What is it about sunbathing? Like picking a spot or eating a whole packet of biscuits in one sitting, I know I shouldn't but I really can't help it. Some primeval instinct drives me to bare all to the almighty sun god when she graces me with her healing rays.
If I go on holiday I want a tan and I'm prepared to work quite hard to get it. Generally, my holiday relaxation takes the form of lying on a sun bed in the searing heat reading a book. I will recline in a puddle of my own sweat and persevere no matter how uncomfortable it becomes and how tempting the shade begins to look. And when the time comes to lie on my back and work on my front (note my choice of verb), I will endeavour to hold my book above my head to block the sun from my face until my biceps start to shake and I can hold it aloft no longer rather than risk uneven coverage.
But why? I know how much damage it is doing to my skin. Now that I am in my 40s, I can see the deterioration year on year, almost month by month. However, the lure of golden skin today far out ways the promise of wrinkle free yet white skin tomorrow. I look and feel so much better with a tan. It is so much more forgiving than pale skin, making allowances for imperfections that are more difficult to ignore on milk bottle legs.
That said, this is the first year in living memory when having a tan is not the most important thing about my holiday. Yes, I want to go home looking as if I have been away but if I'm not a uniform colour all over I won't consider it a failed effort as I might have done in previous years.
I'm not sure what has driven this shift in attitude but I fear it to be yet another thing that I can put down to my age. I shan't be seeking out my whitest jeans and a pale pink top ( always guaranteed to make a tan appear deeper) to hit the town as soon as I get home. Frankly I'm not really bothered. And do I want to witness, yet again, my skin take on that familiar, leathery texture which screams out that I have damaged it in my quest for the perfect tan? Perhaps not.
It is as if I have taken the mantle of Queen Suntan and passed it down the generations for now my eldest is driven by a need to develop the perfect colour and is monitoring her white lines nightly. Perhaps it is a young woman's game. I have warned her about the perils of tanning but she, like me, continues unabashed.
I wonder if I should buy a hat and retreat beneath a parasol. Hmmm. Maybe next year...