The Joys of Modern Life 54. Fat men

THIS WEEK sees episode two of The Sopranos, that lengthy American drama about the New York Mafia. A cross between Goodfellas and a bad American soap, it does have one saving grace. The balding fat bloke, Tony Soprano, aka James Gandolfini, right, who struts around half-naked with his pasty, lardy stomach and double chin, is to me the definitive in sex appeal.

Hello freako! I hear you say.What is so appealing? Surely it is the firm, six-pack stomach of Ben Affleck or the pouting mouth of Brad Pitt that stirs a girl's heart?

Well not in my book; 6ft and lardy will always win. But let's not be confused with roly-poly fat boys. With their unmuscled bodies of a baby, those cuddly teddy bears are designed to be mothered and petted. Tony Soprano et al are 6ft tough guys with burly shoulders, hands like spades and a look that says: "I am in command, bitch, so do what I say."

That Neanderthal look turns me into a pliant, submissive female. These days, when women can order men around in the boardroom, we need an Ubermensch to make our legs turn to jelly.

And I am not talking the Mr. Universe variety. The physique of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jean-Claude Van Damme may look good in an action movie, but go out with one of these guys and he will spend the evening with one eye on the mirror and a permanently flexed bicep on the table.

No, when I say big, I mean Depardieu-style. Not only is Depardieu tall and big-boned, he has the bulk to give him that protective, avuncular feel. Anyone can work out and muscle up, but he was born big. And he is used to being in control from his formative years; his physique made him leader of the gang.

Take the apes. It is the taller, bigger ones - the alpha males - who dominate. And as for humans, give me the hulking physique of a Lawrence Dallaglio over the diminutive Will Carling any day.

I once digressed from my lard quest and stepped out with Serge, a good- looking Swiss French guy with full lips, doe eyes and the allure of a male model. As I banged my head on his washboard stomach, I yearned for the comforting presence of a 40in waist and the protective arm of a giant.