Come hither, my brethren, let us unite once more over our love of all things saucy. As Valentine’s Day is approaching, and is thus undoubtedly on the minds of most women out there, I feel a slight mix-up in the itinerary of intimacy that is called for. That’s right, gentlemen, I am publicly reminding all of you that the 14th is almost here. Panic accordingly.

Today I’ll be ranting at you about dates. Knowledge of how to be successful on dates is of paramount importance! Without it, your future Valentine’s Days will be characterized by watching “Sleepless in Seattle,” surrounded by your 14 cats, each named after a squandered romantic pursuit, regardless of your gender — because everyone loves Meg Ryan.

I love dates. I am a dater. Many girls I know bemoan their lack of dates. They grieve, “Why don’t guys ask me on dates?” Half of the dates I go on, however, I initiate. If I’m interested in someone, then why not? It’s very easy. All you do is go “Hey, we should get lunch sometime,” or “Hey, I’ve been contemplating tearing your clothes off with my teeth, perhaps we should indulge in the preliminary niceties.” Voila! If they say no, it’s no big deal. If you’re worried you’ll ruin a potential friendship or they may not be into you, don’t sweat it. It’s just lunch.

I will be covering three types of dates in this article: 1) my formula for a casual first date

2) dates with people you’ve been seeing a little while and 3) dates for people you’re emotionally invested in.

As far as casual lunch dates go, I have settled upon a simple formula. The rules are as follows:

I get nervous before these dates. If I really don’t know the person that well and am unsure if I will have much to say, I’ll take a shot. A little liquid courage. Now, obviously, don’t get hammered before your date. Slurring at noon is generally frowned upon by the populace (even in I.V.).

Have pocket questions. Nothing is worse than having an awkward lull so I come to a date with about four questions I can pull out if things get suddenly quiet. I try to make my four questions something that will give me a little insight to who they might be. For example, “What did you do this summer?” or “Why did you pick your major?” or “So tell me about the past three girls you’ve seen who’ve all gone mysteriously missing.” These will lead to them talking about their friends, hobbies or dreams. Bam. If it’s flowing well, you won’t have to pull out any more of your questions.

I always plan to have my dates an hour before a commitment, like a class. This way, if it is a bad date or not too interesting, I have something I can leave for. There’s a definitive time limit. If it’s an awesome date, I’ll show my hesitation to leave, or simply blow off class. If it’s super bad, I can leave even earlier to “grab my school supplies.”

Finally, the best way to make a lunch date just a little better is to take it to the beach. No one ever goes to the beach as much as they’d like to and it puts a little less pressure on conversation.

Now, outside of the typical lunch date, there are some other options you can visit. Make her food. This is the best, most simple date to do … even if you suck at cooking. This really sweet delivery boy from work offered to make me dinner and after he said it, he immediately panicked. He had no idea how to cook. He had bought a bottle of wine and informed me that we were going to have pasta alfredo. Leaving the room, I returned to see him dumping clumps of frozen pasta alfredo from Trader Joe’s into a skillet. I didn’t even know it came like that. He promptly blushed, saying, “You weren’t supposed to see this part … I was going to throw the bags away.” I had a ton of fun, because a) he wanted to do something sweet for me, even if he lacked the skill and b) I couldn’t stop giggling the entire time. It came out gray, but I ate it anyway, especially after drinking the wine.

Guys, if you can cook, that’s a major selling point. Invite her over, involve her in the process and you will both enjoy the end product. Girls, as I said, if you’re asking them out, this is a totally viable option for you, too. Sure you may have to suffer through some, “woman, make me a sammech” jokes, but a quick kick to the shin should quiet them.

If you’ve been dating someone with some regularity, Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to raise the bar. Being the hopeless romantics we are, I suppose we want you to take advantage of the one day of the year dedicated to romance and woo us. Woo the shit out of us. Last year, I had an awesome Valentine’s Day date, because my date built the event around what he knew about me. Knowing I had an unhealthy obsession with scary movies, he decided to appeal to that part of me. After dinner, he presented me with the agenda: We were going to drive to the top of a mountain to explore the ruins of Hearst Castle with flashlights and a baseball bat (safety first). Up the windy roads we drove, until civilization was but small dots in the valley. I briefly considered if he was going to murder me, but allowed the procession to venture forth. Sure, we had to look out for mountain lions and terrifying homeless men who were lurking around in the dark, but I loved it.

If she likes hiking, go on a hike together with a picnic. If she likes art, pick up stuff to craft and watch a movie with some takeout or go to an art show. She likes making sculptures of her lover’s head out of gum and erecting shrines in her closet: run.

Also, if you’re not terribly creative, you can always do something simple: Tell her you like her. I know a few girls who are sulking about because the guy they’ve been seeing hasn’t just said it. Sure it’s understood, but people still need to hear it. It’s something small, but it’s the best gift.

Finally, there is the date for the people you are really invested in, maybe someone you love. I was talking to a good friend of mine who’s been with a girl for ages now, and he told me about their first date. This is the coup de grâce of dates. He picks up his lady love, looking sharp and smelling nice. Compliments should be the first thing out of your mouth, especially when they’re honest. If you’re thinking it, say it; it can only make her feel good. He made a reservation at a nice Japanese restaurant, got her whatever she wanted and filled the night with good conversation. After, they scoped out dessert, holding hands. Then, they went to go see “Whose Line is it Anyway?” at the Granada. Once home, he walked her to the door and they shared a short but sweet kiss before he went on his way. He wanted her to know that spending the whole night with her for one 10-second kiss was worth it all.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a date. I probably would have mauled my partner at the end like a rabid badger, but chastity does convey a message.

All in all, sex is fun, but don’t pass up your chance for something better when it comes along. So go, my darlings, channel your inner Don Juan DeMarco and woo the pants off of your emotional targets. Be cheesy, be corny, be sappy. Happy Humping!

Hayley E. would like to remind those without dates that there’s always vodka and Ben n’ Jerry’s Half Baked.