So you've done the hard bit, right? Whether you've picked someone up in a bar or your eyes have met over an internet cable on an online dating site, you have managed to successfully woo someone into going on a date with you. Now, all you have to do is lay on the charm, keep the drinks flowing and your eyes bright and the rest will fall into place, yes? Well, maybe.
You could be that lucky person for whom everything goes right with the minimum of effort. The rest of us mere mortals, however, usually need to put in a bit of legwork. But don't you worry your pretty little head - well, okay, let's just call it your head - about it; Uncle Guyliner is here with five pointers to prepare you. (Warning, if you're a horse-frightener or extremely boring, these may not help you any, but they're a start, at least. Right? Right.)
Firm things up
Before you even start, show strength of character when it comes to choosing a time, date and venue for your first rendezvous. Continual text messages back and forth debating potential meeting places are a huge passion killer. If your date is really determined to leave the decision to you - and you should be able to work this out within two text messages - then front up and make it.
Dallying and courting opinion in an effort to seem that you're not overbearing can make for very dull chit-chat. Adjourning your SMS-wooing with a half-hearted "I'll have a think about where to go and you do the same" doesn't make you look amiable - you come across as wishy-washy, like deciding what cereal to have for breakfast takes you hours. Unsexy. Don't be afraid to take the lead.
Look 'em up
Do a bit of light research on your date. Not just with their interests, but maybe do some harmless cyber-stalking; what their LinkedIn profile says might make for some interesting conversation. NOTE: Don't actually tell them you have done this. The alarm bells will be audible.
I can't stress how important cleanliness is. It seems obvious that one should jump in the shower before a date, but you'd be surprised how many don't. And even those that do can sometimes forget the basic laws of hygiene. If you're lucky a decent first date may end with a little bit of close contact.
Your teeth need to be scrubbed with a vigour normally reserved for the bathtub and you have to clean behind your ears. Think that sounds obvious? Think again. There aren't enough words to describe the horror of leaning in to sexily nuzzle at someone only to be confronted by the fetid pong of someone who's forgotten to flick a facecloth behind their lugs. I shall never recover. Ever.
Don't dress up
The problem with people who try to dress to impress is that their sartorial efforts often fall flat. Any date worth his or her 'salt' shouldn't care what you're wearing, so why do you? Of course, I am not saying don't make an effort - you must - but that effort has to look well, effortless. Forget worrying over which colour goes with what and whether this brand is cooler than the other. As long as your attire is clean (it MUST be clean), understated (step away from the loud logo T-shirts and gaudy trousers) and suits and fits you nicely, you're well on your way.
Your threads should complement you, not overpower. You want your personality to shine through; attention should not be fixed on your designer labels or pithy T-shirt slogan. You may have a great rack, but don't wear something so tight that you can't breathe or talk. And don't wear dirty, dishevelled shoes or trainers for God's sake. I make a direct correlation between bad shoes and horrific underwear - and will touch neither.
So you made it out the door with your clean ears and spiffing style and you're on your way. But uh oh, traffic's looking bad, or the trains are having their daily mental breakdown. You're going to be late. Tardiness on a date is unfortunate and can set an unpleasant tone for the evening, but sometimes it's unavoidable. The key to lateness etiquette is to keep your date informed - text to let them know you're running late and, importantly, why. If you're stuck on a slow-moving bus or train, there's no reason why you can't start the date chatter before you arrive. Constant contact prevents you from seeming like you don't care and also means your date is less likely to text their friends - or worse, tweet the universe - about how inconsiderate you are.
By the way, running late because you were already out with friends and didn't leave enough time to travel to the date venue is unacceptable. Unless you're a bonafide matinee idol in looks and charm, don't bother. And make sure you arrive sober. There's little worse than being the restrained half of a first date while your suitor slobbers and belches all over you, trying their best to pull a 'sexy face' which actually looks like they're defecating a particularly spiky stool.
There now. You're all good to go. I'm so proud of you. Have fun. Hang on, hang on. Let me see behind those bloody ears...