Bringing the Romance Back -- Little Things Can Keep Your Love Alive
January 05, 2003
By Peter Genovese
Romance is deader than a wilted week-old rose.
"I've never been romanced before," moaned Jessica Vezza, a 21-year-old saleswoman at Victoria's Secret Beauty at Bridgewater Commons mall. "Romance is dead in my generation. In high school, the definition of romance was getting a girl cards and flowers. What is romantic to me? Take me to dinner and then a Yankees game. Or take me away. Take me to Tahiti."
Romance is stronger than ever.
"Romance is alive, for sure," said Scott B. Williams of Fanwood, who's been married five years. "Why? Because I'm here. That's proof enough."
He stood inside Nancy's Love N Things in Linden, a nice-and-naughty shop stocked with sexy lingerie and novelties -- tiger-print g-strings, black leather bras, frilly French maid outfits and other items. Williams, owner of Aquatic Visions, which makes custom aquariums, was buying his wife, Pam, a black lace bustier for Christmas.
"I believe romance is alive, but you have to work at it," said Melissa Darnay, the self-described "Modern-Day Cupid" and author of "Dating 101: The Instant Cure for Romance Blues."
"With the desire for instant gratification in our everyday lives, romance has fallen by the wayside in recent years," argued Lisa Daily, a syndicated online dating and relationships columnist and the author of "Stop Getting Dumped!" "We are seeing an increase in more traditional courting behavior. Romance, which has always been alive and well in the hearts of women, is staging a comeback."
"Is romance dead? Certainly not, but it certainly can get stale," said Paul Falzone, founder and president of The Right One, the nation's largest personal introduction service.
Dead, alive or somewhere in between -- romance is, at the very least, a challenge in these hectic, stressful times. Job to maintain, mortgage to pay off, kids to take care of -- who has time for candlelight dinners anymore? By the time you put the kids to bed and break out the matches, you're ready to fall asleep.
"Romance is alive -- as long as you don't have kids," said Mike Colalillo, a bartender at the Hilton in East Brunswick who has two young children.
"It's tough to be romantic," Falzone said, "when you have a poopy diaper."
Interviews with "romance experts" and with people in three disparate towns -- Linden, Bridgewater and East Brunswick -- revealed varying opinions of romance's place in today's world, or even what romance means.
"Men and women have different definitions of romance," Daily said. "Women want the hearts and flowers, the romance novel kind of romance. Men, once they bag the chick, it's pretty much over."
"At my age, no one really knows how to romance," Vezza said. "My friend's engaged, and she's in a living hell. He doesn't buy her flowers, he doesn't have a clue how to be romantic."
Leah, a 35-year-old Mendham resident with two children who is about to divorce her husband after 14 years of marriage, says romance has all but disappeared in the lives of her married friends.
"A lot of my friends are unhappy," said Leah, who didn't want her last name used. "They see less and less of their husbands. They overspend for instant gratification."
Tired of that third-rate romance, low-rent rendezvous? Here are ways to spice things up, bring the sizzle back into a relationship, bring passion back into fashion.
Last year, Falzone made a point to give his wife flowers once a month -- on random days. The flowers, from Falzone and his two children, thanked Mom for being a great wife and mother.
"A lot of this is common (sense)," Falzone said. "Women love that. They love the fact that you stopped and thought of them. Romance is like a car -- it needs a tune-up every once in a while."
One piece of advice: Notice the "little things" about your partner. If she uses a certain kind of perfume or body lotion, buy it for her, instead of relying on the lazy man's present -- any old perfume or lotion, or a gift certificate.
"Go for a nice long walk," Falzone said. "Hold her hand. People need to be attended to, people need to be nurtured. When was the last time you were really romantic to your significant other? Step back and let them feel important. You don't have to break the bank to be romantic. Write a card. It doesn't take a million dollars to make someone feel special."
Couples with kids should stage a regular "date night," according to Daily. Get a sitter and go out, even if it's just for dinner and a movie.
"Little gestures help keep a relationship alive," she added. "Holding the door open and saying, 'You look beautiful.' Saying 'You look handsome,' as you get dressed to go out. Clear the snow off her windshield. Time is not an excuse. It takes seconds to give someone a compliment."
Daily (www.stopgettingdumped.com) has been married five years; she and her husband are the parents of a 3-year-old boy.
