Sometimes it makes sense to run before you can walk, so last weekend my boyfriend and I thrashed out the terms of our divorce. "If it was your fault, I'd keep the house and kids," he insisted. "But I'd be their mother," I countered, enjoying the fact that arguing in the conditional tense means you're pretty much unbeatable. (Unfortunately it means the other party is also unbeatable, but there's nevertheless a brilliant sense of righteousness that comes from putting "would" in front of any given verb.) "They would need me to look after them."
"I'd look after them just fine!" he shouted, wounded, over a plate of Nando's conspicuously empty of any vegetables. I pointed this out. "But you wouldn't even let them put a magazine on the table without a coaster!" he spluttered. Which is patently untrue. The cleaning obsession he is referring to comes from my once asking him to clean the remote control with a face wipe as it was sticky with takeaway sauce.
Still, there was undoubtedly a frisson to the conversation, especially without mentioning any hypothetical wedding. It felt like we could do anything and it would all be OK, because, if it didn't work out, we could just get divorced.
I suddenly understood why the divorce lawyer Fiona Shackleton was made a peer last week. She represents infinite opportunity for any burgeoning personal life, and Tories love a self-made, "anything can happen" sort of outlook. Fiona Shackleton is the conditional personified.
Later that evening, we went for dinner with some friends at the sort of restaurant that people refer to as "authentic" because they think it sounds xenophobic to call it "weird". My boyfriend and I zealously employed the same conditional logic we'd learnt earlier and decided to order adventurously. Half-an-hour later, the table was littered with dishes piled high with things we didn't much like. Including a platter of frogs' legs.
"We can't just leave them," my boyfriend said anxiously. So we troubled the waitress for some Tupperware and piled the tiny limbs into it. "We could give them to a homeless person," one of our party suggested. But would you tell them it was frog, or just pretend it was chicken? In the end, we left the box outside a bar and, when we walked past it on our way home, it had gone.
You see, sometimes running before you can walk is a bad idea. We should have just ordered chips and gravy, rather than assuming we were potent gourmands. It's the same with getting hypothetically married and divorced – it's the children and amphibians that suffer the most.