Winter 2013
  Ask Hillie
by Hillie Marshall

Dear Readers,

'Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose'! What wonderful thoughts these lyrics conjure up and I for one feel excited that the festive season is just around the corner.

This Christmas will be a unique one as it will be the last for me and my family in the home I have occupied for 40 years and brought up my children as a single mother! Throughout the good times and the bad my house not only provided us with the stability we needed but also has felt like an emotional rock. My son and daughter are now grown up and no longer live with me so it's time to move on to a new chapter in my life – and to tell the truth I'm really excited! With my daughter and son-in-law coming stay from New York plus my son and his girlfriend, my ex and his wife, his cousin and wife, my sister and my husband Angus, for us it will be a Christmas to remember.

Many of you will be embarking on a round of festive parties and entertainment and these occasions are particularly important for single people. With the majority of us in festive mood, Christmas is an exceptional opportunity to search for a new partner and in my article 'How to secure a date' I offer a few helpful tips.

Wishing you all the best with your Christmas plans and last minute shopping, try not to get stressed and thoroughly enjoy what should be the happiest, friendliest season of the year.

Merry Christmas and have a happy New Year


How to Secure a Date

You see someone you like, what do you do next?

Five questions you may ask yourself
• Should you make the first move?
• What do you do?
• What do you say?
• How do you interpret their body language?
• How do you ask for a date?

Should you make the first move?
The first thing to do is make contact. Chances are they may not have noticed you, so if you wait for them to make the first move you could be waiting for a long time. You will also save valuable time by finding out as soon as possible whether there is mutual attraction. If there isn't, you will have lost nothing by making the first move but instead will have gained time to look for someone else that does find you attractive.

If things should not go well, try not to feel rejected or put off by a rebuff. Everyone I know has faced rejection. Both men and women have anxiety about rejection, so maybe that is why the person you fancy is not approaching you first?

Rejection is a fact of life; it is how you cope with it that is important.

One friend of mine still shudders when he remembers a night at his local nightclub. He saw a girl he thought was gorgeous, plucked up courage and squeezed past a line of ten of her girlfriends all sitting close together to ask her for a dance. He asked her and she said 'No!' and turned away. He then had to turn round and squeeze past the ten girlfriends who were by now all looking at him with curiosity and suspicion and he retreated to the bar. He felt humiliated, rejected and wanted to leave, but I gather he stayed and after a few pints felt better.

What he now realises is that there could have been a number of reasons why this girl turned him down. She might have been expecting a jealous boyfriend to arrive any minute; she could have been married; maybe she felt ill; maybe it was the wrong time of the month; maybe she'd broken the heel of one of her shoes; or maybe she was just unpleasant and bad mannered and therefore he was better off without her!

However much we want someone we find attractive to like us, it isn't always possible because we all have different tastes and cannot be expected to fancy the world in general. If you are rejected try not to view it as a personal insult, just bear in mind that the real reason probably has nothing to do with you at all. Mentally shrug your shoulders and move on.

Traditionally, men are expected to make the first move and women to wait passively to be won over. However, research has shown that in two-thirds of all meetings it is women who, in a subtle way, engineered them. Also in the majority of cases, the men they lured were convinced that they had made the first move and were proud of their achievement!

Most importantly, if you want someone to approach you, be approachable and easy to talk to. If you are a fun, relaxed and caring person and you are happy with yourself and your lot in life then people, almost certainly, will be drawn to you like a magnet.

What do you do to make contact?
Five ways to make contact

• Friends
• Smiling
• Eyes

If you have the advantage of knowing a mutual friend you can get them to introduce you. Most people, especially women, will feel more comfortable and relaxed when they are approached by someone who has been vetted rather than by a complete stranger.

If you are not fortunate enough to be introduced by someone else, sometimes the simplest and easiest way to make contact is just to smile. Few people can resist a genuine friendly smile; especially one full of admiration, and it usually results in a friendly smile back. Your smile has let them know that you are interested and find them attractive, and you will be able to tell by the way they smile back at you whether they are returning the compliment. If their smile is a brief one showing no emotion and they immediately turn their attention elsewhere, you would be better off to turn your attentions elsewhere. However, if their smile is brief but they blush, look coy or embarrassed, or if they return a beaming I'm so pleased you like me too smile, you could be on a winning ticket.


