SHE TALKED HIM INTO GETTING A pedicure with her. He convinced her to travel the world in search of tribal masks. All in the name of fun. And romance. Because as Melina Gerosa Bellows sees it, fun is the stuff of romance.
"Fun can be a very powerful aphrodisiac," says Gerosa Bellows, author of the Fun Book for Couples (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $12.95). "It's a great bonding experience for old marrieds, and for couples just starting to date it's a wonderful way to get to know each other."
At least it turned out that way for Gerosa Bellows, 38, and her now-husband, Keith Bellows, 52, whom she met at a book party in Manhattan. Since they lived in different cities–she was an editor at Ladies' Home Journal in New York, he was editor of National Geographic Traveler in Washington–time together was precious. They made the most of it.
She spirited him away for a late-fall weekend of antiquing on Shelter Island in Long Island Sound. Two months later, he hid gorgeously wrapped Christmas presents for her to find all over their hotel room in New York City.
After four years of marriage, fun is still the glue of their relationship. Gerosa Bellows's book of 102 tips is a chronicle of the ways she and Keith celebrate togetherness–they've done almost everything in there at least once.
Like strolling on a golf course late at night ("spooky and exciting"). Or etching their initials in a heart under their kitchen table. Or doing jelly shots at the bar of the Plaza Athénée in Paris. And though Gerosa Bellows's voice is girl-to-girl–with lines like, "Ask him to paint each of your toenails a different color" and "Buy every CD that he doesn't have of his favorite artist"–both men and women will be inspired.
Aside from a few travel-related suggestions–romantic spots to scuba dive and "to-do" lists for Paris, Venice, and New York–nearly all of Gerosa Bellows's tips can be indulged in just about anywhere. It doesn't take much money or planning to dig up some old cassettes from high school, drive to a scenic overlook, and "park" for awhile.
Of course, couples with kids aren't quite as carefree. That was something Gerosa Bellows confronted early on, because Keith has a teenage son from a previous marriage who visits frequently. "But," she says, "we just made him part of the fun. We listened to Harry Potter tapes together and he turned us on to some great Web sites. And he loves hanging out in the kitchen and cooking with us." Her next challenge: Working an infant into the fun equation. She's expecting and due this summer.
Now editor of National Geographic Kids and dividing her time between Capitol Hill and the Eastern Shore, where the couple has homes, Gerosa Bellows rattles off fun things to do in the area. Wander around the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden with paper cups of spiked coffee or watermelon juice, depending on the season. Go to the Washington Opera in black tie (she in slinky black, Keith in a formal Scotsman's kilt)–then stop at the Hawk 'n' Dove for a burger. Hunt for folk art at Eastern Market. Ice skate at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden rink on the Mall. Buy 30 kinds of sausages from Canales Quality Meats at Eastern Market and throw a casual-elegant tasting party with friends.
Is there anything she won't do in the name of fun? "Well, Keith loves camping and my idea of camping is when there's no mint on the pillow." What about him? "I'd love it if he did yoga with me, but he usually resists." But that's where another secret of the successfully married comes in handy: Laugh and let it go.
Melina Gerosa Bellows's adventures with her husband, Keith–such as carving their initials under the kitchen table– are the key to their happy marriage, and the basis of The Fun Book for Couples.