My friend Natasha went on a blind date with a guy who'd said, prior to meeting, that he looked like Harrison Ford. His failure to think things through became screamingly apparent when he turned up looking nothing remotely like Harrison Ford, an anomaly Natasha pointed out immediately. "Mm", he replied, "shall we leave it then?" She walked off.
This modern parable provides the perfect illustration of an inherent problem with internet dating, namely that the relentless search for people who look like Harrison Ford (or whoever) is thwarted by those who pretend to be more gorgeous than they actually are. They might do this by using a photo of themselves shot from such a bizarre angle that it lops off 20 kilos, or by using a photo of their best friend – a strategy that, unsurprisingly, never works.
Now scientists at Villanova University in Pennsylvania it seems, agree with me on this score, although I could have saved them the trouble of looking into it. After extensive research, they've established that ugly – or, as I suavely describe myself when it's really dark, "not conventionally attractive" – men have a tough time of it on dating websites. You don't say. It's like competing in the 100m hurdles while carrying a Welsh dresser.
Their study has found that our attempts to compensate for double chins or squints in the written portion of our profiles fail, because we don't communicate the same breezy confidence that "genuinely attractive individuals" do. Instead, we unintentionally drop hints that we're consumed with self-loathing, then give it away by quoting Sylvia Plath in the sign-off. The study, which involved separating photos from text and asking women to judge both, concluded: "Men with attractive photos wrote texts that were rated as more attractive." Really so?
My own profile features heroic prose worthy of a Pulitzer (non-fiction category), conjuring up an image of some godlike colossus striding purposefully through the mountains, Black & Decker Workmate in one hand, flowers and chocolates in the other. But then I blow it by accompanying it with a picture of my face – the face you see above but about six years older – because I can't bear deception and, frankly, it's the only face I've got.
As a result I receive approximately two approaches a year: one sent by mistake, the other asking me if I've got the right time, or something equally unromantic. I hereby urge us to cast off the oppressive yoke of the online dating industry, venture into the real world and deploy our effortless charm in person, seducing people before they realise that we have gappy teeth and a fat arse. It works better. Honest.