Chloe, our savvy, space-age advice columnista, has been overwhelmed lately with gobs of letters from girls and guys asking, "How can I tell if s/he likes me?" Since Chloe really hates repeating herself, we thought, "Maybe it would be helpful if we put together a list of stuff that would answer questions like this, stuff that's obvious to some, not so much to others. Stuff that we wish we didn't have to learn from experience (sometimes over and over), but we did. You know, stuff."

So we worked really hard and came up with what we call "Squirtonline Life Lessons". The first two Lessons will be on Dating, and a Lesson on Money Matters is in the works. So without further ado, we present Lesson One: the Dating Pre-Game. We're not convinced that this is a good idea, so tell us what you think!

P.S. If you're looking for a date, try Cupid Junction or eHarmony!

Don't waste time wondering whether he likes you or not. If he calls you and asks you out, he likes you. If he's not responding to your overtures or initiating some of his own, it doesn't matter what his story is - the ending is the same. It took me a long time to learn this simple lesson, but when I did, life became a lot less complicated. Guys, ditto if she keeps telling you she's busy.

Crushes are mostly fantasy. So please don't use them as an excuse not to date other people. I wouldn't have thought it necessary to mention this but I get so many letters from lonely girls who have been fruitlessly pining after the same boy for ages. It hurts when someone doesn't return our feelings, but it's worse not to try to find someone who does.

If you've got a crush, what to do? There's nothing wrong with making the first move. I have suggested to a lot of girls to give it a try, but I know it's not for everyone (including me, actually). If you're already friends, tell him how you feel. If he's in your class, ask for his help afterward. Or just ask him a question. After that it should be easier to talk to him. If you don't see him around very often, you are going to have to figure a way for you two to be in the same place at the same time. For example, find out if he's in any clubs or afterschool activities, and sign up, too. If he's not responding, drop it and move on. Every guy wants to hang out with someone whom he can kick it with - not some giddy high-strung girl who is analyzing his every move. Treat him like you would any other guy, or girl. Show that you respect his opinion and intelligence -- be his friend first.

It bears repeating: don't overanalyze everything. That's a story you're making up yourself which may have nothing to do with reality.

Don't ask your girlfriends to confront your crush. Sure it's easy and fun having them prod him for information, but it does more harm than good. Plus it's lame. Oftentimes your friends like the same guy so they're trying, subconsciously or not, to spoil things for you. It's not how a powerfully righteous girl would handle it.

I don't recommend asking a guy if he likes you. Nobody likes being put on the spot, which means you might not get a true answer. (There are exceptions, like if you've already been intimate. But you should know beforehand. And the answer should be yes.)

You wouldn't give a speech without preparing beforehand; it's the same with approaching someone you find attractive. A little planning can relieve some anxiety. Think of a few things you can talk about so you won't feel so vulnerable -- a few fun facts or a good story. There's nothing wrong with just going up to someone and introducing yourself, but if you don't have anything to say after that, you're going to bomb. If she doesn't know you, it's important to establish some sort of connection or common ground first, to put her at ease. Don't put too much pressure on yourself.

Don't come on too strong.

Be very very careful about dating someone you work with.

Do not date your boss.

Do not pursue or date married men or women, or people who are already in relationships. This is called "poaching." I will make one exception. If you're sure he or she is "the one", if you can't imagine life without her, then you owe it to yourself to let her know how you feel, but only if she is NOT married. Leave the ball in her court.

Always be aware of situations where you might meet people, like at the supermarket. But don't be obsessed about it. You have to have something else going on in your life other than looking for your next boyfriend or girlfriend. Desperation is bad news at any age. Be involved in things; it makes you a more interesting person and expands your opportunities. Plus you'll be too busy to wonder whether this one or that one likes you.

Develop platonic friendships with the opposite sex. It's better to ask a guy for advice about guys.

Take risks. You are more likely to regret what you haven't done than what you have. Reach out to others - don't wait for people to come to you. However, know when to say when. If someone is not reciprocating, call it a day and move on.

To meet girls, go where the girls are. Same with guys. There are tons of guys in stores like The Sports Authority.

Don't pursue someone if her friend is your ulterior motive.

Don't let a guy come between you and your girlfriends.

Here are some tips for overcoming shyness.

In a group sitch, ask shy people questions to get them involved in the conversation. They'll be so grateful to have an excuse to say something, because shy people are usually too intimidated to speak up around folks they don't know very well. Plus, asking questions makes it easy for people to talk about themselves. Guys love that. So do girls. Let's just say that everyone likes to talk about himself. Especially guys.

You can't go wrong if you do more listening than talking. (Listening does not mean waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can chime in with your two bits.) When you're a good listener, people think you're a great conversationalist.

Don't take flirting too seriously. Many people flirt for reasons that may have nothing to do with pursuing a relationship. Sometimes, flirting IS the relationship. And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as everyone is clear on the rules of the game. But if you're flirting to show interest, close the deal. Having said that, here are some flirting tips.

It won't kill you to be nice to people, even if you're not interested in them. Likewise, if you're going to turn someone down, be kind but firm. Just remember that it's a major compliment when someone likes you. And you never know, he or she might have a cute friend, and this way you haven't burned any bridges. Treat others the way you want to be treated. I know this is so simple and obvious, but then why are there so many mean people around?