I have an image of my youngest sister in my (nit) head, unkempt as a feral kitten, mute til she was five (she couldn’t get a word in edgewise with four older siblings & umpteen adults all over the house), with a stinking chemical potion simmering on her head. I remember thinking, ha ha. I’m so glad that’s not me. Until my mother beckoned me into the bathroom to take a turn. In those days, there were no niceties with a nit comb. If you got that brown envelope from school it meant the nit nurse had spoken (albeit discreetly) and my mum, squeamish about creepy-crawlies at the best of times, applied the regulation sheep-dip without hesitation.
And that stuff reeked so much it howled. What did they put in it? Napalm? It was treatment of the herd, regardless of whether there were any signs of life in any other familial thatch and it was the same when she came home with worms. I can still taste the warm blackcurrant mix in the paper cup we all had to gag down. To this day I can’t smell let alone drink Ribena without wanting to retch. Vile beverage.
My friend Alice said her first time was ten years ago when her eldest daughter, then aged six, came home from school with the standard generic note about a reported case of infestation. She gave her little head the once over, spotted nothing and forgot all about it. Two weeks later she said there were headlice practically abseiling off the six year old’s eyebrows. The kid was teeming – it was a veritable louse circus with insects swinging off her hair like they were on a trapeze.
That’s the clever thing about headlice, they are brilliant gymnasts.
When was your first time?