If you are an ancient crone who has been in and around the internet since roughly 2012, then Tan Mom—Patricia Krentcil, the woman in red seen above—is a familiar figure. Krentcil is a New Jersey woman who gained internet notoriety for being grotesquely tan and also allegedly putting her daughter in a tanning bed when she was six years old—charges that were later cleared. Recently, Tan Mom was in a medically induced coma due to complications from pneumonia. Thankfully, she has recovered, and is making an appearance at a boxing match in Fort Lauderdale. I am happy for Tan Mom, who seems to be less tan than she was in 2012. I am also frightened of her because I think she is my future.
Unlike Tan Mom, I have no children and do not have the desire to do so. That means the part about me being potentially arrested for putting my daughter in a tanning bed and then being cleared of the charges is not what the future holds for me. However, much like Tan Mom, I really like to be tan. I understand that this is not a popular opinion and that courting the sweet rays of the sun for this express purpose is now out of vogue. It is not 1973 and I am not a sullen teen coated in baby oil with one of those silver visors, though in my heart, I might be. But physical appearance aside, something about Tan Mom’s zest for life is inspirational and her post-notoriety fame trajectory is the clearest blueprint I’ve seen for what my future could possibly hold.
Aesthetically, I have no love for Tan Mom’s predilection towards bandage dresses and statement necklaces, but I can see myself tottering in that direction in maybe 10 years’ time, tooted up on nothing but my own indefatigable spirit and a pair of uncomfortable wedge sandals. It’s not the future I necessarily want, but it is a future that I can recognize. Mapping the contours of the unknown is an excellent self-soothing mechanism in times of great duress. I am not striving for greatness because I have set realistic expectations for myself. Solidly average is all I can hope for, and that seems to be the path set out for me by Tan Mom, a woman who is not afraid to be free.