I bought some fake tan at the weekend. It was the stuff that masquerades as moisturiser, not the hardcore slap-it-on-with-gloves-and-protective-goggles stuff, but still. Possibly that makes it worse.
I'm still tearing myself apart slightly for the purchase, because I have long been a conscientious fake tan objector. I've been known to carry a placard through Basildon, chanting. My objection to fake tan is threefold:
1. The smell. It seems bizarrely backward that in a world of such advanced technological developments as ours, they can't make a product that turns you a few shades of tangerine darker without reeking out half the top deck of the 134 bus. But then perhaps it goes to prove my long-held belief that the Laboratoire Garnier is not in fact a laboratory, but just an enormous shiny factory full of monkeys pouring goop into bottles while an executive brays "And they'll pay £12.99 for this crap! Audrey, find me an island on eBay."
The most popular school of thought says that fake tan smells of biscuits. But that isn't quite it. Biscuits, after all, smell pretty darn tasty. It's something else, something more specific and less appealing. And I know what it is. After many years of analysing the scent emitting from mahogany-stained ladies on bus journeys, in nightclub toilet queues and the like, I have pinpointed the exact smell. It is: the dried-on milk left in the bottom of a bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, after it's sat in your bedroom for two days.
Biscuity, yes, but also slightly sour and musty. Since the days Egyptian ladies in waiting would hold their noses as Cleopatra wafted down the corridor after a Nesquik bath, womankind has known deep down that it didn't want to smell of milky cereal. Now if only someone would tell cosmetics companies the same thing.
2. Part of the pro-fake tan theory goes, if we fake it then we won't be tempted to sit out in the real sun, leathering our future complexions and cultivating cancerous moles. This is a good theory. It is true. But sadly, the flipside of the issue is that fake tan merely reinforces the belief that to be attractive, we must be satsuma-tinted. And while we all believe that tan is glam, pale is wail, etc, people will still be tempted to sit out in the real sun and do themselves all that damage.
The only way to counter the idea, perhaps, is for them to start making fake-pale creams so that honey-toned girls can look a little pastier. I'm going out tonight; I must go for a spray-pale first," they'll say. "I want to look proper peaky. With a few blue veins, if you can." Then gradually, we might learn to accept the skin tone we were born with as opposed to the one Donatella Versace thinks we're supposed to have.
3. The effort. To tan up before every flesh-bearing occasion, or even daily as a matter of habit, is just adding to the already tremendous list of preenings that is expected of us. In the time it takes to effectively bronze each inch of exposed skin, we could have made a souffle, sorted the recycling or finally unblocked the sink. Not to mention the domestic drudgery saved in not having to wash orange-streaked sheets twice a week.
So in short, fake tan makes us smell of cornflakey milk, robs us of time we could be using to make, then eat, souffle, and reinforces the belief that only sun-wizened skin is hot. But I still bought some. And I must say, my treacherous legs seem to be enjoying it.