I don’t know how strategic it is to write a post for men in a women’s magazine but I figure since it is important information about the female species, maybe it’s not such a bad idea. I want to paint a clear picture of what a first date is like for a lot of women. I want to give men and, depending on your sexual orientation, some women an indication of the combined effort which goes into bringing you the masterpiece that greets you at the door when we go on a date. This is not even about the date itself, I just want to bring you into the fragile space during the build-up to the date. After reading this, if you ever rock up late for a date, if you ever stand someone up, if you ever show up to a date looking like you’ve just finished running a half-marathon, then you should know that there is no hope for you, none whatsoever!

The plans for a date start the minute after we’ve said “Yes, I’d love to”. Mind you, we have already been playing the scene out in our minds so when, in real-life, you finally ask us if we want to go to the movies with you, for us it’s just a matter of sticking to the script and saying: “Yes, I’d love to.”

You can rest assured that we’ll be on the phone with our BFF the minute after we have calmed our excitement. I call my girl who serves as a Quality Assurance Officer at her day job and in some aspects of my life. Together, we analyse the venue and activities of the date, we dissect the appropriate outfit, we go through the hairstyle selections and we settle on the accessories. When all that is done, we get into a discussion about shoes.

This meeting of the minds about the date outfit could be a series of phone calls and several face to face interviews between girls or it could be one long phone call if your network provider gives you free calls between midnight and 5am. It’s not just about choosing a nice outfit; it’s about saying the right things with the outfit. Say ‘Amen’ if you read Steve Harvey’s Think Like a Man, Act Like a Lady.

Sometimes a girl doesn’t have the perfect outfit lying around in her wardrobe. When she doesn’t have one that meets the specifications set out after extensive research and discussion with a friend, she goes out and buys or outsources one from a friend. Of course chances are, if she needs a new dress, she will also need a new pair of shoes to go with it. In the days leading up to date, we are like Danny Jordan ahead of the World Cup and you guys don’t even know it. Even when you call us on the phone, it is a battle to sound cool about the date and not scream out: “OMG, I’m so excited. I can’t wait for Saturday. It’s exactly 3 days, 6 hours and 33 minutes away.”

Girls who have reliable guy friends call on them ahead of the big day to get the latest on what guys are into. One of my boys who knows that I will do everything in stilettos if left to my own devices once told me to forget the stilettos for a first date to the zoo because they will make me look like a catwalk-obsessed animal that should be left at the zoo. I bought flat, black suede sandals.

The hair and nails must be done a day before the date because a two-day old hairstyle can show you the finger if you are not careful.

To make sure that we didn’t miss anything, we go back to our trusted girlfriend and review the status of the plans for the date. At this point, we lock down the time management details. If you are picking me up at 12pm, I will take a hot bath at 9.30am and soak for about an hour to calm the nerves and steam the bags under the eyes. That leaves more than enough time to put the final touches on the nails and tie the dreadlocks. A few minutes will be sufficient for a layer of foundation and a dab of lip gloss. The best advice I’ve heard for a first date is to tone down the make-up so that your date knows exactly what he, or she, is getting. By 11.30am, the masterpiece that is a woman going on a date should be ready for inspection.

The inspection is a detailed procedure where photos fly between friends on WhatsApp. The remaining thirty minutes before you arrive is used for us to take pictures and send them to our Date Planning and Logistics Committee of friends for approval. They will review the outfit ensemble and make final suggestions and upgrades if necessary. Only when the committee has given the stamp of approval can the woman say that she is ready. The last thirty minutes before the date are also useful in case the weather rains on our romantic little parade and forces us to add reinforcements or change the showstopper outfit altogether. This is why we keep a plan B outfit on stand-by.

Please note that on the day before the date, we are really not interested in anything you have to say unless it has a direct impact on the date. We are all nerves and such stuff. Once the outfit is confirmed, the only thing that matters is that nothing will happen to interfere with the date. In other words, we hope that you will not stand us up. And to those who have not had much luck in the dating game, this is probably the worst phase of pre-first date jitters. If you truly care about us, then please be aware that after the chit chat about your job, the soccer game and the radio you put in your car, all we want is for you to casually mention how you can’t wait for the date. And to seal things, just drop the time so we know it’s real and you haven’t forgotten. Say something like: “Thandi, I am so excited about tomorrow, I think I will be there way before 12pm.” and we will know that heaven sent you.

Having read this, let us now take a minute to close our eyes and imagine what it feels like when a woman gets a call at 12.28pm and a voice says: “Listen babe, something came up. Can we do this next week?” Ok, still keeping our eyes closed, let us think about the woman who does not even get a call, instead she tries to call at 1pm and gets voicemail. Is the woman whose date shows up but doesn’t even acknowledge the finished product with a “You look beautiful.” any better? Let us take a minute to think about her too.

As mentioned earlier, the intention of this post is to show you the group effort that goes into preparing for a first outing with someone we like. Hopefully now we will have less cases of women being stood up or being made to wait in their dolled-up glory at some restaurant while her date wakes up late with a headache from heavy partying the night before. These things are just not nice so. Don’t you dare stand me up!