Saturday, May 30, 2009

an enigma depressingly revealed

A few weeks ago I came across a strange blog, an egocentric retelling of "the Journey" of a thirty year-old man with a large nose, who gave up his career as a financial adviser to pursue an acting career. This fellow, Arthur Kade, is certainly not lacking in self esteem:
At that moment, I realized that I am a savior, a god to people who sit at their desk the whole day, hate their lives, and want to probably jump off a roof because they are so miserable. I am the modern day “Acting Moses”, the person who was given the drive, looks, and talent to lead my followers to the promise land, and make the impossible, possible.
He's not lacking in misogyny, either (and constantly the question is raised, in the comments and in the reader's mind, "Is this guy severely closeted?"). Mr. Kade opined that he would not deign to sleep with Halle Berry or Charlize Theron; they are simply not hot enough for him. He won't even speak to a woman who is less than a 6 on his demanding scale; she isn't even worth being a friend. When misguided drunken girls come up to him in clubs, he fumes if they aren't hot enough. What made them think they could approach him, when he's out of their league? His misogyny was perhaps the most annoying the day when he had blood drawn from an unattractive female phlebotomist. Arthur kvetched that he should have asked for a different person; it's just so horrible having to have blood drawn from a woman who hasn't bleached the dark hairs on her upper lip.

Arthur posts videos of himself at his acting class, and it's pathetic, to say the least (my cat has a more charismatic film presence. So does my left foot). So far Arthur's "Journey" has led him to being an extra on "The Gossip Girls" and "Salt." Despite the fact that he hasn't been paid to utter a line on film yet, he's musing about all the Oscars he will win and what kind of characters he will play (he sees himself as a dark and complex leading man, despite lacking any signs of talent whatsoever).

I spent hours reading about "The Journey", all the while thinking, "This has got to be some kind of scam, some viral marketing, right? NO ONE can be this clueless and self-obsessed. It's not possible. What can this be promoting? What is really going on here?" From early on, commenters have been unrelentlessly harsh to Arthur (the Acting Moses!), and I couldn't imagine any burgeoning actor or blogger who could withstand so much meanspirited (and sometimes hilarious) mockery. But Arthur kept barreling along, spewing out judgmental remarks about women's looks and bragging about how he was so pepped up after delivering a eulogy at his grandmother's funeral that he could use that energy to bawl out a bouncer at an Atlantic City club and scam his way in without paying (Arthur views himself as God's Gift To Sleazy Nightclubs and always maneuvers his way in without paying a door charge). The mere fact that he could withstand the wave of disbelief and hatred washing over his every post made me think it HAD to be viral marketing.

But then Philadelphia" magazine ran a story on "the Internet's Most Hated Man", musing on whether Philly should be proud or ashamed of its most overly self-loving native son. A reporter followed Arthur around for two weeks, witnessing his self-deception (at an acting class, the reporter lies and tells Arthur his wooden recital of lines was good) and massive ego in action. The day that article came out was a dark day for the soul. It is true that a man of no visible talent, who would not lower himself to flirting with Angelina Jolie (on the grounds that she is "Mother Hot, not Stripper Hot"), who has no accomplishments whatsoever beyond being an extra in a crowd of extras, can spend much of his life musing about his many wonders and boasting about them online, always using the word "amazing" and capitalizing at random. Oh the humanity! I shudder at the horrors of what the human soul is capable of.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

uh oh, competition

Lola just handed me a colorful slip of paper, reading:
(Mommys Needed) MOMMYS ARE BEST

BEST MommY contest
It is illustrated by a smiling, smug looking girl labeled "child" over the caption "Mommys are best", next to a frowning brown-haired man labeled simply "Dad."

