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5 Great First Date Questions

By eHarmony Staff

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There they sit—you could spot them a mile away. A man and woman face each other across a table at a downtown bistro, looking nervous and awkward. No doubt about it, they’re on their first date.

How do we know it’s their first time out together? All the observable and obvious clues: They are nicely groomed—stylish, but not overdone. There is a stiff formality to the way they sit—no slouching. They scan the room, menu, and table setting, only occasionally making eye contact.

Biggest clue of all: The salad course is punctuated by strained silence and forced small talk. The two pick at their dinner salads, staring down at the leafy mound before them. He seems tongue-tied, she seems self-conscious. Finally, one of them tries to grease the wheels of conversation.

Him: How’s your salad?
Her: Good. And yours?
Him: Yeah, really good.

More excruciating silence ensues.

As would-be romances go, this plane is very slow to leave the gate and get onto the runway. It remains to be seen if it will pick up speed, gain altitude, and soar skyward . . . or if it will lose engine power and sit on the tarmac indefinitely.

Do not let this happen to you! It’s true that first dates can be one of the most nerve-wracking, anxiety-producing situations in our society. Sometimes they lead to burning love; sometimes they go down in flames. The key to having a positive experience is relaxed conversation, and that can be helped along with some well-chosen first-date questions. Before we get to those, let’s review a few general guidelines for dating discourse:

Listen as much or more than you talk. Some people consider themselves skilled communicators because they can talk endlessly. But the ability to speak is only one part of the equation—and not the most important part. The best communication occurs with an even and equal exchange between two people. Think of conversation as a tennis match in which the players lob the ball back and forth. Each person gets a turn—and no one hogs the ball.

Peel the onion, don’t stab it with a paring knife. Getting to know someone new is like peeling an onion one thin layer at the time. It’s a slow and safe process. But some people, overeager to get into deep and meaningful conversation, go too far too fast. They ask personal or sensitive questions that put the other person on the defensive. Should the relationship evolve, there will be plenty of time to get into weighty topics. For now, take it easy.

Don’t dump. If feeling inhibited is a problem for some people, others go to the opposite extreme: they use a date as an opportunity to purge and vent. When a person reveals too much too soon, it can give a false sense of intimacy. In reality, premature or exaggerated revelations are due more to boundary issues, unresolved pain, or self-centeredness than true intimacy.

Genuine interest goes a long way. Maybe your first date questions will lead you to discover that this person is your soul mate—or maybe not. Either way, it’s exciting to be able to get to know another human being and get a peek into his or her world. Great communication starts with being genuinely interested in the individual you’re with and paying close attention to what he/she says. The process begins by providing lots of space for the full expression of information and asking follow-up questions to further draw out the one talking.

With those thoughts in mind, now it’s time to think about specific first date questions.

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Coffin Flies, Corpse-Eating Beetles, and Other Bugs with Gruesome Jobs

From food to forensics, bugs work on our behalf.

VIEW IMAGES

A critically endangered american burying beetle, Nicrophorus americanus.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTO ARK

While some insects spend summer plaguing your picnics, others have more important—and rather creepy—work to do.

Pollinators give us staple foods, of course, but what about the working bugs whose jobs go unsung? We recently learned about several tiny cleaners who toil away in museums and even hospitals, so this week we’re giving kudos to them.

EDUCATION

Skeletons displayed in museums illustrate how animals evolve, move, and protect themselves. In The Skeleton Revealed, Steve Huskey, a biologist at Western Kentucky University, reveals the bare bones of anatomy with the help of larval brown beetles just three-eighths of an inch long.

Once Huskey dissects and dries a specimen, these flesh-eating beetles, common all over North America, “get in every nook and cranny,” without disturbing a single bone.

VIEW IMAGES

The common green bottle fly, Lucilia sericata, is a common blowfly found in most areas of the world, and the most well-known of the numerous green bottle fly species. The maggots (larvae) of the fly are used for maggot therapy.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JOE PETERSBURGER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

“It’s the least destructive way,” to prepare a display skeleton, Huskey says. His beetle colony is two decades old, so cleaning bones is clearly the family business.

FORENSICS

Other bugs are pickier. They only like fresh corpses.

Adult insects come and go around dead bodies but green bottle fly babies, or maggots, “can’t chew,” so they tend to be the first to arrive. They need “moist tissue” from early stages of decomposition, says Jason Byrd, a forensic entomologist at the University of Florida. “Beetle larvae have strong[er] mandibles,” and can take over when tissue dries out.

This staggered presence of insect species around corpses coupled with factors like temperature and location helps forensic entomologists determine “the minimum time,” a body has been dead, helpful information for criminologists, says Byrd. (See video: Body Farm)

Green bottle flies arrive next, producing “sizable egg masses,” within an hour, says Neal Haskell, a forensic entomologist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a private consultant to law enforcement agencies internationally. Then come larger black blowflies, followed by tiny coffin flies. Burying beetles like American carrion beetles arrive next, followed by “skin” or brown beetles.

Their behavior is nuanced and so is the science, but it could be the difference between “life and death or imprisonment,” for someone, “so, you’ve got to get it right,” Haskell says.

VIEW IMAGES

An American carrion beetle, Necrophilia americana, walking on an exposed tree root.

PHOTOGRAPH BY DARLYNE A. MURAWSKI, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

MEDICINE

Those little, corpse-loving green bottle maggots also help with human healing.

Medical grade maggots can be used to remove dead tissue on wounds like diabetic ulcers if they “fail to show signs of healing over the course of four weeks or more,” says Ronald Sherman, physician and founder of Monarch Labs, which sells sterile maggots for this treatment by prescription. (See video: Maggot Medicine)

Maggots have “multiple mechanisms,” to heal wounds says Max Scott, an entomologist at North Carolina State University. They eat dead tissue, stopping when they get to the bits you want to keep, and “actively secrete peptides” and possibly other chemicals “that inhibit bacterial growth.”

Last year Scott co-authored a study showing that maggots can be engineered to produce a protein that promotes human cell growth and wound-healing.

VIEW IMAGES

Beetles work to proccess the carcass of this cobra snake.
PHOTOGRAPH BY STEVE HUSKEY

The recorded history of maggots used in wound care goes back over a century. And while modern medicine brought antibiotics and other advances, the little bugs have been shown to be successful healers.

If they suffer a bit of an image problem (‘few people use ‘maggot’ as a kindness) what if we just call them’ bottle babies?’ Now don’t you want some?

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