I know, the headline just sucker punched you right in the crotch. And it’s stinging. So I’m gonna give you a minute to get your bearings.
Now I know what you’re thinking, this is a joyous and festive time of the year, so why the hell did she just mention that word and ruin the entire mood?!
I did hesitate, believe me. But then my urge to be controversial took over and here we are. Sorry.
I work in an elementary school, that’s my problem. And it’s almost winter. And with the emergence of hats and scarfs and hoods and snuggling, it also means the awakening of The Bugs. ‘Tis the season, I guess. So that puts the topic on the very forefront of my brain. And the way I typically deal with things that are disproportionately on my mind is to unload them onto your mind. I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel infinitely better.
Look, I’ve been there. I get it. Just the word itself is brutal, in any context. No matter who’s talking about it, or why, the mere mention of lice causes a visceral reaction in people unlike anything I’ve ever seen. People sweat, people shake, people cry. Grownups everywhere become paralyzed with fear.
I’ve had moms come to my window to dismiss their kids and I’ve been worried to let them get back in their cars and drive home, that’s how overcome they are. It’s sad. Just the word alone conjures up such primal emotions that people can’t control themselves.
Case in point: I’ll bet that just in the last fifty-three seconds that it’s taken you to read this far, you’ve already scratched your head more than once and maybe even thrown up a little in your mouth. It’s okay, don’t be ashamed. You didn’t do anything wrong. It happens to everybody.
See, whether you have kids or not; whether you’ve experienced lice firsthand or not; it’s just one of those things that everyone can sympathize with purely because of the stigma that goes along with it. It takes such incredible attention to detail to exterminate that it takes your breath away.
Anyone who has even a vague knowledge of what lice brings with it, knows that it’s all-consuming. Life just stops cold when lice is discovered. Everything has to be stripped and cleaned and decontaminated and inspected. Then re-stripped, re-cleaned, re-decontaminated, and re-inspected. It’s overwhelming. Because if even so much as one rogue louse breaks through the line again, the invasion begins again and you’re right back to ground zero.
And if you’re a parent, well, forgedaboudit. Lice is quite possibly the most offensive four-letter word you can ever hear. Getting that call from the school nurse is every parent’s worst nightmare. Her hollow voice just reverberates right through you, bones and all, leaving you almost totally incapacitated. After which, it’s all most people can do to find the wherewithal to drive to the school and pick up their kid. That’s because so much information is saturating the brain at one time that processing anything becomes impossible. It’s like trying to force water through a big, gnarled hair clog that goes eighteen inches down your drain. Nothing gets through.
Then there’s the whole embarrassment piece, albeit an irrational one. Not to mention the feeling of almost total overwhelment, thinking of everything that needs to be done when you’re in triage mode. And finally, the reality of knowing that you’re going to be picking little bugs out of your kid’s head. Which, no matter how you spin it, is just revolting.
The bottom line is, we need to find a way, as a modern society, to maintain control over these little bastards. We need to win the upper hand, and the way we do that is to use our big fat brains and our opposable thumbs to our advantage. That, combined with a little shot of perspective, as we mount our assault. So here’s your shot of perspective…
Lice are not deadly. Lice are not contagious. Lice don’t carry diseases. Lice can’t hurt you or your children in any physical way. Our socioeconomic status has absolutely nothing to do with getting lice. (They have super-tiny brains, so they don’t have the mental capacity to discriminate.) They can’t jump or hop or fly. They can’t live more than a few days without the warmth and food of the human head. And they look like sesame seeds, for Christ’s sake. How threatening can that possibly be? They’re icky little parasites, not ghost-faced killers. And we need to find a way to get and keep the emotional upper hand on them so we can win the war.
See, once we all recognize that lice represents only a minor blip on the radar, we can stand fast, do what needs to be done, and move on to help others fight the battle.
So as tough as it is, try to remember to keep it together as real winter approaches. Stand strong and show no fear. Because if any international terrorists out there ever get wind of how badly they can hurt us with these things, we’re screwed.