Amelia: So, how did you two meet?
Rajni: We met in college, at Rutgers. We had a class near one another and we would pass each other twice a week in the hallway, and he would stare at me.
David: Well, we had a weird thing. We would smile at one another.
Rajni: Well no, you were staring first and then I would smile.
David: This went on for months. Is that an exaggeration?
Rajni: Not an exaggeration. It was probably for two months.
David: We would just smile and stare.
Amelia: Did you know who he was?
Rajni: No, we would just acknowledge each other and then our lives would go on. This girl who I went to high school with was in his class, though, and I saw her and was like, “I have a question. There’s this guy in your class who always looks at me in the hallway and I always smile back, but that’s it.”
She asked me what he looked like so I described him and she was like, “Oh yeah I know him! He made a funny joke in class today.”
David: I wonder what it was.
Rajni: I have no idea. But she was like, “Do you know him?,” and I said, “No, I was just asking because he always smiles at me.” And that was the end of the conversation. I never asked her about him and she never followed up.
Then one time, I was walking through the lot where the food trucks were parked and I saw him. I remember being so shocked because that was the first time I saw him out of our element. He saw me and we both just froze and looked at each other and then walked away.
David: We didn’t talk there, either.
Rajni: Nope. We didn’t talk. We just froze and looked at each other and got weirded out and then walked our separate ways. I think that’s what kind of prompted me. I was like, “Ok, this is really weird now, it’s been almost three months and this is….”
David: I think that’s an exaggeration.
Rajni: No! September, October, November. 100%!
Amelia: So Rajni, you were weirded out but intrigued.
Rajni: Yea, I was intrigued. I thought he was hot and I thought he wasn’t American. He was so tan and had long hair and I’d never seen an American look like him.
David: You said I was a sharp dresser.
Rajni: Yeah, well you had on Clarks. I made up in my head that he was Iranian. I had this whole story and didn’t ask anyone about it, because I liked the scenario in my head and I didn’t want anyone to change it.
After that, in the hallway, he finally said “hi.” He’d never said “hi” to me. And I was like, “Oh, hi!” Then I was like, this is so dumb; I turned around and said, “Hi, my name is Rajni, I just wanted to introduce myself because for the past three months you’ve been staring at me and I’ve just been smiling back, so I want to tell you my name.”
And he was like, “Oh, my name’s David.” But I remember being so thrown — I was kind of like, Wait, what? I didn’t even think he was American and he had this straight Jersey accent.
Then as I was walking away, he was like, “Excuse me, can I have your number? I’d like to call you.”
David: I was very shy in those days.
Rajni: And I was like, “Sure!” I remember you had an insurance paper. A car insurance paper. And I wrote my number on the car insurance paper and he was like, “Okay, I’ll see you later!” And I was like, “See you later.” It was very cordial.
David: This is a long story.
Rajni: And then that was it. And then you called me.
Amelia: Were you scared to dial the number?
David: Probably. But it was a weird time…I still had this girlfriend who I was on-again, off-again with. So Rajni and I hung out a couple of times. I took her on some shitty dates. I took her to the park at night.
Rajni: I was like, This date is the worst.
Amelia: Wait, your first date was the worst?
Rajni: Yeah, he asked me where I wanted to go, and I was thinking he would like…take me to dinner? No. He picked me up and we went to the park.
David: Yeah, I didn’t know what to do. We hung out a couple more times. We went to your place. She lived in a building that was the building everyone wanted to live in.
Rajni: Easton Ave. Apartments.
David: Yeah, it was way nicer than mine. Well, I lived off campus because I was older. I had a house with my friends. That was cool, right?
David: I lived two towns away from school.
Rajni: But the one time you came over — my mom listens to a lot of Spanish music, so I had Tito Puente playing, who I love.
David: Totally on a whim, Tito Puente was the only hispanic musician I’d ever even heard of, and I heard the song and was like, “Oh, Tito Puente!” Totally full of shit.
Another time you came back to my apartment — how did that happen?
Rajni: We went to a party.
David: Yeah, so somehow I got her to come over, and I was all excited.
