If you haven't wasted your short-term memory on other things, you may remember last week's tale of my friend who was cursing his ineptitude at failing to ask for a girl's phone number after a flirtatious encounter on the street.
Well, he decided to put up some A5 posters around the area in a bold, if heartwarming, attempt to find her, but unfortunately some frenzied celebrity tweeting saw the world's media run with the story as a feel-good alternative to economic Armageddon. This transformed one small act of romance into something resembling a fully resourced manhunt involving Interpol, teams of sniffer dogs and the Coastguard. My friend's distress was compounded, as he was suddenly made to look way, way too keen.
Needless to say, the girl never emailed him, probably vowing to remain shut in her basement for a year while subsisting on tinned fruit.
Matching your respective levels of keenness in the initial stages of a liaison is critical, and also bloody difficult, as everyone is generally pretending to be much less keen than they actually are. I've attempted to strike a number of blows against the overrated act of "playing it cool" in the past few months, such as writing a letter to a girl by hand, scanning it and sending it via email as a JPG file, rather than just writing an email. Romantic, huh? (No, not really.)
A week later she replied saying that yes, we should go for a drink "with the gang", which effectively meant: "I agree to meet you, but only in the presence of people who will come to my rescue." (Or maybe she was just playing it cool.)
"Show someone you care," runs the traditional advice, but for God's sake don't: they might end up thinking that you care.
And if you send flowers, I tell you, it'll look very much as if you intended to send flowers. Disaster. So I'm hoping my friend casually bumps into this girl he failed to find, giving him the chance to play it cool and pretend the poster thing never happened. Then, six months into their successful relationship, he can show her the press cuttings from last week, recount the amusing anecdote and get dumped for having previously been too keen.
The lesson: avoid bold statements of affection and dwell in some emotionless no-man's land. It's a lot safer.