I liked the artwork, but I harbor no arrogance here. I could well see Lola informing me kindly, with a condescending pat on my hand, that I have placed last in the "BEST Momma AWARDS."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

angry senior citizen ceramicists

Since Lola started kindergarten, I've been taking ceramics classes at the Sharon Arts Studio. The spots in these classes are highly coveted, and in order to get one, the aspiring student (or her "proxy", in a certain case, an abstemious husband) must arrive on sign-up day around six A.M. and wait in line until noon, when registration starts.

That is, however, if the aspiring student isn't a senior citizen. Senior citizens have been allowed to register the day before, at their leisure, without waiting in line. This gives them an advantage, of course, and the classes are predominately composed of senior citizens, with there being huge competition for the remaining slots and plenty of middle-aged and youthful adults walking away disappointed.

This system is due to change, with the city pushing for the studio to join the rest of Rec and Parks in having online sign-ups. Although this system won't be starting for months, our instructor passed forms at our last class and encouraged us to create online accounts to be ready when the time does come, probably next fall. This will mean no lines, but instead thousands of people hitting the enter key over and over again, trying to claim a spot. It will also mean, as one disgruntled Marinite in my class discovered, no more senior citizen advantage. She asked querulously about whether there would be some system set up again so that seniors wouldn't have to compete with younger people for the coveted class spots. "We did that [early sign-up] so the seniors wouldn't have to stand in line for hours," the instructor breezily explained. "You won't be standing in line in this system-- you'll be in your house, at your computer."

"It's going to be a level playing field," I said in a light voice. The woman, normally friendly (and indeed one of my favorite members of the class) affixed me with a firm glare and started a monologue about how it's discrimination when you take things away from senior citizens and how the city might have to pay if a lawyer got involved, you can't just go taking something away from senior citizens, you know.

Our instructor made a big deal out of not taking, as required by the city, proof of identity and residence. "Here you are who you say you are." This soothed the nervous Marin residents, but it did irk me, and it made me think again about the senior citizens' advantage in signing up.

These highly coveted classes are paid for by the property taxes of San Francisco homeowners (the charge for these highly subsidized classes is minimal). The Marin seniors have a lock on spots in their preferred classes, keeping those spaces for years and years, and since they've been able to sign up a day before general registration open, they've had no fears of losing those spots. They don't have to go to the trouble I do to try to get a spot in the class. They don't pay taxes here; why should they keep San Francisco residents out of these classes? For one of them to start muttering threats that she'll get a lawyer to stop this discrimination is beyond ridiculous. Such a sense of entitlement, coming from someone who'll be lying about her place of residence to keep a spot in the class.

There are plenty who'd mock me for writing this, though. I don't actually stand in the Infamous Line From Hell: my husband does it for me. Here's his picture of last time's line:

All the seniors were tucked up in their cosy beds in Marin while the San Francisco taxpayers (or their significant others) waited in this line for what few spots were left, for over seven chilly hours.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

using math in real life with the Drunken Housewife

Nine year-old Iris uber Alles is supposed to be learning how to divide and multiply fractions. She admitted at dinner tonight that she doesn't understand it very well and, what's more, she doesn't want to understand it. It's a dumb thing that she has no interest in learning.

I cut that off. "It's really important to understand percentages and fractions in real life!" I cast about briefly for an example, and then plunged on. "In cooking, when I double or triple a recipe, I have to be able to multiply fractions. And if I cut a recipe in half, I need to divide the fractions."

Iris was silent for a bit. She didn't want to admit that I had a point, and she does love to cook. Then she turned to her father. "Remember the last time Mom-dude was trying to find an example of using math in real life, and all she could come up with was Warcraft? That when she's selling stuff on the auction house, she uses nines?" Iris shook her head at the idiocy of grown-ups and their math and their MMPORGs. "Warcraft! That was the best she could do!"

Monday, May 18, 2009

it's driving me crazy lately

Lately I've been incensed that the Republicans are trying to end Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's career, on the basis that she knew American forces were torturing sundry Muslims.