Rajni: I was like, “You get no goodies. It’s not happening.” It was my intuition.
David: This part of the story kind of makes me sound like a dirtbag.
Amelia: No way, this stuff’s complicated. Go on…
David: Anyway, my phone starts ringing off the hook, and it was my ex-girlfriend leaving all these voicemails.
Rajni: He had a landline with an answering machine, so you could hear all of the messages out loud. She sounded pissed.
I acted like I didn’t hear anything, and the next morning we woke up and he was like, “Um, I just want to say I’m really sorry about what you heard. It’s my ex-girlfriend, I broke up with her, but we’re in this crazy thing…”
And I was trying to be cool like, “No sweat, it doesn’t matter, we’re not exclusive.” But deep inside I was like, “Ugh this is the worst. I don’t want to be a part of this.” So at that time, I still liked him, but I backed off.
Amelia: Did you know she was backing off?
David: Yeah, totally.
Rajni: But Dave called me and was like, “Listen, I really like you and would really like to hang out with you. Why don’t I come by tomorrow around eight-thirty?”
And I was like, “Ok, come over.” So eight-thirty rolls around there’s no David. Eight-forty-five. Nine o’clock. Nine-fifteen, nine-thirty. I’m livid.
David: I think I ended up getting caught up hanging out with friends and was just like, “Ugh, what am I supposed to do?” I was young.
Rajni: I was so pissed. I wasn’t the one who called you. I was doing my own thing. I was like, “You call me and then you dis me?” That, to me, was the ultimate…
So that was it.
Amelia: So that’s the end of the story!
Rajni: So that was it. I never saw him again. I never heard from him.
Amelia: It must have been so different back then because there was no Instagram to stalk, nothing.
Rajni: There was nothing.
Amelia: You had Facebook though, right?
David: No! It was way before that. There was no Internet! There was no Friendster yet!
Rajni: There was Facebook.
David: No there was not, Rajni, this was like, 2000.
Rajni: But I thought Facebook was just for the Ivy leagues at this time.
David: We didn’t have it.
Rajni: Ok, we didn’t have Facebook.
David: I was literally like learning email my first years of college. I was a freshman in ’95.
So, okay. At least a year went by. I didn’t think I’d ever hear from her again.
I finished college, went to San Diego for almost a year, came back home and started my business, Division East.
Then this one weekend, I went down to Philadelphia to skateboard with some friends. We spent the night down there and I came home the next day — I was living with my parents — and my father’s like, “Hey, some girl called for you.”
And I was like, “Really? That’s awesome!”
And he was like, “She’s so nice! We spoke on the phone for like, forty minutes. She’s your friend from college.” And I couldn’t figure out who it was. And he was like, “Her name’s Connie.” Which is also my grandmother’s name.
I was like, “What? I don’t know anyone named Connie. Did you get her number?”
And he’s like, “No, but it should be on the caller ID.” So I go to the caller ID.
Rajni: But why were you so desperate for the number?
David: I was psyched. I got a call from a girl. So I go through the caller ID and I see a “732” number, which is the area code down at Rutgers. So I call that number and some girl answers and I was like, “Hi, does someone named Connie live there?”
And they’re like, “No….”
And I’m like, “My name is David Dowd — apparently some girl named Connie called me from this number. Can you just leave a note that David Dowd returned her phone call?”
Rajni: You must have been so dry that you were like…
David: No, I think any guy would be like, “Sick!”
Rajni: On my side, what happened was that one of my best friends from Rutgers was still there for med school. She was throwing a party because she and all her roommates were moving out of their apartment. Now, at this point, I had already graduated and this was kind of like, one last goodbye.
So we’re sitting there and she goes, “You remember that guy who you liked, who called you and said he was going to show up but never showed up?” And we were drunk. And I was like, “Yeah.” And she was like, “What ever happened to him?” And I was like, “I have no fucking clue. He just never showed up…but funny enough, I have his phone number.”
I guess I didn’t know it was your home number. Because one time, Dave, you called me from your parent’s house over a holiday, back when we were still talking, and you were like, “Call me on this number, not my other one.”
David: So you kept it.
