| || || | Last week, the women of Britain described in precise detail what they Most Wanted from men.
The 40,000 female subscribers to the dating website UKdating.com have a wish list of 20 swooning criteria which, when put together, make up the ultimate man.
So what is he like? Well, he is tall (at least 5ft 10in), dark and handsome. (Of course he is.)
And he has all the externals that women think they want: money, eyes (blue ones), his own property, a university degree and a silver Mercedes.
Mr Almost-Too-Perfect: Tanya meets Mercedes owner James as she test-drives Mr Right
He doesn't smoke, likes eating out and the cinema but hates football.
He's clean-shaven and likes pets.
He has never been married but has had three serious relationships (and no more than six sexual partners).
He won't have any children and, being medium build, he'll weigh in at 12st 7lb.
He's the Perfect Man.
All my life I, too, have dreamed of this man, while keeping him at a distance. In the meantime, I have test-driven the Imperfect Man - and ridden him off the road.
Since I was 16, I have gone out with gay men, fat men, married men; men who ring their mothers six times a day; men who want me to dress up as a maid; and men who are, well, dwarves.
If there were men with antlers, I would doubtless have dated them, too.
I have chosen imperfect men because, bluntly, they make me look better. I am a loser-cruiser. But, reader, I have lost. I am 34 and still single.
But now I might be ready to give perfection a try.
Now he has been scientifically selected, I at least know how to recognise him.
t may be my last chance to play Man-opoly, a shuffle through London's perfect men.
And if I do find him, what is he like? Will I like him? Would he like me?
My first stop is a Mercedes dealership in North London, because the survey specified a silver Merc. (Cream, apparently, is totally unacceptable.)
So I stand outside in the pouring rain, watching the men go in and out.
At first I am hopeful, but two hours later I realise it is a disaster. The men are either short and unattractive, or handsome but come with women attached. Like glue.
Undeterred, I decide to head for a pet shop, as the survey also specified a man who loves animals. Alas it is the same story as the car dealership: the single men are ugly and the attached men are beautiful.
In desperation, I decide to enlist professional help and look up the number of London's most exclusive dating agencies.
I read the list to them over the telephone and they say: "Oh yes, we've got him. He's on our database. Would you like to meet him?" Of course I would!
Ten minutes later, I have a clutch of numbers in my hand. Twenty minutes later, after four charming phone calls, I have four dates with four potential Mr Perfects.
It was suspiciously easy. What is going on?
So I set off to meet Paddy, 37, an advertising executive on £85,000 a year, who lives in Notting Hill.
He is a dark, impish man in a rather too tight-fitting green jumper.
We meet in a restaurant in Central London, where he arrives perfectly on time and literally bounces into the seat opposite me, all charm and big grins.
"I'll have the meatballs," he says, and, when they arrive, offers to feed me one.
He orders a glass of red wine.
"I did the wine education course in Notting Hill," he says. "But I have lots more to learn."
Oh, this is a perfect man - a little knowledge, then a little humility. Wow.
"You're perfect," I goggle. (Actually, statistically, he isn't: he lacks the Mercedes, the blue eyes and he does like football.)
As he finishes he pats his stomach. "Tonight is gym night," he says. "Big gym night." As soon as we're done, I learn, he's off to the gym.
I also learn his parents just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.
He bought his mother a copy of the Irish cookbook she used as a young married wife and his father a framed menu from the dinner they had to celebrate his winning a golf tournament.
And he teases me, twinkle, twinkle.
"I'm going to say something every time you put your pencil down, so you will have to pick it up again," he says.
And he gives me his manifesto of life.
"I believe in honesty and trust, and in treating people as you would want them to treat you," he says. "You only get one shot at life." And twinkles again.
Then he says he thinks about his hair in bed. Is he for real? Is he on drugs? Is he gay?
He is charming, but so full-on charming I am exhausted. He reminds me of a Blue Peter presenter, or a smaller Cary Grant.
I didn't want him - he was too shiny. And he didn't want me. "Would you date me?" I blurt.
"No," he says, looking sensitive. "You're too full-on."
I'm not offended; I'm relieved. And so on to the next .. .
James is, apparently, a Perfect Twenty. He even has the Mercedes.
I find him through the online dating service Parship, and we meet in his exclusive private member's club in Central London.
He is tall, slightly blondish, dressed in crisp jeans and a perfectly ironed shirt.
"Hello," he says, mumbling slightly. We go into the restaurant and he orders himself fish and a bottle of Chablis.