Eye contact is a powerful way of getting someone's attention, especially the five second gaze and smile. The reaction is usually instantaneous and they may well approach you. If it results in a glare you've lost nothing except five seconds of your time.

What do you say?
Having made contact you need to open up a conversation and there is no point in agonising over what you should say - anything will do, even hello will do to get the dialogue going. Imagine that the other person is more nervous than you are and try to put them at their ease. A word of warning here - if you feel you need an alcoholic drink to give you Dutch courage then have one, but only have just enough to loosen your inhibitions. Few people like to be chatted up by someone who has had one too many. If you feel you need chat-up lines to get you going make sure they are simple, or outrageous enough to make him/her laugh. However, be warned, they could make the recipient cringe than open up to your advance!
Some sample chat-up lines
• Let's skip the awkward beginning and pretend we've known each other for a while. So how's your Mum?
• Are your legs tired? You've been running through my mind all day.
• Hi. I'm on a computer date tonight but the computer hasn't shown up. Would you like to join me instead?
• Believe me, I've tried to come up with an original chat-up line, but it's really difficult. Now that I' m already talking to you though, I might as well carry on!
• I've never chatted anybody up before. Will you teach me?
• Please talk to me so that girl/man over there will leave me alone.
• You probably think that I'm mad coming up to you like this, but I have this strange urge to buy you a drink.
• Nobody I know can tell me who you are, but I'm sure I've seen you before.
• My friends said that you would definitely turn me down if I asked you for a drink. Help me prove them wrong?
• Would you accept my last Rollo? (make sure you have one!)
• Umpteen people must have told you this, but you're very beautiful.
• What would you do if you ever got chatted up by a woman?

However, sometimes it's not what you say but the way that you say it. I remember at one of my Dinner Dates dinner parties, a female guest was approached by the waiter who said 'Horseradish, madam?' in such a sexy voice that she was completely hooked. She had eyes for no one except this man all night and I gather they are living blissfully together now.

General conversation guidelines
• Be a good listener.
• Avoid recounting your life history.
• Silence is seldom golden.
• Be amusing without going over the top.
• Being dismissive or a people pleaser will rarely impress.
• Keep a sense of humour.
• Be positive.
• Being too forceful can be a turn off.

Be a good listener

Always show interest in the person you are talking to and be a good listener. Try to remember what they tell you as it's unflattering if you repeat a question later in the conversation that they have already answered; your apparent disinterest in what they have been saying could make them disinterested in you. People like to talk about themselves and are flattered when others are interested by what they say.

Avoid recounting your life history
Try not to be someone who nervously talks non stop about themselves because they feel they have to keep the conversation going at all costs; you may find you have nothing left to talk about at a future date.

It is always better to keep some things about you in reserve.
Silence is seldom golden

Try not to be silent to the extent that it seems you have nothing of interest to say about yourself. Also, if the other person lands up doing all the talking they might get tired and bored and run out of conversation.

Be amusing without going over the top
It is not a good idea to flatter excessively or deliberately insult to make you appear clever, but on the other hand do try to show some spark of an interesting character.

Being dismissive or a people pleaser will rarely impress
Even if you think it is, avoid dismissing anything that the other person talks about as being trivial as you will upset them and hurt their feelings. At the same time don't be a people pleaser and pander to everything they say in an obsequious way. An old colleague of mine had an annoying habit of making a statement about something and then when the person he wanted to impress voiced the opposite opinion, he immediately backtracked to fit in with them.

Keep a sense of humour
A sense of humour is essential. Everyone likes to laugh and it helps break down barriers and relaxes people. The ability to laugh and generate laughter in others is possibly one of the greatest attributes anyone could ever hope to acquire.

Be positive
Be positive in yourself and what you say. Try to imagine a positive outcome and you will attract it like a magnet. A negative and complaining attitude is a complete turn off. Don't be someone who moans about others or pulls their ex to pieces. Try not to talk about your problems because everyone has enough of their own without needing yours to add to them.

Being too forceful can be a turn off
It's good to know what you want because you need to grab every opportunity to persuade your potential Date. However, try not to force your attentions on someone, because you might frighten them away by pressurised.

