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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

All Lathered Up

In case you've been busy reading real news lately, let me catch you up on what the rest of us have been focused on:

  • Drew Barrymore took her baby bump to lunch the other day.  Thanks,, for the investigative heroics that resulted in your blowing the lid off the secret pregnant women had tried to maintain for so long: where we go, so goes the fetus.
  • Prince Harry received a humanitarian award from the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. last night.  That news was shocking only to Irena Newton, who'd spent months perfecting her theory that Prince Harry = playboy.  When she learned that a single person could have more than one personality trait, she moaned that science had betrayed her and cursed her ancestors for leading her down a primrose path.
  • Patricia Krentcil, a New Jersey mother, was indicted on a single charge of child endangerment because she allegedly took her five-year-old daughter into a tanning booth with her.
If you knew none of these things before reading this post, the only ignorance you should really be ashamed of is your insensitive disregard of the news surrounding Ms. Krentcil.  The fact you don't know about her means:

(A) You need to get your hearing checked and up your eyeglasses prescription, because you are the version of mute where you're deaf and blind.  Which I'm not sure is technically a "version of mute," but I like shorthands.

(B)  You were totally preoccupied foiling the terrorist plot to bomb another airliner.  Shame on you.

(C)  You don't watch enough of the Today Show.  Which means you let Ann Curry win.  I don't even know how you can stand yourself.

(D)  All of the above.

The story surrounding Ms. Krentcil goes like this: Once upon a time, there was a woman who liked to go tanning.  Like, a lot.  I mean, look:

The woman tanned so much that she turned into leather.  PETA became so apoplectic, they didn't know whether to flour bomb her (which had the advantage of helping bring her back to her natural hue) or force her to pose in a sheet with cut-outs for her eyes (picture your first ghost costume) on top of a tanning bed.  So they just sent her a very condescending letter.

Then one day the world's most astute school nurse took time away from telling a little boy to "shake it off" to notice that Ms. Krentcil's 5-year-old daughter (also pictured above) had a minor sunburn.  The nurse asked the daughter how she'd gotten the sunburn, and the daughter reported that she'd gotten it from going in the tanning booth with her mother.

And then the world exploded.  Oh, and everyone lived happily ever after.

Everyone, that is, except Ms. Krentcil.  And probably her daughter.  Actually, no one is coming out of this situation looking all that great.  What can I say -- it is not a good fairy tale. Not everything that happens in this world ends with a prince, a meddling fairy, and a white horse.  The sooner you can accept that, the better.

The epilogue to Tanorama and The Nosy Nurse involves said nurse calling the authorities to report the 5-year-old's sunburn.  Those authorities filed a complaint alleging that the daughter was an "abused or neglected child" because her mother took her into a "stand up tanning booth causing first degree burns."  Tanny Mammy now reportedly faces up to 10 years in prison and presumably risks having her daughter placed in protective services.

Those are all the facts I know based on what I have heard and read.  I hope that there is nothing more sinister at work here.  I am going to go on faith that this little girl has only suffered a sunburn and maybe a dose of bad luck at having the mother who put the "tan" in "GTL" during her mentorship of Jersey Shore's Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino.

If that is really all there is to the story, I believe our only reaction to it should be pity.  Essex County, NJ should be doing sunscreen drives, not bank-rolling this "criminal" investigation.  Ms. Krentcil should probably be doing weekly check-ins with a therapist, not a probation officer.  Her daughter should be given lots of hugs.  Most of them from her mother.  She should also be taught that she is good just the way she is.  Mostly by her mother.

Again, based on the basic facts I've outlined above, it seems as though there's nothing more sinister at work here than a mother with self-esteem/body image issues and a confused little girl.  Ms. Krentcil has, not surprisingly, adamantly denied bringing her daughter into a tanning booth, and I actually believe her.  I base this on the fact that if you asked my four-year-old daughter if she'd been into a tanning booth, she would say yes.  Even though the only booth she has ever been in are the ones that sometimes are an option at a restaurant.  Not only do kids that age have fantastic imaginations, but if you ask a question in a way that remotely suggests their answer should be "yes," they'll answer "yes."  Ms. Krentcil's daughter was all the more predisposed to giving a tanning-bed related explanation for her sunburn because her mother is clearly spending a lot of time in or near a tanning bed.  Tanning beds are probably a big topic of conversation in the Krentcil household.  They may even serve as furniture, or perhaps feature prominently in the hallway artwork.  So, just like my daughter tells people that she "went to work today" when really she was at school, for the Krentcil daughter, all roads lead to the tanning salon.  And now she's probably scared sideways to see the reaction that her tanning bed reference has kicked up.  Just as scared as my daughter would be if someone started calling her Dora phone and loudly demanding bridge financing post haste if she ever wants to see her father again.

I'm not usually a fan of the slippery slope argument, but this is an instance that screams out for one.  If it were a crime to forget to properly apply sunscreen on your children every day, I'd be in jail for decades.  I will also risk future background checks by admitting that sometimes my kids don't get 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and I let the one with teeth sometimes skip brushing those teeth.  They've been near the exhaust pipe of a running car, they've walked by someone smoking a cigarette, and my daughter enjoys a Chicken Nugget every now and then.  One time, my husband and I were even watching an episode of Dexter, and we let her sit with us while she looked at a book.  Long story short, she had nightmares about rivers of ketchup that night.

These types of parenting glitches are one of the only ties that bind parents.  We all have our different trigger points, our different techniques, our different priorities.  But we all make mistakes.  We are also all human, and many of us have serious issues of our own that unfortunately affect our relationship with our kids.  For some it's from the buffet of body image issues, for others it's a chemical dependency, for others it's an insane drive to overachieve.  None of this is to say that Ms. Krentcil is a model parent or that she's doing right by her daughter.  It is simply to say that she doesn't belong in jail.  Or that if she does, we should all watch our back.

If the Essex County prosecutors need to bulk up their caseloads, I'd suggest they figure out their jurisdiction over the mothers featured on shows such as Toddlers & Tiaras and Dance Moms.  Those women are practicing live taxidermy on pre-school girls, stuffing them full of warped ideas about how to spend a Saturday and how to mainline sugar, then hair-spraying them so there's not a fiber out of place when they're mounted on a platform in front of a row of child predators masquerading as judges.  The other alternative, and I'm just spit-balling here, is that law enforcement authorities everywhere focus on initiatives like finding lost or kidnapped children, stopping sexual predators before they strike again, and arresting parents who beat, demean, and/or starve their children.  Then they could leave the skin care issues to CVS.


  1. That mom looks like me and Courtney Drake when we went to Halloween as Dee Brown

  2. What concerns me is that the mom has changed her story as to how the girl got the burns. First it was she was inside but not tanning, then she waiting outside with her dad, then she got burned by playing outside on a warm day. So which is it? If it was an innocent thing then why lie about it? And it says burns over her entire body, that's the big thing entire body? That in itself is a scream for help. Even if it was "just a sunburn" which can cause serious problems but the fact that she had one all over her body is a question, given that the mom admitted to illegally sneaking her into tanning salons.