Rajni: Yeah, so I was like, “Oh my god, I have his number, let’s call.” It was like a drunk dial.
His dad answers and he told me Dave wasn’t home. So I was like, “Just tell him I’m an old friend from Rutgers!” Wasted. And so Farrah, my friend, is on the other line in her bedroom listening in and doing a tag-team thing. Then his father just started talking to me. “Dave’s doing really well! He’s skating right now in Philly, he just opened a skate shop, he just moved back…” Telling me this whole thing.
David: He loves to talk.
Rajni: So I was like, “Alright, well, so lovely talking to you, so lovely meeting you over the phone, bye.” That was it. I didn’t leave a phone number, I didn’t leave anything, so when he came back home that’s when his dad told him that “Connie” called.
When Dave called the number on the ID, it went to Farrah’s apartment. And remember, they were moving. Farrah moved, the house had been cleared, and Farrah’s roommate was the only one who was still randomly there when the phone rang.
David: So this is almost a miracle that this worked out, right? A lot of things had to go right.
Rajni: So Farrah was talking to her roommate later about getting the keys to give to the landlord, and the roommate was like, “Oh by the way, some guy called named David Dowd? I don’t know, he said he was looking for a Connie, but there is no Connie, and to please leave his phone number.”
So then Farrah called me and said, “You won’t fucking believe it… David Dowd called and left his phone number!” And we were laughing so hard.
But she was like, “He’s so lucky that he called back at the time that he did. We took the phones off-line the next day.”
Finally Farrah said, “You have to call.” So I did. I called — it was your cell phone, I believe. I called and got your voicemail. I was like, “Hi David, this is Rajni, I’m calling back. You left your phone number with my friend’s roommate.”
When Dave called me, he’s the one who told me the story over the phone about Connie and his dad. I told him straight-up that it was a drunken night and a drunken phone call. I was like, “It’s good to see that you’re doing well!”
So then maybe a week later he called my cell and was like, “What are you doing tonight?”
I was an intern at the Fader magazine and I was like, “Well, I’m in the city but I really can’t hang. I have a Christmas party for the magazine.”
And you know when you’re an intern you don’t want to ruffle any feathers with a plus one. So I was like, “I’m an intern, I just started, so I’m sorry but I can’t meet you.”
And he was like, “Really? I’m in the city, I’ll just meet you.”
He bullied me. I was like, “Ok, well, it’s in the Lower East Side.”
And he was like, “What’s the exact address?” I told you the name of the place, but I never thought…
So then I get there, and lo and behold, he’s standing there. He had a red pickup truck. And I was like, “Holy shit, it’s David Dowd.” And I remember he was like, “Hi!” You were very chipper.
David: I was psyched. It was free hors d’oeuvres and an open bar. I love finger food. The best.
Rajni: So he comes to the party with me. Once it was over he asked me what I wanted to do, and I said, “Well, we can go somewhere else.” And he was like, “Alright!” So we’re driving around —
David: And my sister went to Fordham, so I was like, “Let’s go to my sister’s dorm!”
Rajni: You took me on the worst dates ever. A playground, your sister’s college dorm…I remember I was like, “Eh, I don’t know, can’t we go to a bar?”
And you were like, “No it’s gonna be fun! It’s gonna be so much fun.”
So we end up going to his sister’s dorm in Lincoln Center. I’m sitting in this dorm room — it’s like her and three friends — and they had twenty-one questions for me.
David: The next day my sister was like, “Make that girl your girlfriend. She’s awesome.”
Rajni: So remember, I’m still living in Jersey at the time. The next day I had a photoshoot with a 7 a.m. call time. I missed the last train to go home to Jersey, so I said to David, “I need to get to sleep because I have this photo shoot!”
And he was like, “Don’t worry about it, come stay at my parents’ house with me.”
I was like, Are you fucking kidding me? So we go to his parents’ house.
David: It’s like, two in the morning, and I’m showing her around town like, “That’s the pizzeria I used to work at.” I’m pointing things out. And then outside this Chinese restaurant, some little kid and his mom are trying to fly a kite. It’s like, 2 a.m.! And they get it going, and then it just wraps up in a power line. I thought it was hilarious. She was so not into it.
