To tan or not to tan: that's the question that's been vexing women all week.
The picture of Girls Aloud buddies Nicola Roberts and Kimberley Walsh in the Daily Mail on Tuesday provided an unusually stark contrast.
Women are not normally as pale as Roberts nor as tanned as Walsh.
The girls had just returned from a holiday in Thailand, the spa capital of the world.
Nicola Roberts must have virtually embalmed herself to avoid any sunshine at all. She is Michael Jackson pale.
This is not sun care but sun snobbery.
Just as Cheryl Cole pitched herself a cut above footballers' wives, so Nicola Roberts is signalling that she is a better class of Girls Aloud.
She, like Victoria Beckham, is aiming for Vogue. Tans are for The Brits, Pale Skins are the Oscars.
Just as very rich people eat less than the poor, so smart women scorn the tan.
Who wants to look as if they have just come back from a holiday?
If you examine the class-ridden Holiday Swap television programme, it is always the chav family who hanker for a surfeit of fun and sunshine.
Colour contrast: Nicola Roberts and Kimberley Walsh in LA
Nicola's look is intimidatingly anti-holiday. She would prefer people to think she had returned from a spell in a TB clinic.
She also demonstrates a state of enlightenment, shared by women such as Madonna and Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow.
What is the point of being a celebrity if you cannot conquer age?
And what is more ageing than sunshine? The poor dolt Kimberley Walsh, her bronze flesh on show in a cheerful sun dress and open-toed shoes, is shrivelling up like Michelle Pfeiffer as the witch in Stardust.
Last summer I interviewed a skin specialist who talked ominously about the second layer of skin. She seemed to have second sight of it.
She winced when she saw my nice brown hands, fresh from holiday, and said the sun spots were forming before her very eyes. I laughed.
Six months later I watch nervously as a galactic pattern emerges on the back of my hands.
Chests are another area of unseen catastrophe. High-definition television has already exposed it.
A television presenter may have a flawless bosom but the camera will pick out the swarm of hidden freckles. It can see into the future.
Nicole Kidman is Australian and Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow are American. These are the skincare super powers.
The British are still more European in their lack of neurosis about sunshine. It is particularly awesome to watch Italian woman soaking up the sun, their faces unshielded by shade or cream.
Their only breaks from sun bathing are when they sit up for a cigarette.
My friends in fashion say that Nicola Roberts is signalling something beyond New World extreme maintenance.
Girls day out: the pair hit Melrose Avenue in Beverly Hills for a shopping spree
She is highlighting the disturbing sexiness of pallor. Think of the quivering cleavage of Scarlett Johansson or Natalie Portman in The Other Boleyn Girl.
The effect would be ruined by a Thai tan.
The innocent/sensuous blindingly white bosom was employed to ravishing effect on the West End stage by the actress Kelly Reilly as Desdemona last year.
It may have even been the inspiration for Jacqui Smith to lower her neckline.
Susie Trayling is currently playing Helen of Troy at the National Theatre with a body white enough for men to die for.
I don't know if Helen of Troy is Nicola Roberts's chief cultural reference, but she is a smart girl.
What worked for the Trojans, the Romans, and the Japanese geishas works for her.
The message of the photograph is simple.
One woman in the photograph looks aristocratic and mysterious.
The other, however cheerful and healthy, is made to look like a trollop.
Paleness is the ultimate one upwomanship.