I'm not a fan of hypocrisy. It strikes me as dishonest that the Republicans contend it was okay for Bush and Cheney to authorize torture, which was called "enhanced interrogation", and it was just dandy for it to be done, in the national interests, and all that, and that it was important right up until January 18, 2008 to both carry out and defend this practice heartily... AND that Cheney, Bush, Rice, and all their cohorts should be enshrined in history as American heroes and certainly under no means judged figuratively, much less literally, for this... BUT that Representative Pelosi's career should come to an end just because she may or may not have known it was going on. The people who ordered it are heroes, but someone who had no power to stop it should be condemned and thrown aside?

Incidentally I'm no fan of Pelosi's. I live in her district and voted for Krissy Keefer last time out (I turned against Pelosi in the nineties when she proposed that the Presidio be financially supported by authorizing a large animal testing facility there). I'm angry on her behalf nonetheless.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

not to you

I overheard the Sober Husband saying frustratedly to nine year-old Iris uber Alles, "I don't have to make sense to you!"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Confliction resolution- the boring style. By Iris Uber Alles

The other day when I picked third grader Iris uber Alles up at school, as usual I asked her how her day was. Instead of her usual noncommittal grunt, Iris let loose with a rant about how instead of gym, she'd had a conflict resolution seminar. I found this fascinating and asked her to write a guest blog piece. Please welcome our resident nine year-old expert on conflict resolution and gym classes:

Okay peoples I'm her to talk about what happened a few days ago which was apparently very amusing.
At school everybody plays a game called "Four square" It involves a ball, and four squares and you pass it on and on and on, and you can't bounce it in your own square twice, and there's code language like "Buy me a soda" and "Peace out" and blah blah blah the rules go on and on and on! It's never ending! The P.E. Teachers are supposed to be in charge of this, because the homeroom teachers don't want to have to deal with people having "problems" caused by people not following the rules when playing this game. I don't play it. People talk about how they can make the world a better place, and how all wars should end, and then they play four square! by doing that they're promoting the opposite of "Peace out" which is why that is such a terrible game! But that's not the funny part. A few days ago, we walked out of the classroom to go to P.E. (I call it peh.) the "peh" teachers came up to us and said they were going to divide us into groups. they didn't tell us why, I expected we'd be like bouncing basketballs or something, then they led the first group indoors, and I didn't know what to expect. I was in the last group,and they led me into the other third grade classroom with the so-called"PEH TEACHER OF DOOM"! Then we sat down, and she said we were going to be talking about conflict resolution. I immediately realized that this had a deep connection with four-square. then we started talking about conflicts and resolution and stuff then the teacher pulled out a globe and pointed to Iraq. Then she said, "What is happening here?" I really wanted to laugh at that point but I had to hold it back. Then one person, with their face full of light, said, "A war!" Then we went over to the white board and the teacher explained how Anger is a good thing but you have to use it right. Then she pointed out what are good ways to let out your anger and bad ways. and what really made it official that this entire thing was pointless was one person raised her hand asked if war was a good thing! and then yeah it basically ended, or at least I wasn't there, because the lunch bell rang and for me when I hear that sound I just automatically start dashing out the door.


P.S. I need braces!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!OH NO!

there are some talented women out there, as well as those from those icy, cold places

This last week I had the pleasure of reading three mindboggling good books, books so good that you don't want them to end and hesitate to start another one right after, sure it can't live up to the pleasure of the one before, and another pretty good book as well. Two of these books continued my personal theme of reading authors from cold, icy lands of long winters, where there seems to be a disproportionate amount of literary talent.

"Doghead"(St. Martins 2009, originally published in Denmark in 2005) by Morten Ramsland comes to us from Denmark, where it's evidently considered the best book written in aeons. It swept the Danish literary awards, winning Author of the Year, Book of the Year, the Reader's Prize, and their very most prestigious prize, the Golden Laurel Prize. It also picked up a couple of prizes in Italy, but so far other nations have withheld their loot from Mr. Ramsland. I enjoyed this book, a rambling recount of a family's generations of harsh luck and odd characters, but not quite so much as the Danish did. It struck me as a much quicker moving John Irving novel, covering as much ground in 5 pages as Mr. Irving might in 75.

