Why Are We Still So Secretive About Lice?

When I was 6 years old, I got a case of head lice from my older sister. I still remember the thin stainless steel comb my mother raked through my thick corkscrew curls. I remember being told to sit still while the treatment stretched on for what seemed like hours, and the paralyzing fear that ran through me when someone joked that my house would be visited by some of the other biblical plagues. But more than the discomfort and terror I experienced, I vividly remember the shame. When I came back to school, a letter went home with every child in my classroom letting parents know that “someone” in the class had lice. Even at that age, I knew that I didn’t want anyone to know it was me. Lice was something people didn’t talk about, and it certainly wasn’t something people wanted to be known for. 30 years later, I’m still battling the same two persistent nuisances: lice and shame.

It started a month ago when my trip to Trader Joe’s was interrupted by a call from my daughter’s preschool telling me my 3-year-old had lice. I panicked. I knew there are professionals you can pay to remove your child’s lice, but I didn’t know where to find them. And how was I going to research lice treatments, buy my groceries, pick up my kid, and most importantly, keep this from my social circle all at the same time?…

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