And we talk about his lifestyle, which seems to involve lots of business travel with men just like him and visits to his accountant.
He tells me he owns a DVD production company. He pays himself £150,000 a year and he lives in a fabulous two-bed, two-bath apartment in East London.
He says he loves his friends, but, reading between the lines, I think he has trouble with women. He may be a commitment phobe.
He insists that he is a romantic, but when I suggest he might be too much of a perfectionist to tolerate being in love (it is just a hunch), he abruptly changes the subject and tells me about his labrador, Jack.
"I'm going to put Jack on Facebook," he says. "Did you know there is a big Facebook dog and cat community?"
James has lovely manners. When I get up, he rises a foot from his chair - a nicety I had forgotten about since I became a journalist.
But I can sense a huge anxiety beneath his eyes.
When he says, "I have bought six acres of rainforest because the beginning and the end for me is the rainforest and what it can deliver us", I realise that he is clearly an anxious control freak - although a very nice one.
He is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity, and although he obviously cares about the world, he seems a bit afraid of it.
I cut to the chase. "Do you fancy me?" I ask.
"Not really," he says. "Sorry." And that's that - because I don't fancy him either.
This is all very draining: the sitting up straight, the politesse, the trying to be worthy of perfection.
I miss my rubbish dates of past - like the man who took me to Pizza Hut and couldn't pay the bill (so I did).
The angry man in the wheelchair, who had spina bifida but great eyes.
Surely my next Perfect Man will be better than this?
Step forward Johann, 49, a corporate lawyer who earns £350,000 a year.
He is another dating agency swain, and we meet in a rather downbeat bar near his £1.2 million flat in South Kensington.
Johann is a sort of ruined handsome, with huge jet-lagged bags under his eyes.
By now I am exhausted by all this perfection and accidentally lay my newspaper over the candle on the table. The table catches fire.
He douses it instantly. Then I spill my glass of water. I can't help but feel this is a sign.
Johann, I learn, is only a Seventeen. He lacks the Mercedes, his eyes are brown, not blue, and he is 5ft 9in.
Plus he is baked in ennui. Actually, he is positively drowning in it.
He tells me that he loves good wine (he has over 5,000 bottles) and going to his £1 million house in the country and reading books.
But because he works a 12-hour day, he doesn't have much time for leisure.
He isn't materialistic, he insists, and I believe him. This man is too serious to lie to a girl like me.
He works hard because he wants money because it brings him independence, he says, toying with a cheeseburger.
We discuss politics. He has lived all over the world, he tells me, and I suspect he may be something of a libertine.
But not to worry. Yet again, he isn't interested in me.
When pressed, he confesses politely: "I have a specific person in mind; a little blonde."
Oh dear. Truthfully, though, I am not interested in him either. He is too dark. Not in his head, but in his very soul. He has haunted eyes.
My final Mr Perfect is Alex, a 39-year-old man of leisure who lives in a £1 million flat in docklands.
We meet in a posh cafÈ, and he is handsome in a very ironed way.
He studied philosophy at Oxford, and made a fortune with his internet company, which he sold five years ago for £5 million.
Today, he says, crossing his arms, he does very little - although he did earn £100,000 on Monday when the stock market collapsed.
I ask him to explain how, but he thinks it would be too complicated for me to understand, which is probably true.
He orders some porridge and a very expensive omelette, and he talks to me - slowly, calmly, carefully, knowledgably - about philosophy and economics, and music and history and literature.
Do you know what? He is just like Hannibal Lecter without the serial killing habit. He is also very organised.
When I ask him what he is looking for in a woman, he actually bullet points it for me.
She must be good-looking, intelligent with a good degree (preferably from Oxford), extrovert, "even though I am not, and she must be younger than me".
He rarely smiles: he regards me as if I am a client, or an employee.
I can tell that he cares about the world because he gave £60,000 to Amnesty International two years ago.
But this care seems to hang on his shoulders like rocks. He seems depressed by the world.
Again, when I ask, he admits he doesn't want me. "You're not my type," he says. "Sorry."
Happily I do not want him. He is too scary. He would think my flat is dirty - which it is.
And so my game of Man-opoly is over. I am a wreck. I have had the Mayfair of Mr Perfect and the Old Kent Road of my usual useless lovers, and I know what I'd rather have.
I am longing for a smelly man, or a smoker, or a man who can't drive, or who can drive but crashes. Because Mr Perfect was exhausting.
So I'm running back to Mr Imperfect as fast as my chubby legs, and blemished soul, will carry me.
Illustration from Clyde Mendes column at MetroSexual LA