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How to craft a successful friend date

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What do I wear? Where should we go? What if I get a piece of cilantro stuck in my teeth? When can I call again?

Typical first-date jitters. Except the date’s platonic.

Perhaps you’re just in the market for some new friends. Maybe some have moved out of state or had kids or vanished after getting that strange new boyfriend. The solution? Girl dates. (Sorry, guys, we’ll have to tackle man dates another time.)

Friend dates are a lot like regular dates, even if we don’t have to worry about whether to end the evening with a kiss. In fact, there might be even more pressure when we go out with a lady we’d like to be friends with. Women are, after all, the harshest judges of each other.

When we eliminate all of the physical stuff that can cloud our judgment on romantic dates, all we’re left with is our personalities.

Not to fret, though. We rounded up some advice from ladies-in-the-know on the best way to ask out your #WomanCrush and how to turn that date into a girlfriend.

▪ It’s OK to do a little bit of stalking first – In her upcoming book “All I Know Now,” London-based actress and YouTube star Carrie Hope Fletcher suggests doing “a little bit of light and harmless social-media stalking.”

Though the book is targeted at teens, Fletcher’s advice on making friends can apply to adult women as well. Say you’ve been crushing on a particular lady from afar (or you’ve been set up on a date by mutual friends), “from their profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, you’ll get a general idea of what they’re into, their likes and dislikes and whether you think you would get along,” Fletcher writes.

“Of course everyone projects the best of themselves online and they edit out the morning breath … and that time you threw up because you drank too much,” she explained in an e-mail. So Facebook stalking is more about finding common ground: Maybe you love the same movies. “Or maybe they’ve uploaded pictures from a trip to the Bahamas and you’ve been there too.”

▪ Make goals, make plans – When Lameka Lucas, 31, moved to Washington, D.C., from New York in 2013, she knew barely a soul. Determined to make a life for herself, the publicist for TV One joined MeetUp.com. At each mixer, she gave herself a goal to meet three new people.

“They might be cool, they might not, but I’m just going to put myself out there,” she said.

One of the best ways to get out there is through online groups like MeetUp.com, said Lucas, who now coordinates Beautiful Brown Girls Brunch Club in D.C., which has about 1,600 members.

Lameka helps plan brunches, running groups and community service events for other women looking for new pals. She says the best way to make friends is to find something you want to do “and then open it out to people.” So, if you’ve been dying to go to that pupusa festival next weekend, make the suggestion. “There’s likely one person to say, ‘I’m down,’ ” Lucas said.

▪ Brunch is always a good idea – Say you worked up the nerve to ask out the girl from HR who always seemed so nice or that woman from the opposing kickball team who seemed to take it as seriously as you (read: not). Now what?

“Brunch,” Shannon Edwards says definitively. The 32-year-old government worker is a co-coordinator of a MeetUp group for women in their 20s and 30s in the Washington area. “Especially if it’s endless brunch, because alcohol can definitely loosen people up and calm nerves,” she said. It’s relaxed enough that you can linger if the conversation is great or, on the flip side, you can take off early “and still leave with a full belly.”

▪ A bad first date isn’t always a deal-breaker – Maybe the chemistry wasn’t there or the banter fell flat. With a romantic interest, you’d probably write them off before dessert, let alone the offer of a second date. Not so fast with a girl date.

“It takes most women six to eight interactions before they feel familiar and comfortable and call each other friends,” said Shasta Nelson, founder of friendship-matching site GirlFriendCircles.com.

“It’s very rarely that you’re going to meet somebody where you both think you’re going to be best friends,” Nelson said. Soulmates, it seems, are just as rare in friendships, so follow-up is crucial. Maybe one of you was having an off night; maybe her nervousness made her less funny than normal; maybe you forgot to bring up your shared love of “Magic Mike XXL.”

“Most of us are meeting enough people,” Nelson said. “The problem is most of us aren’t repeating, getting to know those people the second and third time.”

▪ Lock down the second date ASAP – “The most important thing to your success is how quickly you schedule that second date, and then third,” said Nelson. If you wait for the other girl to call, you’ll be waiting a while, especially if she’s established in a place and you’re new in town.

When asking for the second date, she says to be specific. “I always try to recommend a few solid dates rather than ‘sometime soon’ that leaves it open.” The sooner you score that second date, the sooner you’re on your way to scoring a new BFF.

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