Last Monday, I found out that I had lice. Since my head had been unbearably itchy over the weekend, I had my creeping suspicions that there were critters up there. Inspecting my head under a bright light, the school nurse confirmed my worst nightmare: “Oh yeah. I see quite a few lice eggs in your hair.” I started screaming uncontrollably, “Oh my god, oh my god,” absolutely fucking disgusted at the thought of parasites feeding and breeding on my scalp. My outburst caused such a ruckus that another nurse opened the door - her eyes bugging out - and asked, “Is everything all right?” Afterward, I applied some Nix, thrilled to kill them all with the tiny bottle of toxic shampoo. Nonetheless, the following day, I saw the bugs still crawling around my hair, their tiny legs fluttering about when I plucked them out and tossed them into the sink, their fat little stomachs filled with my blood. Down, down, down the drain. On Tuesday, I bought some Rid, which ended up doing the trick. Unfortunately, as some of you may know, these lice-killing shampoos merely dispose of the live ones. You must MANUALLY pick out each tiny egg, or else face reinfestation. I couldn’t bear the thought of asking my poor friends to comb through my hair, searching for shiny white specks, so I tried to hire strangers with the promise of $8 an hour. Oh, Craigslist:
A few cool-sounding people said that they were down. However, when I wrote back that they were hired, they failed to send a second reply. I guess they’d just been fooling around in the first place, thinking that they would respond to the crazy lady for shits and giggles. I particularly believe this because a few days ago, my friend Leigh was like, “I was hanging out with Casey and his friends, and one was talking about how they saw this funny posting on lice. I was like, ‘I know that girl!’” They had submitted me to Best of Craigslist. In conclusion, there were no competent candidates to be found:
Anyhow, in my state of desperation, three of my friends ended up volunteering to nitpick (by the way, the origins of the word “nitpick” is an homage to the painstaking process of removing lice eggs). As my friends perched on the couch, combs in hand, I sat at their feet, continually apologizing and praising them. Even though I thought they’d picked ‘em clean out, when I returned to the nurse the next day she immediately found MORE. I became extremely morose. Not only have I always thought of parasites as the most horrific malady, but I am also kind of obsessed with my hair. It’s pretty much the only physical attribute that I ever get complimented on. Not my body, eyes, ears, eyebrows, lips— nothing! People only tell me that I have nice hair, so this infestation was nothing less than a tragedy. The lice were trying to ruin the only thing I had going for me. I even forced myself to shear several inches off my locks last week to limit the lice’s roaming space. Question: is not telling the hairdresser that you have lice analogous to an HIV-infected person not telling a sexual partner about their disease? If so, I am an asshole. My main question: why had this tragedy befallen me?!
My mom is a Buddhist who preaches about the realness of karma. Once, when I was in Taiwan as a middle schooler, she told me to come to the temple to pray with her. “No!” I protested. “I don’t want to bai-bai. I hate bai-bai!” (“Bai bai” is “prayer” in Taiwanese.) No sooner had these words left my lips did I trip on the stairs of my grandparents’ house and smack my knee on the cold marble. “Karma,” my mom intoned. Harsh of her, I know. Ever since that spooky incident, whenever something shitty happens to me, I can’t help but reflect on my past misdeeds, wondering which one I am being punished for. This time around, it’s not only that I am suffering from lice. I also have a mild yeast infection. And I am finding all of these white hairs sprouting from my head. This is odd and disconcerting, to say the least. If karma is indeed real, I know exactly why it’s being flung at my face like a brick from hell:
I cannot fucking believe I did it. I called someone “fatty” to make her feel bad about herself. I mean, hello?! I was in “The Vagina Monologues”; I’m not supposed to commit girl-on-girl hate crimes like this, ever. I’m supposed to practice body acceptance & female solidarity & big is beautiful. The instant I sent her The Message, I flipped out from the wrongness of it all. The guilt sank deep down into my stomach where it continues to sit today. Here’s the context of our exchange: my housemate had texted me something like, “Stop flushing paper towels down the toilet. It’s clogging the toilet.” (The only reason I flushed them down was because we have to pay for how much garbage we produce; Ithaca has an annoying trash system.) I was like, “No, the toilet was clogged because someone took a huge shit,” which I’d discovered that very morning, to which she replied, “No. It’s the paper towels; the maintenance worker said so. Please check yourself.” CHECK MYSELF?! CHECK MYSELF?! Fuck YOU! As a sidenote, I have never cried in my apartment’s shower and have no idea what she is referring to. Anyway, while she’d been right that the clogging was my fault, I did not need to be told to check myself. I was at the end of my rope with her, one week before graduation. By this point in the school year, she’d told me to stop singing, in addition to stealing my sugar, breaking my wine glass, and - most egregiously - spreading her clutter around the living room such that the apartment looked like it belonged on “Hoarders.” My frustration had reached its climactic tipping point. In our past feuds (by which I mean passive-aggressive texting), I’d always considered hurling weight-related insults at her because they would damage her the most, yet I knew that was crossing the line and then some. But this time, I did it. I feel nauseous thinking about it right now, though that may partially have to do with the fact that Michael and I just microwaved eggs and ate them. I was trying to show him how to make the fancy snack I used to eat throughout Summer 2009. Cooking directions: microwave a raw egg for 60 seconds. I don’t get why I liked consuming that at all; it’s gross.
So now you know why I have lice. Because I called a fellow woman “fatty,” which is probably the bitchiest move I have ever pulled. Greetings, well-deserved karma. I haven’t had any communication with her since then, and of course, she totally blocked me on Facebook. The takeaway lesson isn’t that you should never call a woman “fatty” because I knew that already, and I think we all do. The takeaway lesson is that you should NEVER, EVER lower your standards of personal conduct just to get back at a doucher. I’m so fucking disappointed in myself for not having kept my cool. It’s tempting to give a below-the-belt jab that’ll sting them, but that just means: 1) You’re stooping to their level, therefore letting them change and control you, and 2) You will feel horrible about yourself afterward. I remember that there were so many times that I wanted to punish my housemate in the most insane ways possible. For example, when she’d gotten a summer internship with the Met, I wanted to send the museum a letter describing how evil she is, in hopes that they’d rescind her acceptance offer. Or, quite frequently, I wanted to throw her belongings out the window and onto the streets. Dealing with a jerk will tempt a nice girl into doing mean, batshit things in response. The challenge is to resist the urge to bite that bait, and I am sorry to say that I bit the bait.
*This is the billionth and final installment of complaining about my senior year housemates. It has to be, for the sake of my own sanity.