It’s funny how the verbs we use for romantic entanglements change over the years. Remember ‘going’ with people? I used to listen to my older sisters gossiping loudly about who had ‘gone’ with whom, and I must say I always found the phrase lacking in descriptive detail. ‘Did you hear the scandal? Kevin went with Sheila last night!’ This confused me no end. Went with? Went where? How? On foot, on a bike, what? And what did they do when they got there? It turned out to mean mere snogging, of course, the type where you’re not sure of their name and you can’t wait for it to be over so you can tell all your mates, even though many of them have been watching the whole thing from a distance of eight feet. The time comes, however, when ‘going with’ just doesn’t cut it any more. Enter ‘going out with’, which sounds more sophisticated and has a longer shelf life too. It more than does the job all through those early days when it differs from ‘going with’ only inasmuch as you do it at regular intervals and you’re almost certain of the other person’s name. And it really comes into its own as you get older, when it suddenly gains the benefit of accuracy. That’s what you do with your significant others in your twenties, after all – you go out places with them. By the time you’re staring down the barrel of thirty, however, you feel silly saying you’re going out with someone, largely because you’re not; you’re staying in with them. Then staying in with them becomes simply staying with them, and that’s that. Going with. Going out with. Staying in with. Staying with. The four stages of, you know, whatever.

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