"He's still romantic," Daily said of her husband. "He took me out for a date last night. We went to a bar, and sat and chatted and flirted. Then we went to a movie."
"Recommit your love" every year, advises Darnay, the Modern-Day Cupid.
"Whether you're married or just in a long-term relationship, it's important to have a yearly celebration of your love," she explained. "Men, if you make a fool of yourself and profess your undying love, you'll be rewarded with months of sweet kisses."
Several times a year, she and her husband go on a short-term "mystery vacation." He gives her an idea what to pack, but doesn't tell her where they're going.
Make "couple time," Darnay added. "This is the most important thing you'll do all week, especially once you have kids. It doesn't matter if you have dinner out or stay home and run around the house naked. The quality time between you and your lover will be the romantic glue that keeps you together when times get tough."
For Aline Zoldbrod, making time for "delicious sexual interludes" may be the definition of romance.
"In the midst of our heavy schedules, with work, staying on top of our financial obligations, children's school, board meetings, volunteer activity -- all of which take time, and most of which are scheduled -- there is very little spontaneous time for romance to occur," said Zoldbrod (www.sexsmart.com), author of "Sex Talk: Uncensored Exercises for Exploring What Really Turns You On."
Her advice: Put romance, or sex, on your schedule. Plan a day and hour for it.
"Romance is very idiosyncratic," Zoldbrod added. "Sitting down and having a deep conversation over a chess game can be very romantic."
Women, she emphasized, want to be listened to. "If women had a choice of going away for a week to a wonderful resort or getting 100 days of being listened to, they would definitely choose the latter," she said.
Even the Internet has gotten into the romance business; one service, PillowMail (www.pillowmail.com), enables you to send a customized fantasy to your intended, using details they supply.
"Judging by our business, romance is very much alive," said Rob Frankel, a brand consultant who started PillowMail a year ago with two partners. More than 50,000 couples have used the service, which is especially popular among military couples, according to Frankel. Surprise, surprise: 62 percent of PillowMails are initiated by women.
"Women have a long history of just hinting around," Frankel explained. "They're not as afraid to be more assertive than they used to be, but they still don't want to come on strong."
Being romantic "doesn't have to come just on holiday," Leah said. "I want it to come along for no reason at all. And if you don't keep dating each other (even while married), you'll lose it."
The most romantic thing she saw recently? "A man grabbed his wife's hand and walked off the soccer field. The last time my husband grabbed my hand, it was on our honeymoon."
"It's not saying 'I love you' every day, but showing it every day," said Amy Callison, a saleswoman at Nancy's Love N Things. "Who cares about jewelry and candy and all that other stuff?"
Her husband may not be the most romantic guy in the world, but the little things he does make her feel special. During a recent snowstorm, she walked from the train station to home, where she was met by her husband. "He undressed me, got me changed, made and served me a huge dinner. I didn't have to do a thing the whole night. If that isn't sweet, I don't know what it is."
When he was courting his future wife, Williams pulled out all the romantic stops. One night, they had dinner at a Japanese restaurant and then took a horse-and-buggy ride to Radio City Music Hall, where Williams had tickets for a concert by Jon Secada, her favorite. "I suffered through it," he recalled, laughing.
His proposal was right out of a Disney movie. In fact, it was at Disney World. As the couple stood one night in front of the Cinderella Castle, with fireworks going off and Jiminy Cricket singing "When You Wish Upon a Star," Williams popped the question.
The imagination should know no bounds when it comes to romance. Don't worry about doing something other people may think silly or stupid; it's what your partner thinks -- and feels -- that's most important. And don't forget -- sometimes the way to a woman's or man's heart is right under your nose.
"Understand my quirks; take the time to notice the little things about me," Jessica Vezza said.
It's unrealistic to expect the head-spinning euphoria of your first few dates or honeymoon to last forever, but that doesn't mean you should give up on stoking the fires of passion and romance.
"If you know anything about life, you know it's going to ebb and tide," Callison said. "Too many people don't want to put in any effort, but want all the gain."
Romance, above all else, is not a short-term, one-shot deal. It shouldn't be turned on and off like a faucet. Nor does it require a large production or a lot of money.
"The fire that burns twice as hot needs more fuel, so it's out quicker," Callison noted. "The fire that burns twice as long needs half as much fuel, and will keep you warm the rest of your life."