Patricia Krencil, the “Tan Mom," has been in the news a lot in the last month or so. Everything from her fitness as a parent to her sanity has been called into question because of the way she looks and her compulsive tanning. And now she’s been brought up on charges of second-degree child endangerment to boot.
I think it’s appalling that this woman has been badgered and bullied openly in the media simply because she looks different and has a compulsion about her appearance. But that’s where bullying always starts, with people who are different — gay, geek, goth, etc. It’s bullying pure and simple. Some would argue that it’s about this woman’s health and her child’s well-being, and that I would label as hypocrisy.
Dermatologist Dr. Jessica Wu wrote a piece for HLNTV asking people not to make fun of the “Tan Mom.” Dr. Wu said, “It’s easy to make fun of 'Tan Mom' because her behavior is as outrageous as the color of her skin. But why is it OK to make fun of tan people, when it’s not OK to ridicule people because of their weight? After all, tanning, like being overweight, is a health risk. Just as obesity is linked to heart disease and diabetes, indoor tanning has been linked to malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.”
I'd like to take Dr. Wu’s point a step further. For me, it’s certainly not about making fun of someone for the way they behave or look. But it’s definitely about the safety of their children and those around them. I firmly believe that as a society, we should step in and protect children when their parents are endangering them. But if we’re going to do it, let’s do it across the board, because anything less is blatant hypocrisy.
Let’s step in and protect children from parents who feed them a steady diet of junk and fast food. Child obesity is epidemic in this country. Parents are the cause of this. Children do not grocery shop for themselves, and they don’t drive themselves to an endless string of fast food restaurants because it’s more convenient. Children are being diagnosed with diseases like heart disease and diabetes once only found in adults. And we’re going to make a big deal out of one case of a mom possibly letting her child tan in a tanning booth?
Let’s step in and protect children from parents who smoke. I pulled into a parking lot the other day and watched as a mom and dad, who were both smoking cigarettes, got out of the car and then proceeded to pull their child out of its car seat. All the while continuing to smoke their cigarettes by the way. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Well, at least they had the child in a car seat, but that’s certainly not going to do anything to protect that child from the lung damage we know second-hand smoke causes.” Where’s the outrage here? Why aren’t those parents being brought up on child endangerment charges?
Let’s step in and protect children from parents who drink and then drive the kids home from the restaurant or up to the mall. If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard “but I’ve only had a couple of beers!” We know for a fact that even a little alcohol consumption slows reaction time and impairs judgment and coordination, all of which are necessary to drive a car safely. Let’s not even get into the violence and chaos inflicted on children directly due to alcohol use in the home.
I’m OK with people making choices that end up damaging themselves. It’s their life and they can live it as they wish. But when their behaviors start putting others in harm's way, a line is crossed, especially when it involves children. The parents in these three groups are doing indisputable damage to their children, and there’s a lot more of them out there than there are moms who let their children go to tanning salons.
So where’s the outrage in these cases? Where are the charges being filed for child endangerment? Let’s be real. We’re going after Patricia Krencil not because we’re concerned for her or her daughter’s health and safety, we’re going after her for the same reasons we always go after people — because she looks different and behaves a bit quirky.
Let’s stop hiding behind hypocrisy and “good sounding arguments” and call it what it is. It’s not concern for their well being — it’s entertainment, it’s bullying and it’s very disappointing to see.