Ahh the first date, that teeming pit of awkwardness and insecurity, where expectations and vodka tonics can be pounded at equal speeds. So much can go wrong in the first five minutes that it's hard to even crack open the "Initial Introductions" shell to get to the sticky, oozing center where the "Oh crap, I can't believe I just said that!" moments typically fall.

I'm a firm believer in instant chemistry. Most of the time, either you'll hit it off right away and feel that panicky "God I hope s/he likes me" feeling in your gut, or the little transmitters in your brain will start chemically shrieking that there's no way in God's universe (or anyone else's) you want to be near this person again. (This is assuming you haven't already slept with him/her, and now you're labeling the morning-after breakfast a first date so you can mentally transfer the whole thing from "one night stand" to "people I've dated"—hey, we've all done it).

So assuming you've gotten past the five-minute chemistry test, now we're on to the rest of the date—otherwise known as a gaping maw of openings for cheek-flaming, forehead-slapping embarrassment. I've been with my boyfriend for four years, and I still turn an aged bordeaux thinking of the utterly moronic things I said on our first date. A few general questions to steer clear of:

I checked your Facebook status before I left the house—it still says "Seeking Friendship." Am I supposed to take that as a hint?

So you're adopted? Why didn't your parents want you?

Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?

Are you aware that anal bead removal is one of the most common surgical procedures performed in the ER?

The good news, of course, is that, no matter how nervous, jittery or terrified you may be of looking stupid on a first date, you can be absolutely assured of one thing: your date is far, far more terrified than you are.