Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'No man ever wants to get married. They view it as the end, whereas us girls know it's only the beginning'

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Kate Middleton, Prince William's girlfriend, has been invited by his grandma to spend Christmas with her and the rest of the family at Sandringham. Most girls would do a star jump, call their mum and shout: "They like me!" before buying a jaunty hat from Selfridges and getting on the next train headed to Norfolk. Not Kate. She's a clever little thing and has declined, saying she'll only come for the royal Christmas when she and the prince are engaged to be married.

There are many things a girl shouldn't do before she gets that ring on her finger. I, for instance, always said that I was busy at the weekend till he dropped on one knee and offered up a small velvet box. I thought it was a better idea that he thought I was busy flirting with other boys (I was actually in the bath, on the phone to my girlfriends, wondering why he hadn't asked to be the father of my children yet).

I also never stayed at his house for a full night. Sure, I'd swing by his at midnight in a corset and a pair of thigh-high boots ("What? This old thing? I always wear this on a Wednesday") and let him have a small fiddle, and would then leave in a taxi at 1am. A very small fiddle...

My girlfriend Lucy turned down 12 - yes, 12 - heartfelt pleas for her to move in with her boyfriend until he finally asked her if she fancied tying the knot.

What one has to remember is that no man, or no man that I've ever heard about, actually wants to get married. They view it as the end, whereas us girls know it's only the beginning.

"Once we've walked up that aisle it's all over," my friend Toby admitted in 1999. "I'll have to start putting up shelves. She'll no longer kiss my neck when we're stuck on the motorway, and all that homemade shepherd's pie on a Saturday night will be history."

Toby, of course, turned out to be absolutely right. Exactly four seconds after Grace accepted his emotional marriage proposal (he took her all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower, for goodness sake; she'd have said yes in the chip shop in Shepherd's Bush) she started totally ignoring him. She and her mother began the wedding plans. They dyed chicks white and had her dress made in India.

Then she got pregnant and she and her mates decided what to call it (Lucas for a boy, Ruby for a girl). Then she had Ruby, who is now four, and she hasn't really spoken to Toby since their weekend in Paris. He's building climbing frames and wandering around after her, eating old baby food off the floor and waiting for that kiss on the neck.

Before the man asks, and if the girl wants him to ask, she has to play it a little bit cool. Questions she simply must not ask him under any circumstances include: "Would you ever want to live in the countryside when you turn forty?"; "Would you want me to change my name to yours if, you know..."; and: "Do you promise to try and catch our baby when it pops out of me?" And, of course: "Is it OK if I just leave my hairdryer and box of Tampax in your bathroom?"

Instead, talking and nagging should be kept to an absolute minimum. Football watching should be encouraged (I spent two years shouting "Come on you Gunners!" at a team in a blue strip) and boys' trips to Vegas should be applauded. "Seriously, babe - if you need to go to Spearmint and let your hair down with the guys from work, no problem," is a phrase I used weekly until he asked me to be with him for all of eternity.

Since then, the Rhino and Stringy's are strictly off limits. If he so much as whispers: "I should probably go away with the team from work," I chuck him out of bed and refuse to, um, rub his back.

Unfortunately, as soon as the girl gives up a bit of her life for the man she loves (whether it's no longer going on girls' nights or giving up seeing her family on Christmas Day), the bloke thinks he's got her where he wants her. He makes less effort and he certainly doesn't think he needs to hold her down, give her a diamond ring and beg her with all of his heart to stay with him and cuddle him for all of eternity.

When it comes to getting a man to propose, the rules are: get a job (Kate's just started working at Jigsaw), get your own flat (she's sorted that one out too), and avoid his family gatherings in favour of your own (ditto). So, Kate, go home for 25 December and, when you're sitting across from your mum, wearing a crown made of purple tissue paper and tucking in to the turkey, tell her from me - it's in the bag.

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