Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Home for the Fleas, A Hive for the Buzzing Bees

The following story was cleared by Daughter before being published.

One afternoon back in December, Daughter was studying with her math tutor and I was doing what I do when she’s being tutored, which is find horoscopes online and choose to believe the ones which tell me next month will be very profitable for Leos. After her hour was up, she walked out looking ashen. I assumed this had something to do with polynomials. As it usually happens, I was painfully mistaken.

“Mom,” she whispered, “My head kept itching and I scratched it and...I think I have lice.”

No rabbit hearing the yip of a nearby coyote grew more still and alert than I did at that moment. On one side, the odds were small. She home-schools, she doesn’t share hats with anybody, we made it through four lice-scares in pre-school with nary a bug. On the other side, EWEWEWEWEWEWEWEWEWEWEW. I knew intellectually that lice come to the worthy and the unworthy equally and had supported more than a few friends during their hour of need, reminding them of the irony that lice actually prefer clean hair, but when the bell tolls for thee, it’s hard not to wonder if someone from the state is going to come, take your child and place her with competent parents.

But before the gagging would come the confirming. I whisked her off (without actually touching her) to the nearest pharmacy, where I bought a lice comb. I paid cash so the cashier wouldn’t know my name and shout something helpful like “GOOD LUCK WITH REMOVING VERMIN FROM YOUR CHILD!!!!!” I tore the comb from the package, we huddled behind the car and I combed her hair.


My mind raced. Not only was I now driving a minivan’s worth of living things, we had tickets to see the Rockette’s Christmas show in (I checked my watch) two hours. I wasn’t taking those little bastards to the Staples Center with us. Daughter looked miserable. Suddenly, from the blue, I remembered what my ever-informative friend Veronica had told me once in passing about lice.

“The shampoos are really toxic and don’t really work anymore but you know what does? Hair color. Just get a color which pretty much matches your kid’s hair and you’re done with them.”

I did a quick search online which seemed to corroborate what Veronica said. I explained to Daughter what we would be doing. She looked delighted which would have been incongruous were it not for the fact that she’s being arguing for highlights since before she could tie her shoes. We tore back into the pharmacy and flew into the hair-color aisle and were confronted with a language only slightly less illuminating than runes. Was she a “Honey amber brown” or did she answer to “Golden tawny oak”? Where was the “Brown with yellowy bits” bottle? Time was passing. Rockettes were warming up. I could only assume lice were making more of themselves. I vetoed Daughter’s suggestion of “Marilyn icy blonde” and grabbed “Golden brown.” We dashed home, but not before I put a beach towel between her head and the back of the seat.


(There weren’t. Bugs in his hair, I mean. Mine, either. We’re still puzzled by the infestation, because none of her friends have them right now. A friend even told me December isn’t the usual time for lice. All I can note is that I got an Academy Award nomination at ten and my tonsils out at 24. My people do things on their own schedule.)

Within minutes, we were over the kitchen sink and I was mixing bottle A to bottle B. In my entire life, I’ve only had colored hair for a year in total so this was something of a novelty for me. As long as I forgot that a) my daughter in the plastic cap was ten and b) my daughter was in the plastic cap because little bastards were walking all over her head, it was kind of fun. We chit-chatted.

I vetoed a pink stripe on the underside of her hair but felt good enough about being on top of this little domestic drama that I swore we could revisit the subject when she’s fourteen.

The timer went off. We rinsed. We rinsed some more. I thought about bugs and then rinsed a few more times. I sent her to her bedroom to get changed for the Rockettes, confirmed that our linens were nearly being boiled and went off to change for the night. Considering Consort was driving us to the Staples Center and I didn’t have to drive, I had a glass of wine.

Because honestly, if not then, then when?

The show was delightful. The women were identical. The fake snow came down in an adorable way and for minutes at a time I forgot about the previous two hours. The lights came up and Daughter and I went to leave. I glanced over at her as we walked up the aisle and thought, “Huh. That’s funny. Her hair almost looks orange. Must be the lights in here.”

Yeah. That must have been it.

Next time: It starts getting real.


Anonymous LifesizeLD said...

Ha Ha!

The REAL question is: DID IT WORK??? Because if it did, you might be on to an entirely new profession here.

I can see it now: Quinn Cumming's line of "Die, Lice Dye!" Available in all your kiddo's favorite colors.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Robin Raven said...

Not gross! A little scary, maybe. I'm afraid of getting them even now. haha So funny, though. Wow, what a great, timely way of getting rid of them!!!

Even though I'm fairly uninterested in how I look otherwise and scoff at other ways of altering my looks, I've had a thing for hair dyeing since my mom let me go platinum at 13. She made my solemn self promise to be happy from then on forever more if I dyed my hair. I promised; it didn't work for me, but you could always try that trick. ;-)

10:45 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I can't wait to hear the next part of the story, where it gets "real"!

10:51 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Oh man, we went through a killer lice infestation. These things were like mutants, they just wouldn't die. I refused to use the freaking lice comb, there was just way too much hair involved. So we used the toxic shampoo - more than once. But my poor elderly mother never got them, and I joked at the time that maybe the color I put in her hair killed them. Who knew?

Now, my daughter tells me the same thing, she heard it from a friend of hers with three kids. The lice have become resistant to the toxic shampoos. But this woman says mayo works.

