That ‘Whole Opposites Thing’ Worked Out Just Fine


Rafe Totengco wasn’t planning to stay out very late on a January night in 2010. He had just gotten out of a long-term relationship, and at the insistence of a few of his friends, had gone with them to a party in Manhattan. When the party started to wind down, his friends convinced him to go to the Boiler Room, a bar in Manhattan, for a nightcap.

“My friends were determined to get me out and about,” Mr. Totengco said.

Almost as soon as Mr. Totengco(left), 52, walked into the bar, he noticed Michael Jonathan Lawn, 49.

“I saw Mike and I was like hmm, he’s cute, so maybe I’ll stay for a drink,” Mr. Totengco said. But Mr. Totengco, who normally has no problem striking up a conversation, suddenly felt shy. When Mr. Lawn passed him in the line to the bathroom, instead of introducing himself, Mr. Totengco just looked down at his shoes.

“So dorky,” Mr. Totengco said.

Luckily, Mr. Lawn had noticed him as well, and eventually went over to introduce himself. The two hit it off and stayed at the bar long after both sets of friends had gone home, and ended up splitting a cab back to their respective apartments at 4 a.m. Mr. Totengco gave Mr. Lawn his number, and a few days later they met for dinner.

At dinner, it became clear how opposite they were. Mr. Totengco is creative and works in fashion, while Mr. Lawn is outdoorsy and works in the energy sector. The moment of truth, at least for Mr. Totengco, came near the end of the meal.

“I’m big on desserts,” Mr. Totengco said. The thought of dating someone who didn’t want to indulge? “That’s going to be difficult.”

After clearing their plates, their waitress asked if they would like to see the dessert menu. Without missing a beat, Mr. Lawn said absolutely. “I was like, Oh yes, OK, this could work,” Mr. Totengco said.

The couple has now been together for more than 10 years. They were living and working in Manhattan, when the coronavirus hit. They decided to temporarily relocate to the North Fork of Long Island with Mr. Totengco’s mother, where Mr. Totengco owns a home.

Even though they had moved in together early in their relationship, Mr. Totengco and Mr. Lawn often spent many weeks of the year apart, traveling for work. Mr. Totengco, is the founder and owner of Rafe New York, a fashion accessories company in Manhattan. Mr. Lawn is the North American power and gas market specialist for Bloomberg in Manhattan. The six months since they have been quarantining in Long Island have been the most uninterrupted time they have spent with each other.

“It was really lovely,” Mr. Totengco said.

One evening in April, while sitting out on their patio, Mr. Lawn turned to Mr. Totengco and asked him to marry him.

“What I love about Rafe is how open and kind he is to everyone,” Mr. Lawn said. “He’s just naturally an open, caring, trustworthy person.”

“The whole opposites thing,” Mr. Totengco said.

“It doesn’t always work,” Mr. Lawn said.

“But in our case it has,” Mr. Totengco said.

The couple married in a small ceremony on Sept. 19 in their garden in East Marion, N.Y. Mr. Totengco’s mother, sister, brother-in-law and two nephews attended, while the rest of their family and friends watched via Zoom from around the world. Eileen Whitehead, who was ordained through American Marriage Ministries, officiated.

“The pandemic has been such a devastating thing that has happened,” Mr. Totengco said. “I’m just thankful that we found happiness amidst all this chaos.”



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