The Nitty Gritty

I slammed my hand down on the counter so hard my palms were bright red and stinging. He took a step back indicating I’d frightened him. Little me. I had tried to take the dog out, to go for a walk and cool my Italiano temper, but of course the fucking elevator wouldn’t work. Stairs? he asked when I came back in the door, defeated. In truth, I didn’t even think to take the stairs. My legs were sore, and we live on the 12th floor. Instead, I came back home, started screaming, and slammed my tiny paws on the table. Eventually, we agreed to go to bed mad, and Mia never peed.

This is not how I thought the greatest love of my life would go, I thought as rolled over and fell asleep.

All I really ever wanted was an amazing story. A run into his arms, lifts me up and kisses me, sunsets and shit like that kind of story. A movie. I really wanted a movie. I realized early on that movies don’t just happen on their own. If I wanted a romantic drama, I was going to have to create a romantic drama. Easy enough. In creating the type of romance I would want to watch, I had to create a few dramatic situations. I had to take things a little too far. Give into things that from the outside looking in seemed borderline insane. Extend myself. Hence why I flew my senior prom date in town for the occasion – the excitement, the anticipation. The airport pickup outfit was almost as important as the actual prom dress. And I was just seventeen.

What followed was an entire decade of trying to create the perfect story. Sure I had a few creative lulls when I was in a committed four year relationship and during my graduate school finals, but most of the time I was a dramatic dater. I remember running through the rain into my French boyfriend’s arms. There was that racecar driver in Monaco. And the time I threw my boyfriend’s pants out the window. Was it really shocking then that I ended up breaking up with and getting back together with my ex boyfriend five and almost six times? Isn’t that called the Law of Attraction? I was sure that if I endured so much heartache, there must be an amazing lift-you-in-the-sky kind of moment followed by immediate fairytale bliss. There must be. There has to be…

Well, there’s not. handhold

My boyfriend does come home from work and on an occasion lift me up. But I’m much heavier than a Disney princess, so the effect isn’t really the same. And while I love those moments, those are just a few amongst a myriad of lots of other moments. Real moments that make up what my therapist calls “the nitty gritty.” Love, real love, is not always rainbows and sunshine. When you strip away the romantic vacation and Michelin-worthy meals, you get the real relationship. And the real relationship is literally terrifying.

Most days are normal days. Not exciting. Not fighting. He goes to his hockey game. I go to yoga. We talk about work and talk about work and talk about work. Those days are okay. Then there are selfish screaming days where I slam my hands on the table. Days when one of has to take a walk. Walks that don’t work and nights we go to sleep angry because it feels unsettlable. Not a lot of nights, but it happens. (Whoever said never go to bed angry was never in a relationship with another Italian pitta.) In the morning he pulls back the shower curtain and says it’s me. And I say no it’s me. And for the ten seconds of silence that I stare at water dripping off his perfect chest and abs it doesn’t really matter who it is. Then those ten seconds pass. Fine it’s you, I say back and walk out of the bathroom.

The nitty gritty doesn’t happen in movies because in the nitty gritty there is no clear climax or resolution. The nitty gritty is a journey to an unknown destination. Embarking on a path not knowing where it will lead or if you will ever even reach a destination. Going on said journey involves exposing yourself completely to someone, raw vulnerability, reflection and patience. Like a ton of patience with absolutely no guarantee that you will ever ride romantically off into the sunset. But in the nitty gritty commitment helps you solider on. Commitment fuels your hope. So here’s hoping.

Emma Dinzebach

The Safe Side of Love

There was underwear coming out of the credenza. Like if you sat on the sofa and looked at the little slit in the drawer of my mid-century modern credenza, you could see a 2xist label. Should’ve been a lululemon label. I need to buy him new underwear, I thought as I walked over and shoved the underwear further in. I sat back down and stared at the drawers that aren’t meant for unmentionables but for extra candles and the Moroccan tajine where I keep loose change in. Something must be done. The man needed more space. What had been all mine could remain mine or I could lovingly accept that this is what we are doing and make some damn space. Stare at boxers in a credenza or give up a night of Scandal in leiu of desperately needed reorganization? Was I in or was I out?

I lit a candle and put on some music -cleaning music. I rearranged the closet shelves by shoving my boxes of stationary and basket of sunglasses next to Mia’s dog toys. I threw out a bin of never-used iPhone cords. I rid two drawers of excess, useless stuff and made a formal boxer area. Next, I tackled the closet. I took out my bike, box of unworn winter shoes and squeezed my dresses and coats to one half of the closet so my handsome boyfriend could hang his belongings. I admired my work. Not exactly enough, but enough for now, I thought. Exactly three months from our second date, I eagerly waited for him to get home to show him the fruits of my labor. I guess I live here now, he said. It seems that you do.


I never liked the kind of guy who played on the safe side of love. The kind of guys who never tell you what they feel or open up. The ones who always keep you guessing. I dated them because in my hyper-Type A social circle these kind of men abound. Had I stuck to the creative, venturer-of-the-spirit type maybe I’d have had more luck finding a risk-taking lover worth writing about, but the strife and emotional torment that accompany the arts never suited me much. I can’t stand the unpredictability – the schedule, the employment ebb and flow, they have to call you back later because they are “using their imagination.” On the other hand is a lot of repressed, uptight men weary to predict how they’ll feel next week. One Ferragamo toe holding the door open just a crack. And everyone in between was a total bore.