Interpreting Body Language

Six areas to observe
• Eyes
• Head
• Mouth
• Hands
• Torso
• Voice

Eyes can reveal a great deal. The Victorians used to say that the eyes are the mirror of your soul. You may be able to define whether there's spark of chemistry by looking into the other person's eyes. Constant eye contact with you means that they are interested in what you are saying; if they are gazing at you with admiration and don't seem to be in a hurry to leave, you are doing well. Constantly looking you up and down is another positive sign. However if you receive a glare, or the eyes are looking everywhere except at you, don't pin your hopes on this one. Drooping eyes and falling asleep are a negative sign!

A head held high with a bright facial expression probably indicates interest; someone who is interested in you will be alert and focused on what you are saying and doing. However, if their head starts rolling to one side or they give a vehement shake of the head to wake themselves up, things are definitely not going well and it might be time to re-assess your conversational skills!

A relaxed, wide and lasting smile is encouraging, whilst a frown is not. A quick tight smile every time the other person realises they have not been paying attention, or hidden yawns are also not encouraging. On the other hand if you receive an unexpected kiss you could be home and dry.

A limp handshake implies disinterest whilst a firm lingering handshake implies the opposite. Wringing of hands or excessive fidgeting implies desperation to leave. Hands kept in pockets may demonstrate unwillingness for physical contact. Hands that touch you are an encouraging sign.

If someone has an open stance and outstretched arms, they are open to your advances and are not protecting their body space. If they sit tightly with their arms crossed they are ill at ease and it will be difficult to get close to them. Someone who sits sideways on instead of facing you may be hiding part of himself or herself; belongings such as a handbag or briefcase placed between you probably mean a defense of their personal space. Fidgeting of any part of the torso and constant crossing of legs could indicate boredom. Of course if they walk away don't bother to follow!

The voice is very indicative of whether things are going well or not. Does it sound bored, or does it sound enthusiastic? Laughter is an excellent sign.
Asking for a Date

Once you feel that your potential is interested in you, asking for a date is not nearly as daunting a task as it may seem at first. Try not to be desperate; be relaxed without exerting any pressure.

Four suggested lines to ask for a date
• Would you fancy going out to dinner with me next week?
• Maybe we could have a drink sometime?
• May I use your pen? I'd like to give you my number and I hope you will call soon.
• I'd love to see you again. Would you like to see me?

Try to remember what interests or hobbies they have and suggest a date, which would fit the bill.

Four suggested lines referring to interests
• Perhaps you would be interested in going out one night to see a film?
• I've been given a couple of tickets for .... concert/play on Saturday, would you like to come?
• Would you like to play tennis/golf etc. with me next ....?
• Let's go to this jive dance class I've been told about next week?

If you are not too sure of your ground or if you feel the other person is slightly nervous, a less threatening way of asking someone out on a date is to suggest a meeting with other people.

Four less threatening lines to ask for a date
• Would you and your friend like to meet up with me and some of my friends for a drink/at a club on Friday?
• Some friends have invited me to a dinner party next.... would you like to come with me?
• A bunch of us are going to.... would you like to come too?
• It's my birthday next.... and I'm having a party for friends. Would you like to come?

Remember that meeting a large number of your friends may be extremely daunting for your prospective Date. To encourage them to come along make the offer as informal as you can and suggest they bring along a friend or two so they won't feel intimidated by a whole bunch of new faces.

Arranging the Date

Having achieved an agreement to go out on a date, try to make a firm commitment as to when this will be. Once you know when you are meeting, arrange what you are doing and where. Try to ascertain what your Date's preferences would be, but also give a few suggestions yourself. Try to suggest a public meeting place to give your Date a sense of security as they do not know you well enough yet. Try to avoid offering an invitation for a cosy night in at your place and avoid accepting such an invitation. If you have a favourite restaurant that would be ideal or have heard a certain event has had rave revues, throw these ideas into the melting pot. When you have decided what the date will be, fix a time you can call (preferably the next day) to finalise arrangements. For women it's more acceptable to meet at the event. Once all the arrangements have been made avoid any more contact such as phone calls until your meeting as it's best not to overwhelm. However, always make sure you both have a contact number to ring at the last moment should anything untoward happen that might make you late or unable to attend.