Another novel from the cold Northern lands, "Last Rituals" by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (Harper 2007, now in paperback, originally published in 2005 in Iceland) absolutely riveted me. This was Icelander Sigurdardottir's first book, and it's unbelievable that she could have such polished prose and well-turned plot on her first outing. A heavily pierced and scarified German graduate student comes to Iceland to write a thesis on medieval witch burnings (which in Iceland were all-but-one of men, unlike mainland Europe, where women were the primary victims). His mutilated corpse is found at the university, and a single mother and attorney is hired by his family to keep an eye on the police's investigation. Ms. Sigurdardottir has a second book just out in the U.S., with the same main character, which I am eager to read.

"Dream House" by Valerie Laken (Harper Collins 2009) was my other top favorite of this very good batch of books, along with "Last Rituals." A neurotic high school teacher pushes her slacking spouse into buying a large fixer-upper in Ann Arbor, Michigan, later learning that a murder occurred there. Incidentally the man who committed that crime as a teenager has just been released from prison. This book is a tour de force, with truly believable, well-rounded, and flawed characters. I never wanted it to end. Like "Last Rituals", this unbelievably good book was a first novel. Both are very literary books, although "Last Rituals" can be termed genre fiction, a murder mystery.

The other very enjoyable book I read was "Life Sentences" by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins 2009). Ms. Lippman is already a bestselling author, but I hadn't read her previous works (her top-selling book, "What the Dead Know" is now on my to read list). Ms. Lippman gives us Cassandra Fallows, a best-selling author of memoirs full of too much information, who has just released a less-well received first novel. Ms. Fallows needs to write another memoir, since fiction isn't working out for her, but she despairs of wringing more material out of her life. Then she finds out that one of the girls she went to school with committed an infamous crime.

I felt like I was on a roll, reading one great book after another, without a dud in the lot. I hope this luck continues.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

that age-old mystery, what women want

Back when I was single which seems like a world away now, I was often flabbergasted by what men would do to attempt to attract me. There was the old "have you been saved in Jesus" routine (funny how no one tries to check on my soul's status now that I'm middle-aged; when I was a young hottie, it was practically a daily occurrence). There were the chronic liars, who would go on about their cutting edge martial arts achievements and knowledge of dead languages (strange how those two seem to go together). In general, men tried to act like some fount of wisdom, dispensing the knowledge of the ages. And when it came down to their penises, they truly were at their most clueless, presenting them as though they were expecting the beholder to faint with ecstatic joy, and -- at the very worst -- introducing these rather ordinary organs by name. My God, how pathetic do you have to be to name your genitals?

I recently ran across a website run by a man who devotes himself to ridiculing men's attempts to woo women on the internet. Weasel, the foulmouthed proprietor of that site, has it down exactly when he muses that most men seem to view themselves as accessories to their penises, which they are eager to introduce to women. Weasel has an even better, but smaller, site, where he runs pathetic letters written by men to women(don't worry, fellows; he's intending to branch out and is actively soliciting insane notes from women to men, acknowledging that women can stalk just as well as men).

Over in Weasel's little corner of the web devoted to man at his most loseriest, I found an unintentionally hilarious gem, a film made by a man hoping to use it to win back his ex-fiance, whom he had not seen in two years:

This would make a great commercial for selling four-wheelers, but it is a loser as marketing the man as husband material. Evidently this young man thinks that women love carrying rocks and hay bales around in their spare time and building obstacle courses out of tractor tires. Who wouldn't sign up for a life of that? I'm particularly stymied as to why he would show his vehicles having trouble -- an unreliable car is not exactly sexy. There's nothing, in my experience, like a highway breakdown to bring a person to near-psychotic crankiness unless it is, say, a passive aggressive mother-in-law.