On our second date my boyfriend asked me if I wanted to go to Yellowstone with him and stay in a cabin and find wolves. Is there running water? I asked. Yeah, I’m pretty sure there is running water, he said. Okay, then I can go. Six weeks later he moved into my apartment. Sure, it was largely circumstantial, but he could have subletted or gotten an Air B&B or extended his lease. There are many things he could have done, but he actually wanted to spend all of his time with me. And I with him. Was it a sure thing? Of course not. Nothing is a sure thing. But if we didn’t take the risk, how could we reap the reward?

Calculated risk of course. We weren’t buying a beach home or opening a bank account. But after six weeks and one lovely Caribbean vacation, we decided it was stupid for him to get a new apartment when he would just be at my apartment all the time anyway. With several other unknowns, we decided to throw the safe side of love out the window and sieze the day. What started as a couple weeks turned into, “My boyfriend lives with me.” which morphed into “We live together.” Mi casa es su casa. Or as my mom says, Mi casa is your house.

Last week he sent me an article on taking risks in love. At the end, Arthur Brooks writes, “Courage means feeling the fear of rejection and loss but pursuing love anyway.” We had a few fears. Risky love is not for the faint of heart. But playing it safe doesn’t appeal to us. This by-the-book, cookie cutter kind of love is not a story I’m interested in telling. Never has been. Learning how to share and compromise and oh my god, how to properly fight in a studio apartment is like skipping a grade. Actually, it’s like skipping all of middle school. You have to grow up faster than you should, but you can forever reassure yourself that you are gifted. So there: we are gifted.

Either that or extraordinarily insane.

Emma Dinzebach


Just Write

Last week I received a message from a woman I used to write for asking if I would be interested in writing a relationship column. She said I immediately popped into her head when she thought about adding the column. I was her first choice. Honored and excited, I texted my boyfriend telling him the news.

After a full workday, I nearly forgot about the proposition until later that night when he brought it up. Isn’t it something we should discuss? he asked candidly. Why? I snapped defensively. Well because relationship advice comes from your relationship – at least some of the time – and I’m half of the relationship. I huffed. I don’t think this conversation is relevant until it’s actually relevant, I said purposefully emphasizing the actually like he was a paranoid hypotheticalist. I didn’t feel like having this conversation for the five hundredth time in my life.

But I had to. Because when you lace the internet with intimate vulnerability, it affects other people. And some of those other people I want to protect. I don’t want my boyfriend to be uneasy about or wary of my deepest passion. I want him to be confident in my ability to intricately censor that which needs censorship. Unfortunately, my ego wasn’t so quick to back down. I do what I want! I said back. Of course you do, he replied calmly. That isn’t the point.

acfjacketWhat is the point then? I asked. Irritated. Impatient. Irrational.

I love you, he said disarmingly. I love you because you are an impassioned creator, not despite it. And since your selected genre effects me, I want to be part of it. Not to stifle you. Not to weigh you down. But to ensure you are thoughtful as well as provocative. (Well, he didn’t say the word provocative, but you get the picture.) I support your writing goals, and first and foremost, I want you to write whatever you want. (He did say he wanted me write whatever  I want.) I will adapt, but we may need some discussions along the way.

Frankly, I didn’t buy it. I said I understood and agreed to pacify the conversation, but in my heart, I just didn’t buy it. Write whatever I wanted? Bullshit. He didn’t want me to write whatever I wanted. He wanted to me write whatever I wanted as long as it wasn’t something he didn’t want me to write. I’ve been down this road before. Patience and authentic understanding cannot fool this girl. I will write what I want, I thought to myself.

A few days later, I came home from work to find my handsome boyfriend reading the New York Times book review. (Literally, my dream man.) Beside him was a wrapped present on the coffee table. He looked over at me and smiled. His eyes drifted to the coffee table. What is this? I asked setting down my keys and hanging my coat. A late Christmas present I found in the closet, he replied. That wasn’t in the closet. I know everything in the closest. I passed the present and crawled across the bed crunching the Style section and denting the Week in Review. I brushed my lips against his. That wasn’t in the closet, I repeated softly. He kissed me. Should I open it? I whispered. You should do whatever you want beautiful. God I love him.

I purposefully opened the present extra slowly giving myself time to quietly reprimand my cynical mind for ever doubting this man. He always means what he says. So if he said he wants me to write whatever I want, he wants me to write whatever I want. You’ve been deeply affected by narcissists, I said to myself. Jaded by other’s insecurity. Stop assuming the worst. Believe in true love. I actually said to myself, believe in true love. You have to.

Inside was a tiny totable MacBook Air. One that I’d been claiming I was going to buy for about a month now. My shoulder hurts, I whined. I can’t write at cafes if I have to carry around this heavy MacBook Pro. I’m not inspired writing at home, so my only choice is to carry around this heavy computer. I need a permanent masseuse or a new computer. He just laughed at me. Nobody cares about your shoulder, he joked. You’re right. Nobody does care.

Except he cares. Not just about my shoulder and prissy need for inspiration, but he cares that I am happy and fulfilled. Tears came out of no where. He smiled and put his hand on my leg. Writing is what makes you tick, your passion, your unique contribution to the world. I don’t want your writing goals hindered because you don’t have the proper technology. That shouldn’t be a thing. Before he could say anything else, I pushed the computer to the side and scooted closer. I touched his face and his hair and his shoulders like I was realizing for the first time that this is a real person. A real person who loves me so much he never wants me to feel inhibited or artistically repressed or hindered in any way. He knows writing makes me happy. He just wants me to write.

So I can just write? I asked quietly. Yep. Just write.

Emma Dinzebach

Art Comes First.