Having nits

This summer has been one to forget for reasons both personal and meteorological. But perhaps the memory I will cherish least is the one where I realise I have nits.

Here I am, 40 years old, a spinster, with no dowry, and I have nits. Small insects, humanoid ectoparasites no less, are sauntering around my hair like it’s a five-star hotel, where the beds are made with Kerasilk sheets. I’m about to ruin my not-at-all-cheap, swishy permanent blow-dry with a bottle of £3.99 Full Marks solution, that will leave me looking like I’ve had an accident with the olive oil. Or as my friend Ruth describes it, ‘like you’ve been shat on.’

I’m hoping I haven’t really got them. Getting one of those tiny combs through my hair is as effective as de-icing the windscreen with a CD case, so I can’t be truly sure. But I feel like I have got them. I feel itchy just being around my children. And they’ve definitely got them. Run the same comb through Betty’s fine blond strands and eggs shimmer in the light like 1980s glitter spray.

But the only 1980s thing that’s really going on here is the fact that I’m still calling them nits, and not head lice. One of the many interesting facts I have learnt about head lice (née nits) these past few days, is that during the 90s, while we weren’t looking, they got together with Marathon, Jif and Chewits, and went fours on the cost of a re-brand.

Whatever you want to call the little blighters, I have only myself to blame. I’ve suspected for some time that Betty had an infestation. The note home from school asking that I check her hair for nits was the first clue. Then there was the continual scratching, the way her bouffe had a look of four-night-bender about it that Winehouse would have envied. As the wise old Ace of Base once said, I saw the sign. But I couldn’t be arsed to do anything about it.

I know, disgusting. How could any mother let a colony settle on her daughter’s head? Is it not bad enough that I sometimes sponge down their school uniform with the mangy green scouring pad from the kitchen sink, instead of washing it like a proper mum would? And that I often can’t remember the last time I changed their sheets? (funny how no-one mentions what a shag that job is, when you stump up for the cool high-sleeper with the desk/shelves/bijou apartment underneath). That to get the unspecified black goo from behind their nails, I have to actually cut them off first. I know, I know, unclean, unclean.

But give me a break, clean people. Getting the nit shampoo out at 8pm on a Wednesday night isn’t very appealing. Not when you’ve only just got everyone home from the extra-curricular activities they don’t enjoy doing. When you want them to just go to bed so you can get on with a relaxing evening’s housework. It’s up there with putting petrol in the car and emptying the kitchen bin, on the list of jobs-so-boring-you-only-do-them-when-it’s-an-emergency.

So you pretend not to know that cirque-des-nits is staging a daring new show in your child’s locks. You turn a blind eye to the the glam-rock hair, tell yourself that all this scratching is probably to do with the imaginary new washing powder you are imaginarily using. Or a touch of the eczema she has never actually had.

Should you feel a burning accusatory gaze from another, less slovenly parent, you make theatrical surprised noises, suggesting this is the first time you have noticed her scratching. As you fuss like that proper mum, and pretend to be dismayed by this apparently new affliction, you may even drop in the name of another entirely innocent child, just to make sure your companion knows it’s not you who is unclean here (because no-one believes that stuff about how nits love clean hair –  clearly made up by someone with really bad nits). ‘Have you been playing with Jonah again?’ you huff dramatically, instantly branding poor Jonah and his family tramps, forever.

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Jonah from school

You know you are on borrowed time. At some point you’ll have to forego your evening of fridge-cleaning and address the problem. But you push it right to the limit, not only because you’d rather book in for anal bleaching than spend the evening combing everyone’s hair with that thing that looks like an egg slicer, but because part of you reasons it’s only natural, after all. It’s organic, in fact. And frankly, what’s the point of spending all this money on bamboo clothes and goji berries, if they can’t have a few fleas? Aren’t nits actually good, ecologically speaking? Nature is taking its course, right here in your kids’ hair! Somebody call Bill Oddie and get a webcam!

But while you can convince yourself nits are better for the planet in your kids’ hair, the itchy insane-lady look just isn’t working out for you. Life is being unkind enough to your ageing hair as it is. Big white pubey spirals are springing from your scalp almost by the minute. And the whole sorry wig needs drenching in an increasingly complex sequence of masks, pre-shampoos and leave-in conditioners – all made of oils so essential, you have never heard of them. Your hair is already shit enough, without having animals in it.

So it’s Full Marks for you and back to scratchy old sheets in the hair-hotel for those pesky nits. Sweet dreams, fellas.

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