After making this little classic, the four-wheeling bachelor spammed forums all over the internet to get it as widely seen as possible. However, besides lacking an understanding for what women want, the video's star and auteur lacks a sense of humor. The posters at's bulletin boards saw the video and promptly dubbed its star "Douchebag Quadbike." One of them, Sanchez, wrote a parody song, "The Ballad of Douche Quadbike" and put that up on Youtube. After our lonely fourwheeler found that, he sent a series of threatening emails to Sanchez, including references to teams of lawyers winging their way to him on an airplane that very moment, years in jail, being reported as a terrorist and put on the no-fly list, etc.., etc.. (It can all be read here, if you have plenty of time). In response, the regulars made more videos, songs, and lots of T-shirts mocking the fourwheeling stud-wannabe. My favorite is Drizzt's techo remix of Sanchez's song, which is truly hilarious:

I suspect that the lonely four-wheeling guy's life would be easier if he were gay. Then he would understand the mind and desires of his love object; they could tone their dorsals and pecs together and hop through those tractor tires side by side. But sadly the hours of work put into his video paean to his four-wheeler and his muscles are not going to win his fiance back or earn him much more than the derision of the wits.

Monday, May 11, 2009

cannibal potatoes

Last night Lola screamed, "Mommy! Mommy!" in the night. I dragged myself into her room, where she, crying, told me that she dreamed "there was a potato, without any skin, in my bed, and he was eating himself. And there's another one over there! (pointing towards the side of her bed by the wall) Another potato without skin! I'm scared!"

I ended up sleeping with her for the rest of the night to protect her from the self-cannibalizing potatoes.

Garbagey update

"Garbagey is now named Hilary," Lola happily informed me. "My Hilary!"

Friday, May 08, 2009

free at last, thank God Almighty, I'm free at last

Yesterday morning at the breakfast table, the Sober Husband noticed some tiny white dots on Lola's scalp. We tried blowing them off (this is the test we were taught to distinguish little scalp flakes from lice eggs: lice eggs are glued on the strands of hair, but dandruff and miscellaneous dreft are loose and may be blown away). They stuck to Lola's hair, but some could be scraped off. "But she's using that lotion every day, that's supposed to loosen the nits," I argued. "It could be nits." The Sober Husband blew at Lola's scalp again. "It's nits," he said resignedly.

The Sober Husband became deeply depressed at this and dragged himself off to work in a dark cloud. "We're going to be spending $1,500 a month for the rest of our lives at the Hair Fairies. I can see no end to this." When I tried to cheer him up from this pessimism, he snapped at me. "I don't call you crazy when you think bugs are crawling in your hair. Why are you saying this is crazy?"

Lola had won herself a day off school, to older sister Iris Uber Alles's great displeasure. It wasn't a particularly fun day, as we spent most of it waiting for a call back from the Hair Fairies lice service, who ended up not getting back to us until mid-afternoon and who couldn't fit Lola in. Today Lola had another day off school, but she balked at going back to the Hair Fairies. She'd had more than enough of sitting still and having her hair picked through.

"It's not lice! It's glue! It's little pieces of paper!"

I was unmoved. I forced her to get dressed and go over to the Hair Fairies, where she sat sullenly in the chair, refusing to make conversation with the kindly young woman treating her. To our great surprise and pleasure, Lola's specks were diagnosed as "dandruff, sticky dandruff" and (slow, building drumroll) since Lola's last visit, a whole week before, had yielded only eight nits and no bugs and this visit showed a completely clean head, Lola was declared to be free of lice and cured, by God, cured. Iris had previously gone over a week between clean headchecks, and my own head had been declared lice free. It seems that we are over the lice.

I was stunned and happy. No more daily changing the sheets and pillowcases, no more boiling all the hairbrushes every single day, no more elaborate lice shampoo-and-lotion regimes!

