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Nina In New York: Ridiculously Tan Mom Could Be Telling The Truth; Still Totally Crazy

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.

Oh, Crazy Tan Lady. Is there nothing about your story that doesn't fuel the fodder fire?

I mean, for goodness sakes. You're from Nutley, New Jersey. They shouldn't even allow visibly wacky people to move to a town with a name like that. It's too mean.

PHOTOS: Best Of The Worst Famous Fake Tans

In case you live under one of those rocks that still doesn't receive a wireless connection, I'll recap. A little fair-skinned, redheaded child was treated by her school nurse for a "slight sunburn." I'd like to pause here for a moment to express a little shock at the attentiveness of this school nurse, by the way. Have you ever heard of such strict commitment to duty? Our school nurses typically rolled their eyes and offered you an empty bed for fifteen minutes "until you feel better," with the understood subtext being that everyone was faking everything, all the time.

Patricia Krentcil
The booking photo of Patricia Krentcil, accused of child endangerment for allegedly bringing her 5-year-old into a tanning booth. (credit: Essex County Prosecutor's Office)

Anyway. When asked how she got said sunburn, the six-year-old Anna replied, "I went tanning with mommy." So alarms were sounded, lawyers were called, the press descended, and here we are. Sounds like an overreaction, or perhaps a bit hasty? Sure, until you see the "mommy" in question. She's not just tan. She makes the cast of Jersey Shore blush. She gives new meaning to the concept of "tanorexia." Honestly, I'm not even sure if it's fair to call what she is "tan." She looks like a character from an Al Jolson film. Or she did for all her photos in the news, though it appears as though perhaps she went a little heavy on the self-tanner post-booking, knowing that she was about to receive her long-awaited 15 minutes of fame. Or shame. Whatever.

Now the pieces start to come together.

Patricia Krentcil, said too-tan mom, swears she would never, could never bring her little girl into a tanning bed. The owner of the tanning salon corroborates this. But prosecutors seem to have some reason to believe she's lying, and public opinion has clearly been registered on the "she's crazy, thus guilty" side of things. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I not only believe Ms. Krentcil, I feel downright sorry for her.

First of all, while little kids don't "lie" in the adult sense of the word, they certainly do fib in order to make the truth fit the dreamy way in which they see the world.

Patricia Krentcil
Patricia Krentcil, accused of taking her young daughter into a tanning booth, appears in court on May 2, 2012. (credit: CBS 2)

For instance, when my brother, a perfectly well-adjusted child, was in first grade, he came home one day and told my mother quite convincingly that he had been seeing the school psychologist twice a week for months. He told her about the games they played, and the things they talked about, and it was all very believable. Of course, it wasn't even remotely true. A friend of his was the one who got to leave class to see the good doctor and play games, and my brother thought it sounded like fun. He wasn't deliberately lying, per se. He was just telling a variation on the truth, as he imagined it.

Just like a little girl can imagine doing exactly what her mommy does, which is to go tanning. All. The. Time.

Then again, there's always another explanation.

"There's somebody out there my whole life that doesn't like me because they're jealous, they're fat and they're ugly," Ms. Krentcil told TMZ.

I forgot about the fatty/uggie troublemaker quotient. Totally valid.

If Ms. Krentcil is telling the truth and her daughter got burned out in their backyard, there's a much more devastating problem lurking behind all the current hype and noise. And that is that as soon as this little girl is old enough, she's obviously going to start doing everything she can to achieve that look she's idolized since she was young: that of an overcooked bran muffin. She's got tanning on the brain, and she's got it bad. Just as children often grow up to imitate parental vices like smoking, drinking and overeating, poor little Anna Krentcil is a tanorexic in the making.

Perhaps this unwanted brush with infamy will set Ms. Krentcil straight—to the dermatologist. She may not have physically brought her daughter into a tanning bed with her this time, but psychologically, little Anna is already punching the last hole on her frequent customer card.


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I'm always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

The Nina In New York Archives:

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