It was 2002, and years since I was able to get my hair done. Between Roger being deployed so much and having small children, I just couldn’t find the time. I made an appointment at the JCPenney salon in the Jacksonville Mall. I was nervous.
The appointment was in the evening so Roger could stay with the boys. The mall smells of pizza and perfume found my nose as I walked into the building. I found my way to JCPenney, checked in, and waited until she called my name.
The woman was friendly, and we had a nice conversation as she combed my hair and asked me what I would like done. We compared stories about our kids and talked about the weather, then she became quiet and began looking through my hair.
“Has anyone in your family had head lice lately?” she asked. I mean, that isn’t a question that complements small talk.
“No,” I said. She was quiet, so I had to fight the butterflies in my gut and break the silence. “Why do you ask?”
“I think you have it,” she said. She then asked me to go to the back room with her so she could get another stylist in there to confirm. Fun times.
After some time, I found my way out of the building, understanding why I had been so itchy lately. I got into my van and called Roger to give him the news.
I went home, called my best friend to vent, and she told me what to do. Roger went to the store and got the special shampoo and lots of mayo. I shaved Roger’s and the boys’ heads which upset Tyler because he was at a new school and part of a football team. (I’m sorry.) I lathered their bald heads in mayo because apparently it suffocates them. We laughed, and I cried while Roger cut about six inches off my hair.
We stayed up late doing laundry, putting stuffed animals in trash bags, and trying to figure out where it came from so we could avoid another visit from the critters. I printed out colorful newsletters for the football team for two reasons: They shared helmets and it was the ethical thing to do. I held my head high as I passed them out to parents and coaches, but internally I wanted to dig a hole and hide in it.
We weren’t sure if the bugs came from the football helmets, friends, or maybe Old Navy. Max was a little baby then and I loved trying the hats and bonnets on him. I wonder if that’s where it came from. Who knows. All I do know, is for many years after that, any time my head would itch, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. We felt ashamed and alone until help and support arrived.
My best friend came to my house and sat with me on the back deck. I remember it being comfortably warm and sunny on that day in September. She gently and patiently picked out each nit from my hair, which are the eggs that the lice lay on each individual strand, and they are about an inch away from the host’s head. (Yes, I was a host!) My hair is thick so it took hours, and more than being grateful for help with it, I was in awe of my friend and how selfless she was, how she didn’t treat me like a contagious, oozing disease. I can’t say I would have been so worthy.
Why is there a stigma when it comes to lice? We were mortified. Apparently, it doesn’t matter how clean you are, and lice can live through washings and hair drying. They’re resilient little parasites, and I don’t ever want them again.
Now I’m itchy. Are you?