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How to befriend a girl?

From what I've heard people started off as friends first before they dated (like Harry met Sally). I've never had a girlfriend or even dated/asked a girl out. However, there's someone i like and I've talked to her here and there but im so confused on this whole "be friends with her". I know i should get to know her first that way im not some random stranger picking her up or anything. But what really confuses me is do you have to know a girl for 6 months or a year just to date in general? its like "no, you can't date this girl unless she absolutely knows you" as if its a big study test. And even if I did wait that long, some guy would probably ask her out and beat me to it. Im in no hurry or rush or anything but it just feels like avoiding a window of opportunity. Do you have to be best friends too? My brain hurts now lol
How to befriend a girl?
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