So, if you ever have to go through this again, try that 1st. Cheaper than hair color and no orange in any light to worry about.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am totally using the lice story the next time my husband says "Will I ever get to see your natural hair color?" It's been 24 years. So no. But now at least I will have a somewhat credible though totally dishonest reason for explaining why I Nice and Easy every six weeks.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Oh, lice. I too harbor an irrational dread when it comes to lice. (This comment is taking ages to type because I'm knocking wood between words, just in case...)

Last year when my daughter was a first grader with very long hair, there were three lice notification letters sent home from the nurse in the first 6 weeks of school. I lived in a state of perpetual fear that entire fall. I bought tea tree oil hair products (which: not one of the more pleasant smells around) and each morning, I put my kiddo's hair up and shellacked the ever-loving heck out of it with hairspray. (Thank goodness I came of age in NJ in the 80s - I am a hairspray expert.). Whether it was these preventative measures or just sheer luck, we survived the year lice free. This year, there's only been one lice notice and my kiddo is wearing her hair much shorter, so I'm breathing slightly easier. Well, inhaling less clouds of hairspray, at any rate.

Can 't wait for the continuation of your saga! Also - love the Rockettes!

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Riin said...

I wonder if Manic Panic works. I have purple hair.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Alan W. Davidson said...

We managed to avoid that pariticular drama with our son. However there were so many other situarions...

You handled the situation admirably, considering the time constraint. I would have caved like an under-cooked souffle and stayed home from the show.

3:31 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

All four in our family were infested in November. With the constant lice notices from my daughters' school, I'd bookmarked a NY Times article about using Cetaphil cleanser. It suffocates like mayo and Vaseline, but it washes out easily.

There's also a Times article about the lucrative professional nit-picking racket. After going the cheaper DIY route, I'd pay big money for someone else to get carpal tunnel syndrome. Or for an ergonomic lice comb.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

I have been a public health nurse [READ: All lice, all the time], as well as a sexual health nurse [READ: pubic lice and scabies] for forever. I love all aspects of my job, including the funky ones. In all of my experience, I haven't found a universal treatment for lice, but I *have* discovered that my first (unshared) reaction is *always* EWWWWWWWWWW!!

11:08 AM  
Anonymous elizabeth said...

Any hair color with "golden" in the name turns orange on me too. You can get rid of it with Unred - it works really well!

11:57 AM  
Blogger Char said...

stay aways from the goldens - they turn to red. stay away from the ashes as they turn to green.

always go with the naturals.

from the title now i'm thinking fleas.

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter hasn't had lice, but her hair has been a magnet for ticks!. The first time I saw the doctor remove one still wiggling from her scalp I thought I was going to throw up--but I couldn't because her twin brother was looking at me for my reaction! Come to think about it, she has complained recently about an itchy scalp...lice never occurred to me! Oh, no! I don't know that I'd be able to wash her hair myself as you did. Bravo for getting right to it!

4:43 PM  
Blogger L.L. said...

"golden" brown always goes orange on me. Sometimes its a good orange and sometimes it isn't. The safest bet with home hair color would be a light ash brown. Also, washing your hair with Dawn will fade haircolor fast. Wash hair with Dawn 2-3 times in a row. Repeat as needed until color fades to desirable level. And no worries about Dawn making your hair straw or anything, I just follow with my usual conditioner and don't actually notice a difference between that and my usual shampoo.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Oh my goodness... this sent shudders down my spine. EWWEWWEWW. My kiddo came home in first grade with the little bastards. (god, it makes my head itch thinking about it!) Two rounds of poison and one round of Peppermint did the trick. But I FREAK OUT every time she scratches her head. EWWEWWEWW.

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Pamela said...

Olive oil was our answer. The mature lice drown in it and the babies and the nits cannot cling to the hair. No toxins and my kid's hair was pretty well conditioned after a night with olive oil saturated hair tucked into a plastic shower cap.

4:59 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

We just dealt with our first-ever lice invasion last week. Since my daughter is just six, I didn't feel like I could dye her hair, so we dealt with disgusting lice shampoos and hours of combing with a nit comb. I consider the fact that we got rid of them in two days and got her back to school my greatest accomplishment as a parent...

6:44 AM  
Blogger Marta said...

I have been hair stylist for 30 years and have encountered the creepy crawlers many times and my advice is this... When one member of the household is found to have lice, treat all members.. because you might have ONE on your head that you didn't see.. and it becomes a round robin effect.. (i think that is why people think the products aren't working)..and I recommend using prescription treatment.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Vol-E said...

My little guy got 'em in preschool. Perhaps wrongly, we suspected the carrier was a long-haired classmate named Damien. The standard stuff worked just fine -- this was probably before they became resistant. The best thing I remember was how the school handled it. Kids had to go home ASAP, but they were told it was because they had "sand" in their hair, thereby preventing a whole avalanche of freakouts among the students.

5:35 AM  
Anonymous DebBeausoleil said...

"Brown with yellowy bits"! You really made me laugh at that one. My hair never seems to match any of the little hair samples they have in the store.

Better to color Daughter's hair to get rid of the lice (can't wait to hear if it worked) than to have to shave her head as what happened to Doug on an episode of Dirty Jobs.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Isabella said...

Hi Quinn,

When I discovered that my daughter Isabel had lice in her hair, this is how I got rid of the problem.

I made a concoction of Hot Sauce, Garlic, and vinegar and put it through her hair. It was uncomfortable--left it in for an hour--washed it out. GONE. And just think...all natural!

Best to you,

10:16 AM  
Blogger MommyLisa said...

Now I am going to be scratching my head for the rest of the day. :P

11:18 AM  

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