Lice Pariah

Crude scary lice pic.

My daughter’s camp called on Friday, telling me that I needed to drop everything and go pick her up—she had lice! It was a stressful day: it hurt to loose half a day’s pay, plus my car was in the shop, so we had to take multiple busses home, all the while  my daughter whined piteously   and scratched furtively at the bathing cap the camp gave us to cover her head. When we got home, I had to wash her down with special soap, comb the nits out, wash all of the bedding, clothes, etc., in the house.

But that wasn’t the bad part. The bad part was the stigma. My daughter was invited to a party today, and I called the boy’s grandma and explained the situation–asking if it was ok if I brought her. She said yes–but no sooner was I driving away, than I got another call saying I should pick her back up. Grandma told mom in front of the other parents–and they didn’t want her around their kids.

So I got to pick up my hurt and bewildered daughter–minutes after dropping her off at a party she had been looking forwards to for weeks.

The worst part about lice isn’t the work involved. It’s the stigma.

The whole time we were taking the bus(es) home, the only thing my daughter wanted to talk about was her lice, but I had to keep saying–“Hush, be quiet! Don’t tell anybody!”

When I picked my daughter up at camp, they asked if I had ever had lice–and I lied and said no.

I did have lice. I caught it in a holding cell in jail while lying on an orange shirt someone had left behind. When they processed me: making me strip, squat, cough, etc., I asked them to give me something for my lice. They ignored me.

I was put in a cell with three other women with an intimate knowledge of the cable schedule. One of them saw me scratching, and made a comment about dry scalps.

“No,” I said, “I have lice. I asked them to give me shampoo for it–but they didn’t.” The three women got upset, and started hollering for the guard.

The guard came–a thickset, heavy woman with a skeptical demeaner.

“You’re lucky you didn’t get your ass beat–telling everybody you had lice!” She informed me as she took me to take a shower.

They never did give me lice shampoo, just shoved me in the “come-down” cell where I lay on a thin mat on the floor surrounded by junkies moaning through the shakes of serious withdrawal. They let me out the next day.

My boyfriend and I both ended up with lice. We begged a youth center for some clothes, and my dumb-ass BF put them on before we could cage a shower from the hippy Christians. But he solved his lice anyways by shaving his head into a bouncy blond fro hawk.

I did the shampoo, but the lice came back. Finally I cured the lice. By prayer.

One night I lay in my bedroll, crying from pain with my scalp bleeding from all of the scratching, praying: “Please Goddess, I don’t want to keep killing these bugs, but I need them to go away!”

And the next day, they were gone. I never had another bite.

I never told anybody. I couldn’t stand the stigma.


1 Comment

  1. I was diagnosed with lice when I was 6 and they wouldn’t let me return to school for over a week. We went to the pharmacy for a check-up and they said it wasn’t lice.. it was dandruff. We went through hell to get me back into school after that first week. They kept arguing it was lice, but it wasn’t! The stigma is so depressing when you’re that young.

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