In keeping with the theme of mothers this week (Mother’s Day and Breastfeeding Mom) I’ll finally give my two cents about the appropriately dubbed ‘Tanning Mom, ’ a.k.a. Patricia Krentcil. But, only since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and next weekend is Memorial Day, so let this be a reminder to wear your sunscreen. A minimum of SPF 50.
You may not know who Tanning Mom is, and if that’s the case, consider yourself lucky. Tanning Mom is accused of taking her then 5-year-old daughter into a New Jersey tanning booth with her, where the daughter supposedly received a sunburn on her shoulders. She insists the child was only in the room sitting on a chair while she was in the booth, and the tanning salon in question claims the little girl was never in the room, but was sitting in the lobby with her dad and brother. The family also says the sunburn was from the child playing outside.
I try not to judge what other parents choose to do, as long as the children in question are not being harmed. Since what Tanning Mom is accused of doing would be causing harm to her child, I will judge. This woman needs a reality check. First of all, the child shouldn’t be anywhere near a tanning salon, period. I don’t care if she’s sitting in the lobby or not, she shouldn’t even know what that is at the age of five. If you haven’t gotten the memo on how bad tanning beds are for your health, then you must live under the same rock as that guy in the Geico commercial.
Secondly, I’m all about positive messaging and promoting healthy self-esteem for our little girls, they need it. The message Krentcil is sending her daughter about what she considers beautiful – being over tan – is a horrible message. Her daughter, who is extremely fair-skinned with freckles and red hair, will never be tan.
I know. I have the same skin tone; the sun and I are not friends. Oh, I tried. Lying out in the sun as a teenager only to get burned, peel and start the process all over again. The result was such a slight change in skin color most people laughed when I told them I was tan. It was tan for me. In college I got smart and started wearing sunscreen.
In the last year, I’ve had two moles removed which ended up being dysplastic. Dysplastic means I caught them at the early stages of the cells beginning to change, and had I left them, they would have eventually turned into melanoma. I now have to go to the dermatologist every six months for the rest of my life, I guess. Last summer my sister lost a friend to melanoma. He was 35 years old and a sun worshiper. Once he was diagnosed, he lived for seven months, leaving behind a wife and young daughter. This isn’t something you mess around with.
For this little girl to grow up looking at her mom on a daily basis, it is a constant reminder of what her mom deems beautiful. And it’s likely she, unfortunately, will grow up to believe that’s how she’s supposed to be. Hopefully the daughter will get the memo and pass it along to her mom.
If anything positive came out of this story, Krentcil taught us all the meaning of tanorexia (tanning addiction) and the dangers of too much UV exposure. In a matter of days, we watched Krentcil go from the color of an Oompa Loompa to that of a fried chicken.
She has also expressed interest in posing for Playboy. I just ran across this and I think I threw up in my mouth. Just a little bit. Surprisingly, Playboy is not interested. Is her 15 minutes of fame up yet? No. The Today Show interviewed her again this morning and her message was clear. Don’t judge her and look in the mirror yourself. I have.
The reality is we all look healthier with a little tan. But sunscreen really is the answer, and there are so many bronzers and self-tanners on the market, tanning beds shouldn’t even be a consideration. And we have to teach our kids from an early age the importance of sunscreen. More importantly, we have to teach them to love themselves for who they are.