A Back To School Special – AKA Lice May Be Among Us….Shoot Me Now


lice cartoon

A Back To School Special About LICE
(AKA The Challenge of Being Able to Talk About Lice AND Remain Mentally Stable)

 It’s that time of year when all the traditions of back to school take place – the pencils get sharpened, the backpacks get dusted off, new shoes are bought and haircuts take place.  The camps empty out, the pools shutter up… and the lice come home. To our houses. And lay eggs. In stuffed animals and pillows and oh yes, on our kids’ heads.

Dear God. Bugs. Living on humans. Shoot me now. But make sure you use a silencer, because this whole talking about lice thing is taboo – unacceptable – and probably causing panic everywhere.

Not too long ago there were quite a few other topics that were also very taboo.  Polite people would not discuss families with divorce. Or alcoholism. Or drug addition. Or mental health issues.  Or gambling addiction.  Or the addiction du jour, which I will admit I am having a hard time buying into, but Charlie Sheen, Tiger Woods, Michael Douglas, and David Duchovny have all seemed to need to check into rehab for the same issues they have with the ladies.  I wonder who came up with the term sex-addiction.  I’m pretty sure it was a publicist. Someone trying to get their celebrity client off the hook for something ridiculously absurd and stupid.  If you label your indiscretions an addiction and check into a rehab clinic we’re supposed to forgive you immediately.   Like, it’s not your fault you slept with four hundred women in three months and then got caught by TMZ wearing just your underwear at Starbucks, you have an “addiction”.  And it can’t be taboo because you need talk therapy and spa treatments.

Well I also think we have something to talk about – so we can bring it into the “now acceptable” things to talk about list. And if Sheryl Sandberg can admit that her kids had lice in her book “Lean In”, the rest of us can admit it might be something we need to talk about.  Especially with thousands of kids coming back from summer and entering the school building together and hanging their little back packs – and lice-ridden hoodies.

So if we follow the rehab model, we can picture the setting – it’s the Lice Anonymous Meeting, and 25% of the room came in disguises, and another 25% of the room came with paper bags over their heads, and the other 50% won’t come because they can’t admit EVER in public that they had lice. Their kids went home with stomach viruses. Not lice. Not us.


Hi, Thanks for coming to the Lice Anonymous Meeting. My name is Colleen Markley, and my family has had lice.  We’ve been lice and nit-free for 736 days[1].

For the record, my husband did NOT have head lice. Neither did my son. And I’m not saying this part on the record, but my husband doesn’t have quite as much hair so I’m not surprised he didn’t get it. But that’s the sort of catty thing that I like to say when I’m feeling bitter and angry and emotionally imbalanced because my daughter and I had bugs in our hair.

I mean, really, for someone like me with a bug phobia to begin with this was really pretty life-changing. I’m the kind of person that when I see a bug larger than a dime I find a paper cup and trap it underneath and wait until Brian comes home from work. My son Alex has just started being old enough to like crushing bugs, so this has been great for me personally.  But bugs in my hair? And in my daughter Katie’s hair? And I need to sit with her and PLUCK BUGS OUT? Please find me a padded room.

Thank God when the lice happened in was in the summer (although it was the worst vacation buzz-kill–in 2011–ever to come home to THIS). But no one had to know. We didn’t have to miss any school and being absent from the pool for a while in August every one just thought we were on vacation. But we weren’t. We were hiding in the house while my kids watched lots of TV and I washed every sheet and blanket in the house in HOT water and dried it on HIGH HEAT for an hour and then I had 50 giant black lawn and leaf bags and I bagged all the pillows and soft toys and the fold-out Dora couch and yes, Katie, I’m so sorry, even your most special baby doll that you have slept with every night since you turned one year old. She’s going into this big black bag and you can have her back in 48 hours because she’s going into the freezer and I read online that if you put things in the freezer for 48 hours that would kill off any nits. Yes, she can breathe in there. She’s fine. No she’s not scared or lonely.  Stop moving I have to check your head again.

The first thing Brian said to me when I told him I’d found lice on Katie was “Don’t tell anyone.”  I didn’t. Except for my book club, because we were supposed to go to the movies that night, and I couldn’t go. And they’re my book club and they know how to “keep it under the dome”.  Really, you would not believe what we talk about under the dome.  And I had to tell my friend Loren, because she always totally gets me and knows how to talk me off a ledge. But other than those seven people I didn’t tell anyone. Except my mom, and my whole family. But they don’t live in the same town where I live so therefore telling them was not a risk to my social status.  Because, really, the taboo of lice was not something I wanted to have.

So why am I outing myself now? Not just to make my husband shake his head and be annoyed with me for once again failing to be able to fly under the radar. Nope, I’ve got to be the one in the plane with the big banner in the back – Because I Have Something To Say.

I believe that the number one way to prevent lice is to TALK about it. I didn’t read that anywhere. I didn’t find it in a pamphlet. I just believe it. I believe that once you name it, and talk about it, we can stop being afraid of it and figure out how to fix it.  If no one ever talked about the other problems that have plagued our earth do you think we would have been able to fix anything?

I mean, no one ever wants lice.  You don’t get it because you have dirty hair. Did you know that lice LIKE clean hair? That’s why all those repellent sprays exist – it’s like making your hair DIRTY.  And you don’t get lice because you don’t shower often enough or because you didn’t vacuum your house enough or because you drink puppy blood or because you don’t drink those over-priced buy at the store green vegetable juice concoctions to do a cleanse (which I think is disgusting, but if it prevented lice, I’d probably drink it, vegetable juice, not sure about the puppy blood, but I would think about it, that’s how much I hate bugs).

If Charlie Sheen can go to a rehab clinic for his sex addiction, then the rest of us can get mom rehab clinics opened up for the lice-afflicted.  And it will have spas for the moms and they’ll be nice to your head and take care of your hair and your inner spirit and give you wine to drink while they pick lice out of your head and tell you that your highlights look beautiful and aren’t you so lucky to have so few gray hairs. And your kids can watch age-appropriate movies in another room and someone else will pick lice out of their heads while they eat ice cream or play video games or read a freaking book for fun. And then when the rehab is all over the rest of town will welcome us back with wide open arms and say how glad they are that we got the help we needed and wasn’t that a pesky little kerfuffle and they went through that last fall.  And didn’t you love the dessert they had at the lice rehab place, it’s almost worth the lice just to get the chocolate mousse.

And maybe one day we can eradicate lice completely and there will be no need for lice spa rehab resorts.  In the meantime, I’ll be at the spa. The nice one with the padded room instead of windows.

Happy Back to School.


[1] At the writing of this treatise, August 2013.



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