Ok, this story is pretty messed up.
A woman in the US has been arrested for allegedly taking her 5-year-old daughter to a tanning salon where her skin was burned.
News outlets in the US initially reported Patricia Krentcil’s daughter was burned from a stint in a tanning bed, after she turned up at school and told her classmates she “went tanning with Mummy.” Mummy is a chronic sunbed tanner, as you can see and her daughter had sunburn-type burns on her body. The girl’s father claims a teacher incorrectly put the two together and contacted police.
But the mother – who admits to tanning all her life – is denying the allegations and says her daughter was simply in the tanning room while she was in the booth. She said the 5-year-old’s sunburn is just coincidental. She told US’s NBC “I tan, she doesn’t tan.” “I’m in the booth, she’s in the room. That’s all there is to it.”
Have a look at the video. No really, HAVE A LOOK:
Right, so let’s unpack this a little bit. I think we can all agree that Patricia (the mother) is quite taken with tans. Aesthetically, she prefers her own skin to be very (very very) brown. Whether she applies that same aesthetic to her daughter is another question – in this case, a question for police.
But it did make me think about how (consciously or unconsciously), we do project our own aesthetic preferences onto our loved ones. The degree to which we do this varies. It might be as simple as buying a new shirt as a ‘gift’ for a partner because you prefer that look to the vintage ACDC t-shirts he’s so fond of. Or it might be about buying a girlfriend a birthday present of a necklace you really like.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been given presents (or seen them given to others) where the giver says “I just thought this was SO YOU” and you’re thinking “that is not me at all, that is SO YOU. YOU SHOULD HAVE KEPT IT FOR YOURSELF”.
But as an adult, at least you have a choice about how you look and what you wear. Not so much kids.
In one of the most unexpectedly controversial columns I ever wrote, I described a conversation with my daughter about why leggings are not pants:
“You see, leggings are more like tights,” I explained carefully. “That means they’re different to jeans or pants. We don’t wear them the same way.” She regarded me defiantly. “But I like these leggings!” she protested. I remained calm, maintained eye contact, and spoke kindly yet firmly. “So do I darling, your leggings are lovely. They just need a skirt over the top of them. Or a dress. Heck, even a longer t-shirt.”
Reluctantly, she complied and I felt some small satisfaction in the same way I do on the rare occasion any child of mine eats a green vegetable. Mother Of The Year.
Afterwards though, I thought about our conversation and wondered if I’d made a mistake. Parenting is made up of a million doubtful moments like this and mostly, only your child’s future therapist will be able to say how badly you screwed up.
Was it wrong to impose my views about leggings onto my daughter? Had I crushed her little spirit? Or was it my duty as a parent, hell as a woman, to pass on the single fashion philosophy I live by?
Because surely that’s what parents do. Imprint our values onto our children in big ways and small. Share our wisdom.
Many people slammed me for imposing my own aesthetic views on my daughter. But in effect, isn’t that what we do when we buy clothes for our kids? Or for anyone else? Whether consciously or subconsciously, aren’t we projecting our vision of how we’d like them to look?
Obviously, tanning salons are about 1000000 shades of NO WAY. Just like the rest of the awful stuff you see on those Toddlers & Tiaras pageant shows where mothers subject their little girls to teeth whitening, hair bleaching, eyebrow waxing and tanning.
But what about ear piercing? What about those awful slogan t-shirts saying “I’m a tits man”? What about parents of twins who dress them the same way? Isn’t that all about projecting your aesthetics onto a child?