An extraordinarily successful seducer once told me the key to his success. All one had to do, he told me, was successfully detect a woman's most prized physical characteristic.

Martin Rowson's cartoon of Laurie Taylor for New Humanist, July/August 2008This was not, he said, banging his pint on the bar for additional emphasis, the feature that might have been selected by a panel of independent judges. Oh no. It was that particular aspect of her appearance which she herself secretly regarded as her finest feature, her crowning glory, her real beauty spot.

Discovering this secret, he warned me, took time and care. He'd known any number of men who'd charged straight in and praised a woman for the blueness of her eyes or the density of her golden hair only to learn afterwards that he'd selected the very aspects of her appearance that were most dependent upon artificial aids. "She just knows that the moment will come in the relationship, and sooner rather than later, when her blue eyes stand revealed as well-chosen contact lenses, and her thick hair is shown to be entirely dependent on a carefully engineered hairpiece."

Only if you take your time, he cautioned, will you be able to notice that there was some physical aspect to which she subtly but consistently drew attention. "It might, for example, be the way in which she lets a delicate smile play around her lips, or the manner in which she allows her fingers to slide around the stem of her vodka and tonic, or the way she throws back her head when she laughs. Once you've spotted that you can go in for the coup de grace. 'My, but what a marvellous smile you have,' 'Gosh, I really admire your delicate fingers,' 'Tell me. Has anyone ever said that have a simply adorable neck?'"

When I gently suggested that this was a somewhat patronising and even demeaning view of women, one that wholly ignored the importance of their character and personality, he rounded on me with some ferocity.

"Don't be so prim and proper. Isn't there some part of your own physical appearance that you're most anxious to have credited? The shape of your jaw, the width of your brow, the depth of your eyes?"

"I've never really thought about it," I said, and steered the conversation in another direction.

But I was lying. Lying from necessity. Lying because I couldn't possibly reveal that my best physical feature is one which is not only virtually invisible to others but, in normal circumstances, is also completely unavailable for personal inspection. The sad truth is that I am proud, excessively proud, even absurdly proud, of my back.

My first knowledge of this dubious attribute occurred after an all-night teenage party back in the '50s. I was lying on my belly on a parental bed recovering from a long night drinking cheap Spanish wine when one of the young female guests wandered into the room and let out a cry of delight. "Laurie," she screamed, "You look great lying there. Just like an Eckstine."

It took a few moments for me to realise that she was comparing me not to the celebrated American singer Billy Eckstine but to the sculptor Jacob Epstein, who was much in vogue at that time. It seemed that my smooth unblemished back - I've subsequently checked it out many times in the double mirrors they provide in changing rooms - reminded her of the smooth muscular lines favoured by Epstein in his portraits of such legendary heroes as Adam, Jacob and Christ himself.

I can't pretend, though, that my ownership of such a fine back has greatly enhanced my love life. When clothed, all backs have a tendency to look alike. Much of a muchness. There is no such thing as an aesthetic hierarchy of backs. "Just look at that back." "Fancy having a back like that."

It is, I suppose, only the luck of the genetic draw that I've had to rely most of my life on my undistinguished frontal features: scrawny legs, potbelly, sunken chest and blotchy facial complexion.
But at least it provides me with a clear-cut final request. I will ask to be buried face down. It may not enhance my current love life, but it could just give me that extra edge on Judgement Day.