"So, the big day - your first date ever, organised with huge daring and logistical difficulty given that you live 5 miles away in a boarding-school and she lives in Ipswich. And this date is not with Sunker's Mate who lives in Chelmo, but with a stunning girl who danced in an opera and makes you feel weak at the knees from 30 metres - and that's without being close enough to smell her and see the way her lips move and her eyes stare into yours. Unless you want to feel faint and stammer uselessly you need to prepare."
"Second, what's the WORST advice anyone can give you?"
"Be yourself." That is sod all use. That would mean turning up ill-prepared, nervous, having no idea what to say or do and looking like a frightened rabbit (see above). No, you need to prepare. In a sense, you CAN 'be yourself', but only if you actually CHANGE who you ARE! It helps to compare this to either a military campaign or a 1st XV match against Wymondham. In both cases one needs to analyse one's own and the enemy's strengths and weaknesses - and adapt accordingly. And as in both fields it is essential to prepare some PLOYS."
Yes, Taffy loved those, didn't he - and we used them to good effect."
"But isn't that a bit sneaky?"
"Believe me, a bit of sneakiness will be essential to make this work! Stop obsessing. The first thing is to decide what to say when you meet her. What about:
"Hi. You look nice." or if you feel a bit more adventurous. "WOW, you dressed up for me!" The latter needs some practice and confidence to pull off convincingly (which is where your mirror comes into play) but has the triple whammy of being a compliment, a sign that you have a sense of humour AND that are brave enough to deploy it.
And of course you need some other questions prepared, since a conversation depends on questions. Possibilities are:
"How are you?"
"Shall we go for a stroll?"
"Do you fancy an ice-cream?"
The last one is especially good as you can buy it for her, present it and enjoy eating it with her - and its purchase opens the way to lots more conversation such as "What flavour would you like?" and ensuing discussion about flavours, favourite fruits and so on. The thing is you HAVE to keep talking - not an incessant monologue of course - let HER talk if she says something; YOU talk when she stops. If she answers one of your questions then you LISTEN very carefully and FOLLOW her lead in the conversation. That way she thinks you are interested in her as a person (which of course should be true, but is perhaps not the most prominent thing on your mind at this precise moment.)"
"OK. That all seems to make sense; I just hope I can remember it all!"
Now comes the time to say "Goodbye". Very important at this stage is to stand fairly close but not intrusively, and LOOK HER IN THE EYES as you say: "So, is this Goodbye or Arrivederci?" with a light laugh. Then you pause - and it will be obvious whether she wants you to kiss her. In my experience it is always obvious, and if it is obvious that she doesn't then she will move just that teensy bit away from you so that a kiss would require an exaggerated arching of the neck or a definite stumble forward - and the smiles will be a little bit forced. Trust me - you'll know.
"But I like it! Nobody else has a coat like this."
"And you haven't wondered why? I'm afraid it looks like something my Grandad picked up at a charity shop."
"Maybe I won't take an overcoat - just my blazer?"
"Nah - you need a coat for another ploy; that way if it starts raining you can whip it off and put it round her shoulders."
"But she might have an umbrella!"
"There you go again - negative thinking. You need the OPPOSITE. She MIGHT have an umbrella but she might NOT. And in any case, you can practise whipping off the coat so you get it over her shoulders faster than she could ever deploy an umbrella. However, if you bottle or fumble it, sharing an umbrella is also good; it allows you to be close without seeming to be pushy. In fact, hope for rain; it's a win-win situation as you scuttle for the nearest bush to shelter under .....
GOOD LUCK! And don't forget, HALF the battle is already won. She KNOWS what you look like. You've exchanged letters and phone calls. She's AGREED to a date. You are not starting from zero. And remember this: "Faint heart never won fair lady". Don't be apologetic about how wet and useless you are. You may THINK you are wet and useless. All your MATES might think you are wet and useless. Even I might think you are wet and useless - but YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK. THINK POSITIVE. YOU CAN DO THIS!
And hold this thought: she has an initial attraction to you otherwise she wouldn't BE there in the first place - so you have everything to play for. GO FOR IT!"