Tuesday 27 September 2016

Sarah Carey... going to hell on a sunbed

Desperate for some rays, Sarah Carey rents a sunbed and exposes herself to UV light and moral judgment

Published 31/08/2015 | 02:30

Sarah Carey
Sarah Carey

I never cease to be stung when I find myself on the receiving end of moral judgment.

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Especially when I mostly operate within the shockingly narrow parameters of behaviour permitted to a bourgeois biddy like myself. So when I step outside conventional habits, janey mac, would you give me a break? All I did was rent a sunbed, and you'd think I'd burned the house down.

Admittedly, when the man delivered the bed, I was both thrilled at the prospect of tanning, and vaguely aware that this could be a symptom of a mid-life crisis. But was I buying a sports car? Was I running off to India to find myself? Was I shagging a toy boy? No: all wifely, motherly and daughterly duties were being attended to assiduously.

My grand act of irresponsible self-indulgence was a fluorescent casket for use in the privacy of my own home. The objective? To acquire a golden glow so I'd look nice when wearing summer clothes, despite the absence of summer weather. What's wrong with wanting to look nice? Eh?

The logic was that I look better with a tan, and think those fake tans look like muck. There is no chance of getting a nice colour with this weather. I'm a household prisoner, with Himself working away again. So why not exercise some autonomy and order sunlight on delivery? Who knew I was opening the doors to damnation?

Naturally, it started with my mother who was reared when refined women did not have tans. This view is experiencing something of a renaissance, and for many years, I've gone with the Victorian pale-and-wan look. But I'm over that.

She was appalled too, at the ageing effects of the sun, and with this I concur. I haven't let the sun at my face in years and can't help noticing that her complexion, carefully shielded, looks better than many of her peers who enjoyed too many sun holidays. But the face is one thing. I want brown legs.

Anyway, I'm accustomed to being judged by my mother. And even if she has turned out to be right about everything, going my own irrational way is something I feel obliged to do every now and then, just to prove something. Something stupid, usually, but there you go.

But one expects more of one's peer group. When I generously invited my girlfriends for a free go, I might as well have offered them heroin. Even one of my male friends - a self-professed libertarian - laid into me. Didn't I know these things cause skin cancer? He declared himself appalled, shocked - disappointed, in fact. Jeez.

Guiltily, I check out the definitive research by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which conducted a meta-analysis on causes of skin cancer. Possibly suffering from confirmation bias, as far as I could see, the evidence wasn't entirely overwhelming. The studies quoted were divided, with several concluding there was no association between sunbeds and skin cancer. When I informed my health-conscious friend of this, he warned me I'd be run out of town for suggesting sunbeds weren't the equivalent of the warp drive on the Enterprise.

What the studies did show was that the leading cause of skin cancer is a history of childhood sunburns, reminding me of a few desperate burns on my back and arms that blistered and peeled. So if I do end up with cancer, I can blame my parents instead of myself. On the upside, further reading revealed that sunbed exposure creates vitamin D, a lack of which results in fatigue and depression. So to hell with it all. It's not like smoking. I'm not infecting anyone else.

For a few short minutes a day, for a few short weeks this season, I'm stretching out in my solar sarcophagus and soaking up the heat. It feels great, and I'm willing to enjoy the mental health and vanity benefits over the long-term risk of cancer. If I do go to hell, at least I'll look good.

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