Meanwhile a blonde upscale woman had brought her foreign au pair in. The au pair was diagnosed with lice, and the blonde woman was not the most sympathetic. It seemed obvious that the au pair would be paying for her own treatment at Hair Fairies ("You have money, right?" the woman asked). The blonde herself was not willing to pay for Hair Fairies and loudly made an appointment for her children somewhere cheaper on her celphone, right there in the Hair Fairies. The blonde woman also first offered her au pair the day off due to fear that the sweet, soft-spoken au pair would contaminate her blonde children, but then reneged on that offer after considering the inconvenience of caring for her own children personally that day. "You can just play with them OUTDOORS. OUTDOORS. Okay?" I wondered why this woman felt it was less likely the lice would pass from one head to another outdoors than in, but held my tongue.

Later in the lobby, as I was leaving, the blonde woman set up for her au pair to come back the next day, presumably at the au pair's own expense, but loftily informed the Hair Fairies woman that she would be taking herself and her children somewhere cheaper.

Lola and I were happy as we left, Lola sporting a pretty braid with cobalt blue streaks. "I tried to lie before," Lola confessed," about it not being nits, but I was right. I tried to lie!" We laughed and held hands.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

a truly terrible solution to the landfill problem

The other night nine year-old Iris Uber Alles ate a granola bar while watching "The Amazing Race" with her mother. I admonished her to throw away her wrapper, but she felt too lazy. She picked it up and contemplated it. "Hey, Lucy", she called to her little sister. "Lucy!" Lola looked over.

"Look," Iris said in an inviting tone. "It's Garbagey!" [Lola is a hoarder, given to collecting disposable slushee cups (the alpha one is named "Cupy"; the rest referred to indiscriminately as "Cupy Family") and paper clips (all known as "Clippy." One of the worst moments I had as a mother involved tracing our steps to recover a lost "Clippy", all the while thinking, "What kind of idiot goes to all this trouble for a frigging paper clip?")].

Lola was skeptical. Iris snaked her hand around alluringly, so that the torn granola bar wrapper caught the light. "Look, Lucy! Garbagey is shiny!"

"Give me that!" Lola demanded.

Later that night, I could hear the soft murmurs of the Sober Husband putting Lola to bed, interrupted suddenly by a terrible shout. "NO! THAT IS GARBAGEY! PUT HER BACK! SHE'S MY GARBAGEY!" The granola wrapper has become a treasured possession.

The next day I affixed Iris Uber Alles with a stern glare. "If you EVER," I hissed, "do that again, I will punish you severely. And I mean it."

Iris tried hard to keep a straight face. I upped the ante. "No videos --- and I mean no "Simpsons", too -- for a WEEK. At least. And more punishments, too."

Sunday, May 03, 2009

having a lousy time

A week and a half ago, I was playing Warcraft on the couch, unwinding before it was time to drive across town, pick up Lola in Sea Cliff, drive across town to Noe Valley to take her to her dance lesson, drive allll the way back to Sea Cliff to pick up Iris Uber Alles, and then raceracerace back home to the Castro hoping to beat my friend who usually gives Lola a ride home from ballet (shameful indeed are the days when I find Loret, her daughter, and mine, waiting on the front stoop while I hastily park my nondescript Volvo and bound up, trailed by cranky Iris, exclaiming, "Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!").

The phone rang. I let it go to the answering machine. But instead of leaving a message the caller rang my celphone immediately thereafter, and I hopped up and got that, suddenly imagining something was wrong with one of the girls. It was indeed their school calling, with the drily delivered news that Iris Uber Alles had lice and was in violation of the no lice, no nits policy.

"What about Lola?"

"We didn't find anything on her."

"Do I need to get her now?" I asked. The answer was vague. I could pick her up early or I could not, but once I did get her, she couldn't come back until she was nitfree. I decided to get her at kindergarten pick-up time, an hour early for her.

