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Bittersweet, Part 2: No longer bitter

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Four years ago, I wrote an essay for Oy!Chicago called “Bittersweet,” where I shared my frustrating dating experiences and my fear that I was living up to the name “Polly,” which literally means bitter. Even my Hebrew name, “Miriam,” means “Sea of Bitterness.” (I didn’t check in other languages. How much can a person take?) I ended the article by asking where one meets his or her beshert: On JDate, through set ups, at work?


In the luggage department at Macy’s in Old Orchard.

I realize this may not work for all single people out there, but for those of you needing luggage, we’ve just killed two birds with one stone.

Here’s how it happened for me: In December of 2006, my mom asked what I wanted for Chanukah, and I decided on a new carry-on suitcase. I assume this was a premonition of checked-bag-fees-of-the-future. Cut to: Me checking out luggage at Macy’s, where I ran into someone I’d gone out with a few times. He was with his cousin Vic and Vic’s kids. Incidentally, my mom’s best friend, Diane, was related to them and had set me up with Vic’s cousin.

So, Vic’s cousin and I said “Hi,” commented on how weird it was to run into each other in the suburbs when we both lived in the city, and that was that. It took over 18 more months to realize that this was a life-changing encounter.

2007 brought the usual: dating on and off, hope, anticipation, despair, online stalking. By the fall of ’07, I was officially on strike from dating. I’d just turned 36 and needed a break. I focused on fun things. Well, I focused on things: work, family, friends, and the realization that I didn’t have hobbies. Why didn’t I have hobbies? Should I buy some puzzles or something? I signed up for JUF’s Young Leadership Division Summer Mission to Israel in the summer of 2008. Not exactly a hobby, but something fun to do.

A week before the trip, Vic e-mailed me. He’s from Chicago, but lived in Israel for many years and travels there several times every year to see his kids, who moved there with their mom in 2003. We’d written a couple times since first meeting, but we’d never talked. He heard from Diane that I was going to Israel and wrote to wish me a great trip and offer a few recommendations, like: “Get the Jerusalem mixed grill, just don’t ask what it is.”

When I got back, I wrote to thank Vic for his suggestions (I was vague, not wanting to confess that I had, in fact, asked what Jerusalem mixed grill is and, after I stopped gagging, gagged again).

Later that summer, we talked on the phone. He invited me sailing (he has a hobby!). We jabbered all the way to the boat in Waukegan and all the way back, and haven’t stopped talking since.

As I mentioned, Vic has kids. At that time, they were 10, 11, 13, 15 and 16. Yes, he has five kids. Take a moment and let that sink in.

We had the standard challenges; it’s always hard for kids when their parents are dating. I understood that because I went through it myself when my own parents were dating and then re-married. But there was more.

His kids are Orthodox and, after living in Israel for years, prefer to speak Hebrew.

I am not religious, and after living in America for years, I prefer to speak English. I do know some Hebrew, though. After years at Camp Ramah, I can say, “Please pass the jelly,” during breakfast. While impressive, this ceases to be useful once the jelly is successfully passed.

And there was another challenge: Vic had dogs. Plural. I am not a dog person. I never wanted to kill them, I just didn’t ever want them ever to be anywhere around me, ever.

I wasn’t the only one to adjust; Vic had to get used to me and my People-reading, 30 Rock-watching, pop-culture-loving ways (I guess I did have hobbies after all!). How did we deal with these challenges? Communication, patience, humor, and respect for everyone involved. Was it really that simple? No. But he’s the love of my life, and nothing we dealt with was bigger than that.

In March of 2010, Vic’s oldest daughter came to visit from Israel. Together, they proposed to me downtown at “The Bean” in Millennium Park. He asked, “Will you marry me?” followed by her asking “Will you marry us?” It turns out that she came in to represent the “L5” during the proposal. Beautiful, right? Are you crying? Because I was crying.

Vic and I got married on Aug. 1, 2010. I started graduate school at Loyola later that month, and in May I will graduate with my Master’s degree in Social Work.

Bittersweet, Part 2 photo

As graduation approaches, I’ve been reflecting on all the changes in my life and wanted to share our story. I’d always heard, “You’ll find “The One” when you stop looking.” I don’t believe that. I’d stopped looking plenty of times, and remained single until the time was right. Which leads me to the second thing I’d always heard: “Timing is everything.” I do believe that. You never know where or when you’ll meet your beshert. You may have already, but just don’t know it. Just remember two things: Be open to everyone you meet, and Macy’s has a really good luggage selection.

Polly Levy Levinson currently lives in Glenview, and after receiving her MSW in May, hopes to work as social worker in the healthcare industry. 

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