Good Luck!


Your chance to get your worries off your chest
Whether it's marriage guidance, relationship advice, workplace or career difficulties, or family problems I'm here to help. A problem shared is a problem halved, so if something is getting you down or troubling you please email me at [email protected]

Dear Hillie
My girlfriend's parents don't approve of me socially as my father used to be their chauffeur. Although they're polite, they are false and I am made to feel unwelcome. This is very hard for my girlfriend as she feels torn between her parents and me and we always end up arguing about them. We love each other very much but all this is putting a strain on our relationship. What can I do?

Hillie says:
There is not a lot you can do except give your girlfriend all the love and support you can and don't take the frustrations you have with her parents' behaviour out on her with fruitless arguments. For whatever reasons her parents disapprove and may not like you. So what? If you are happy together that's all that matters. Try to keep your visits to her parents' house to a minimum and when you are with them be as pleasant as possible for your girlfriend's sake. If you two stay strong and committed to each other, one day they might even change their minds!

Dear Hillie
When my daughter was 16 she said she hated men and would never marry however on her 17th birthday she came home and announced she was pregnant! Eventually after days and nights of soul searching and late night discussions with me, she chose to have an abortion. However, since the termination she blames me for 'making her get rid of the baby'; she no longer talks to me and wants to leave home. I'm at my wits end; she lost her baby and it seems I'm losing my daughter. Please help?

Hillie says:
Many women go through enormous feelings of guilt and suffer depression after an abortion. It seems your daughter finds it hard to take responsibility for her decision and has to blame someone else – you! During those "days and nights of soul searching and late night discussions" with you, you tried to give her advice. However you daughter has a mind of her own and made her own decision. She definitely needs help and I advise you to take her to your local GP as soon as possible so that he can refer her on for much needed counseling. Try to be patient and supportive and I'm sure that in time she'll come back to you.

Dear Hillie
My boyfriend Mick left me left me when our baby girl was just 7 months old. We were living on my salary until I went on maternity leave, as Mick was an art student. Then he went to work for a while but in the end said he felt 'trapped' and needed to pursue his artistic career. Now he lives on the dole and gives us just a few pounds a week, even though I'm sure he is earning cash from selling his paintings, yet he expects frequent access to our baby. Now I'm working all hours, relying on my mother or sister to babysit and I see no reason to disrupt our routines to accommodate Mick's erratic timetable if he's not prepared to support his child. What are my rights?

Hillie says:
If Mick hasn't got a court order entitling him to see his child you are doing nothing wrong by preventing him from seeing his daughter. However it's likely he could get such an order and therefore it might be best to come to an agreement to definite access times. Then if he has to cancel any of these times and you can't alter your commitments, it's his hard luck. I also think it's only fair on your daughter to allow her to get to know her father and spend time with him. She might resent you in later years if you don't.

Hillie Marshall
Hillie began her working career as a radiographer and then started in show business as a singer and actress, eventually being theatre producer for her company Edwardians Unlimited. Following her divorce in 1989 and with two young children to bring up, she founded Dinner Dates, the social events and holiday Company for single people. Today Dinner Dates is the UK’s longest established company of its kind with over 17,000 members nationwide. The phenomenal success of Dinner Dates for singles gave Hillie the idea of a social events company for couples, so in 2007, she set up Dinner With Friends, the UK’s first couples only dining club. In July 2011 she sold both companies.

Not only is Hillie a successful business entrepreneur, her experience with people has been put to good use and, as both an Agony Aunt through the internet and in magazines, she offers advice and a sympathetic ear to thousands, making sense of personal and relationship problems.

Hillie is an accomplished author and has written three successful books on relationships. She has given relationship advice on numerous TV and Radio shows such as GMTV, Richard and Judy, The Big Breakfast, Esther Rantzen, Kilroy, The Vanessa Show, The Time The Place, Carlton’s After 5 and was ‘Dr Date’ for LBC.

She has two children Nicola (32) and Jamie (29) and lives in Chiswick with her husband Angus.

You can e-mail Hillie at: [email protected]
Her books: 'The Good Dating Guide', 'Hillie Marshall's Guide to Successful Relationships' and 'Agonise with Hillie' can be bought on line at:

Words copyright: Hillie Marshall 2013

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