I'd never had lice as a child myself, and my children had never had it before. I was truly clueless. I called the Sober Husband and informed him, and I promised to go by the drugstore and pick up a lice kit. I questioned Iris in the car. "You didn't feel anything?"

We got a Walgreen's store brand lice kit while Lola was at ballet. At home, we washed Iris's hair with the lice shampoo. There at home Iris let the emotion of this get to her, and she cried for a long time. I tried to comfort her without a lot of success, pointing out that 13 out of forty-odd girls in her class had been found with lice. The best "it happens to all of us" example I could come up with was the "Arthur" episode where everyone gets lice from the rich girl, Muffy. This was scant comfort. I took advantage of the situation to trim off about four inches of hair. The Sober Husband tried combing out the nits with a Walgreens nit comb, but it was frustrating and unproductive. We decided to wait until morning and work on the hair in broad daylight.

On Saturday we washed Iris's hair again and set her up in a chair in the backyard, with a laptop nearby playing the Dr. Who episodes of her choice (she favors the Colin Baker Dr. Who). The Sober Husband spent nearly five hours trying to pick nits out of her hair with varying success. We looked at a louse under a magnifying glass and viewed its many claws with awe and disgust. Meanwhile Lola, who had been cleared twice at her school, danced around happily. The Sober Husband picked through Lola's hair and my hair and couldn't find anything, but Iris's hair refused to be depopulated.

The Sober Husband grew more and more frustrated. Iris Uber Alles has exceptionally fine hair, which slid through the little prongs of the nitpicking comb with nits intact. For a time he set out to just pull out every hair which had a nit on it, but that was protested by Iris and me. At some point he demanded I do some of this, but my extreme nearsightedness made me a poor candidate. Poor Iris was upset and exhausted, and I finally requested that We Just Quit and Let Me Take Iris to the Hair Fairies, Please, For the Love of God.

The "Hair Fairies" is a new service, located in New York, Chicago, L.A., and San Francisco, providing a posh atmosphere in which to delouse your child. There are personal DVD players, children's books, children's snacks, children's beverages of choice, and lots of fairy art on the walls. There is a wide variety of louse-related merchandise for sale. It costs $95 per hour to have a person treated for lice.

On Monday the Bay Area was hit with a record-breaking heat wave, and in the sweltering heat, I took Iris over to get her lice treated. Soon I felt better, watching the painstaking combing done by a meticulous young hipster wielding a nitpick (a superior nitpick to the ones offered at Walgreen's). However, Iris's abundant, fine hair couldn't be finished during our appointment, and so she'd won herself another day off school. While we were at the Hair Fairies, I got my own head of hair checked, having come around to the belief that if Iris had a full head of lice, there was no way I wouldn't have any (her hipster hair attendant asked, "Eighty percent of mothers catch it from their kids. Are you guys snuggly? Do you cuddle up?" and my mind immediately flashed to our two heads smashed up together the night before the fateful call, as we said our good nights). A ten minute check found ten nits on my head, and I booked myself and Iris to come back the next day.

Iris started coming around to seeing the benefits of lice, after seeing other families from her school getting their nits picked out at the Hair Fairies and after I took her for an upscale lunch at nearby Pizzeria Delfina, where she proclaimed the fresh parmesan and made-to-order limeade to be quite good.

Meanwhile on Monday little sister Lola was checked twice for nits by parent volunteers, as a Sibling Of A Lousy Child, and cleared by all. However, I didn't feel so sanguine, and so I took Lola along to the Hair Fairies, where over thirty bugs were found on her head. I myself had a moderate number of nits but no bugs. Iris had over a hundred bugs and over a hundred nits.

