls and my husband was already there (here!).  The girls were both under 3 years old and attended the most fabulous nursery to give me some time to organize things for moving.  One day there were notices plastered on the walls warning us of a lice problem.  I checked the girls each night as they had long hair, but never found anything.  It made me feel rather itchy checking them, but I didn’t think much of it.

My itching increased, so I went to see the lovely staff at the nursery.  I explained that I felt rather itchy (we all scratched our heads in unison) and wondered if they could give me some more information about lice.  With a good flurry of scratching, empathy and laughter I was provided with printouts about how to identify and kill lice.

That night I check myself for lice, and dammit I find some.  I drown my itchy sorrows in wine and brace myself for a cleansing session.  The next morning, after I drop my disgustingly lice-free children at nursery, I take myself off to the chemist (pharmacy).  To my disgust, I discover that lice lotion is behind the counter and there is a queue.  I live in a small community and I can hear the ripple of excitement when I ask for lice lotion.  I don’t think they could have been more excited if I’d asked for a pregnancy testing kit and a large crochet hook!

I drive home in a cloud of annoyance and humiliation.  I discover my hangover as I hang my lotion smothered head over the bath for the required amount of time.  About three minutes into the head hanging the phone rings.  I answer because I have no friends.  It’s the nursery; my daughter has been sick so I need to come and collect her.  I explain that it could take me a little while before I can get there as I am busy delousing.  I have to hold the phone away from my ear while the snorts of laughter subside.

For at least a week afterwards the staff automatically scratched their hair whenever they saw me.  As for my vomiting daughter – she was fine as soon as she was home.


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