The afternoon before a date is like the foundation of a building. Get it right, and the rest seems effortless. Get it wrong, and you end up wishing you'd never started. Preparation is all, you see – your dazzling wit and angelic face won't get you a snog if you had a faceful of garlic for lunch, even on a really good hair day.
Read on for a few more ways to sabotage a date that hasn't even started yet.
1. Conduct a private investigation
Hit your mental back button to a world before Google or Facebook. Pretty much the only way to find out about someone was by talking to them. How crazy is that!
Almost as crazy as assuming that you'd burned all photos of your fat, spotty 14-year-old self. Oops, missed a few. Your friends, “friends”, workmates and long-term unrequited crush are scrolling through them right now.
We digress. Please can we dissuade you from Googling for clues about the person you're seeing later? The temptation may be irresistible if you met online and you're about to meet in person for the first time, but “research” and imagination are a dangerous combination.
Say you come across newly-posted photos of your date and some gorgeous creature in various huggy-kissy-happy holiday poses. Heartbroken, you don't bother turning up to meet them and you refuse to take their calls. You've killed a potential relationship at birth – and all over some six-year-old photos taken during a holiday with their cousin.
2. Skip lunch to keep your tummy flat
Unless you'd planned to consume an entire farmyard animal for lunch and wear a lycra bodysuit for your date, you're the only person who'll notice your “post-lunch bulge.”
However, the startling noise of your stomach being eaten alive by its own digestive juices can be heard by everyone within a 300-yard radius. And if that doesn't destroy your chances, your zombie-like demeanour will. It's hard to be interested or interesting when you've got the blood sugar levels of a fossil in the Sahara. Finally, you'll be plastered on half a glass of wine, which isn't necessarily a good thing.
3. Wake yourself up with a can or three of energy fizz
A tipple of caffeine can be just the ticket before a date: it improves your mood, helps you focus and blows away the cobwebs. However, 200 tipples of caffeine will not give you 200 times the boost.
Your body is a lot cleverer than your head, and it has its own special way of saying “Really? You shouldn't have.” That overdose of energy fizz will make your hands shake, your mouth spew uncontrolled nonsense and your face glow like a baboon's bottom. At least wait until your date is too drunk to notice. Which brings us to…
4. Fill up on Dutch courage
Boozing before a date is even dafter than overdosing on caffeine, not least because dates tend to come with booze attached. If you're aching for a few sips of beer to ease your shyness, can't you at least say “hello” first?
Also be careful if you're having a few after-work drinks before meeting your date. If you turn up smelling of beer and walking at a slight angle, you won't be getting any tonight.
5. Get a haircut en route to meet your date
A date is the last place you want to be when you you've “just stepped out of a salon.” Even if the cut is fine (and there's a big risk that it won't be), all that over-the-top blow-drying and volumising gunk will leave it looking and feeling uncomfortable.
Your companion probably won't notice a thing, but that's not the point. You'll notice it, and it’ll kill your confidence – and confidence is vital to making a good impression.
6. Have a facial
Facials, like haircuts, should be followed by a period of recovery before you're ready to face the world. Prematurely exposed dermal layers are not a good look for you. At best, your freshly-exfoliated skin will be pink and shiny; at worst you'll look like you've grilled your face.
7. Experiment with make-up
With make-up, less is more (this is mainly aimed at women, but men might want to take this on board as well). Make-up works best if you look like you're not wearing any, and too much can be very ageing. Stick to light foundation, mascara and a bit of shading.
Don't believe the hype about false eyelashes – they're great for clubbing, but far too try-hard for the pub.
Men should be particularly cautious with perfume. Aim to smell like a clean person, not like an estate agent.
8. Win a fight with a zip
Well done, you have succeeded in wearing an outfit that's too small for you. For an hour or two, you will bulge. When dessert arrives, the zip will seek revenge by bursting open to reveal a beanbag of flesh with a fetching zigzag imprint.
9. Wear a new outfit
Confidence is the key to looking your best and coming across well, so wear an outfit that you already trust to enhance your good bits and not itch.
It's impossible to know whether you like an outfit (ie, feel good in it) until after you've spent an evening wearing it. Surely you know that by now? Never forget: dressing rooms are a parallel universe in which everything suits you. They are not real.
By the way, this is not the time to experiment with control underwear. Any gains in smoothness will be offset by your inability to walk, talk or breathe properly.
10. Phone your date to check that they're coming
Don't be a berk.