Weighing In on the Rachel Canning Case

Poor little rich girl Rachel Canning, 18, can’t decide whether she wants to be an emancipated minor or an extended adolescent.  New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard, during a hearing in Morristown, ruled against her lawsuit to force her parents to pay for her immediate living costs and college tuition.


“If parents impose a rule that junior doesn’t like, can junior move out, and then sue for monetary damages?  We have to be conscious of the potential precedents here.”


Other wise 12 year-olds could sue for x-boxes, 16 year-olds for flat screen TVs, he noted.  The next hearing is set for May 1.  Rachel’s father, Sean, is a retired police chief; her mother, a legal secretary.  Rachel accuses her father of inappropriate behavior – hugging her around the shoulders and giving her a kiss on the cheek.  If it was in public, according to teenage law, it would have been a high crime and misdemeanor, indeed.


As for her mother, Rachel claims her mamma told her she was fat and called her a “pig.”  NJ DYFS (Division of Youth and Family Services), now called the Department of Children and Families (DCF), could find no grounds for Rachel’s allegations.


Rachel is the girl who not only had everything but wanted everything.  The pretty, if foul-mouthed, teenager was captain of the cheerleading team and a member of Morris Catholic High School’s lacrosse team.


According to her parents’ attorney, she also had a boyfriend of whom her parents did not approve and a drinking problem, as well as a problem with anorexia or bulimia, if Rachel’s blue voice-mail to her mother is any indication of the difficulties Rachel may have been hiding.


The question for reporters now is to ascertain if, and when, at any point in trying out for any sports team, Rachel failed in the tryouts.  Schools will not admit it, but they expect and, in the past, required that the students maintain a maximum weight.  The daughter of some friends of ours tried out for the hockey team at a local high school.  She was pretty, too, and her parents affluent.


She didn’t make the team and was told by the coach she needed to lose weight.  No doubt the teacher was gentle about it.  But to a sensitive teenager, even the suggestion that she needs to lose weight can be traumatic enough to plunge her into the depths of this devastating disorder.


Our friends’ daughter starved herself nearly to death; according to her dad, at one point, she was clinically dead, but was revived.  Her parents took her to psychiatrists, psychologists, enrolled in a specialized eating disorder program, and placed her in several mental hospitals.  Meanwhile, her relationship with her mother deteriorated to the point that she screamed at her mother and physically abused her.  Her doting father, meanwhile, grew more and more disillusioned about his daughter, and fell into a bitter resignation over her condition.


She finally recovered and has a terrific  boyfriend.


Rachel is living with her best friend and the friend’s family.  The friend’s father is an attorney and is paying her legal fees in the case.  Being very pretty, the family is probably very sympathetic to this girl.  But they should be aware of how manipulative anorexic and bulimic patients can be.  They can turn the charm on and off like a switch.


Our youth-oriented culture, as has been well-noted, places too much emphasis on appearance.  Girls, in their own minds and no one else’s, believe they must adhere to the cultural image of women on television.  They idolize bony supermodels and actresses.  Girls are taught not to frown or raise their eyebrows too much, for fear of developing lines on their foreheads.  In our culture, they’ve been taught not to smile or laugh too much, for fear of developing the dreaded crow’s feet later on in life. 


In one of the Pride and Prejudice films, Mr. Darcy says of Jane Bennett to his friend, Mr. Bingley, “She’s very pretty, I will allow.  But she smiles too much.”  That is not what Jane Austen wrote in the book, Pride and Prejudice, in 1813.  When Mr. Bingley presses Darcy to dance with Elizabeth, he puts Mr. Bingley’s urging off by replying, “You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”  Young women were encouraged to smile and be pleasant.  Mr. Darcy himself is ultimately attracted to Elizabeth by her eyes and her smiles.


This is the Age of Botox.  Even in the news, there is the inclination towards deceptive appearance.  Even news anchors, male and female, suffer themselves to be injected with poison, botoxin, in order that no telling lines reveal their emotions during the broadcast.  On a recent O’Reilly factor, two female pundits were arguing, a blonde and brunette.  No lines betrayed the blonde’s age.  But the brunette’s hair was pulled back, displaying botox-free forehead with all the lines popping out in the harsh studio lighting every time she showed surprise, frustration or any other untoward emotion.  Very unattractive, by today’s standards, indeed.


Males are treated equally in the 24/7 news cycle, at least until they’re past a certain age.  Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly is free to show his forehead lines.  But the unfortunate Bob Costas, who initially hosted the Sochi Olympics, had to retire after the fourth day due to what he thought was pink-eye.  We later learned that the inflammation was due to botox injections, possibly through an infected needle.


I had forehead lines from the earliest age.  One of my older cousins urged me to be careful about smiling too much or showing surprise.  At the time, I had no bangs.  She said if I wasn’t careful, my forehead lines would become permanent.  My maternal grandmother more judiciously and without saying why, suggested to my mother that I have bangs.  My mother was indignant.  So my grandmother asked my opinion.  Considering my cousin’s warning, and not wanting to have to go through life not smiling or showing any other emotion that might flaw my already imperfect face, I consented readily to wearing bangs.


As for Miss Canning, she obviously has not heard the saying, “Beauty is only skin deep.”  Physically she is the perfect study of suburban beauty.  She dresses impeccably for her court appearances.  Her hair is attractively coiffed and her make-up applied to highlight every pretty feature she has.

The real ugliness is beneath the skin, in the voice-mails to her mother (such language from a Catholic schoolgirl), in her attitude, and in her very lawsuit.  The hideousness of her character can also be found in the defense her parents’ attorney has mounted:  that Rachel had been drinking (with the accompanying consequences) and binge-eating in order to keep her picture-perfect figure.  She was angry with her parents’ rules that she not date on school nights and sued to be free of their authority while still insisting that they pay her way.


Mom and Dad Canning had the courage few parents have today:  to say “No.”  If they are guilty of anything, it is that they didn’t say it either soon enough or often enough.



Published in: on March 10, 2014 at 11:42 am  Leave a Comment  

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