I had no idea that a person could have lice without realizing it. It turns out that if one is not allergic to the saliva of a louse, you do not feel its bite. It also turns out that most lice are very, very tiny and unnoticeable. Another thing we learned was that "a dry check", the normal combing through a child's dry hair, is very ineffective at finding lice and nits and will only turn up the more extreme infestations. A more subtle case, like Lola's, can be found only through a "wet check": the hair is coated with a cream (which helps loosen the nits), and combed in tiny sections repeatedly with a tiny metal nit comb, which is wiped periodically on a white towel, its leavings carefully examined under bright light.

Back at school, Iris was open about why she'd missed two days of school. Nearly a third of the girls in her grade had lice, but those other girls were keeping it on the down low. Iris got a bit of flack for honestly discussing what was going on... but that didn't last.

The parents of this first wave of infestees knew the school's checks were only catching the most egregious instances (Lola was not the only sibling to go undetected), so many of us requested that the school bring in the Hair Fairies for more thorough checks. When the Hair Fairies came in, more cases were found. Another check a week later caught a lot more: about seventy percent of the third grade had lice. By this point, Iris herself was bug and nit free, and her classmates, the privileged daughters of hedge fund managers, lawyers, doctors, and internet management types, were buggy. Everyone became more open about it, and being lousy and going to Hair Fairies was the norm.

On the home front, I was laundering like an OCD patient. Every day we changed all the pillowcases and sheets. Stuffed animals and blankets were bagged. Even the Sober Husband's favorite hat and my favorite jacket were bagged. The children respected the bags, although tears were shed over certain stuffed animals whom I insisted were having a party in their trash bags, but I caught the Sober Husband breaking into a bag for his beloved hat and had to sternly intervene. "You can have your hat on Friday. NOT BEFORE. I saw you let Iris wear it. You have OTHER hats."

Last Friday I took Lola to the Hair Fairies for a follow-up treatment (8 nits and no bugs) and had myself re-checked as well (no nits and no bugs. I am developing a new sympathy for psychotics, as I am continually sure I feel bugs crawling on my scalp, despite the fact that my last two checks from the Hair Fairies found no nits and no bugs. The Sober Husband has implored me to stop getting myself checked for lice at $95 a pop and to learn to accept my hallucinations of crawling lice).

While we were there, a mother from our grade came in with her lice free children. She was there to scorn the Hair Fairies, having been influenced by a parent in our grade who denounced my wonderful, wonderful Hair Fairies as spreading hysteria about lice and profiting off our fear, while much of the world simply accepts lice and chooses to live with these little insect friends. This mother's daughters were jealous of their friends who've been hanging out at Hair Fairies in Pacific Heights and really, really wanted to buy things there. I saw the little louse-free girls' eyes lusting after the special hairbrushes, combs and shampoos, lingering over the fairy paintings and large screen TV showing Pixar film after Pixar film. Truly peer pressure has swung around and made having lice the current correct experience for a private school third grader.

Although the girls may have adapted to the new, insect-oriented way of life (most of them now wear their hair up every day, with tea tree oil smeared about the perimeters of their scalps, the more extreme parents having given their daughters bandannas to wear), many of the parents have not. An email discussion of lice preventatives and whether to cancel the upcoming overnight field trip broke into a rather nasty discussion carried out into the wee hours of the night. Thankfully the head of school had a calm approach to the matter and refused to cancel the trip due to lice (the place where the girls are going was booked solid for the rest of the season, so the trip could not be put off).

Most people my age don't understand why it takes so long to clear up lice. When they had it as children (I never did myself), they had one powerful scrubbing of the head and it was over. I have learned that the answer is DDT: the DDT-laden shampoos of the bad old days were more effective than our modern, wimpy products (the lice shampoo I bought at Walgreen's did nothing). As one of the sweet, hip young things at Hair Fairies mused, "We're going back to the old days here, picking them out by hand. It's like monkeys." I agreed. "I like it that way; it's gentler." Lola, herself the subject of the simian grooming, didn't weigh in. She was busy watching "Happy Feet" and comforted by the gift of a new pop-up book for enduring another session.