Rajni: I was like, “Oh my god, what am I doing.”
David: It does sound awful.
Rajni: It was. So then I get to his house and he’s like, “Well, my room’s downstairs.” And I was like, “I’m sorry, is there a couch or an empty bedroom?”
David: So I put her in my sister’s room.
Rajni: So I slept in his sister’s room. And I said to him, “My call time is at 7 a.m. I need you to wake up at like 5/5:30 to drop me off at the PATH train so that I can be in the city at 7. He’s like, “Yeah, no sweat, I’ll wake you up.” So he went downstairs to his bedroom, I went to his sister’s room, and then at 5:30 in the morning there was a knock at the door and I was like, “Oh wow! He remembered. He’s going to take me…”
And then it’s this woman who opens the door and says, “Hi! My name is Mary. I’m David’s mother. I was just talking to him — he said he’s really tired, so he can’t take you to the train.”
Amelia: Oh my god. Dave! What the hell?
Rajni: I was like, “Oh my fucking god, is he for real?”
So I’m like “Hi, my name is Rajni.” Meanwhile, I am so nervous.
David: She really liked you, though.
Rajni: She’s really great. But I was livid. Furious. I go downstairs and I’m expecting David to at least be downstairs to say, “Hey, sorry, bye.”
No sign of David.
So I meet David’s father in the kitchen. He’s eating his Cheerios. He’s like, “Hi, I’m Dennis.” I’m like, “Hi Dennis, I’m Rajni.” Then I get into the car with his mom.
I said something like, “Um, thank you so much for bringing me to the Path, it was a crazy night, I missed my train, so that’s why I slept over. I hope I didn’t…” And she’s like, “No, no, no, not at all!”
I get on the train, and I erased his number from my phone.
David: I don’t know how we are going to save this story!
Rajni: So then I ignored his phone calls.
David: Yeah, I do remember that.
Rajni: You kept on calling, kept on calling.
David: I knew I was cut off.
Rajni: He kept on calling. I told my brothers and my mom and dad and sisters, “If David calls, I’m not home, blah blah blah.”
My younger brother was like, 11 or 12 at the time. And one day I’m home and he’s like, “Rajni, the phone’s for you.” So I grab the phone and I just hear, “Well, well, well. Look who it is.”
And that made me laugh so hard because I automatically knew exactly who it was. It was David Dowd on the other line. But the way you said it was so good, and I started laughing so hard, and I was just like,”Fuck.”
Amelia: And you guys started hanging out again?
David: Yeah. We were fully dating after that. I asked you to be my girlfriend.
Rajni: And since then, David Dowd has been in my life.
Amelia: How long were you guys “boyfriend and girlfriend” before you got engaged and married?
Rajni: Oh, awhile.
David: We got married in 08, so…
Rajni: Six years.
Amelia: Six years from the time you first met in the hallway?
David: No, no. Well, she gets mad at that because I always say that we’ve been on and off since 1998. She’s like, “No we were not. We went on one date.”
Amelia: And how long have you two been married?
David: Since 2008, so what’s that…seven years?
Rajni: So, I’ve know you for a very long time. Like, 14, 15 years.
David: We’ve had some laughs, right?
Rajni: We’ve had a lot of good laughs. We’ve had some cries. It’s been awesome.
Amelia: What do you think the hardest thing has been?
Rajni: Hmmm. I think the hardest thing for any relationships is always being on the same page. If you’re both in a negative space at the same time and despise each other at the same time — and when I am using these words, I don’t mean we actually despise each other, but when you’re in that space…
Amelia: It’s that feeling of, “I love you, but I really don’t like you right now.”
Rajni: Yes. When you’re both in the space, it’s very easy to give up because no one else is going to fight for it. But if one person is in that space the other person knows it can work, then you hold the other one’s hand through it. So I guess that’s the toughest thing, to be in that realm. But I do have to say, we’ve been together for 14, 15 years, and the latter years have been the best.
Amelia: Why do you think that is?
Rajni: I think it’s because we know each other better, and we know ourselves better.
David: And our arguments aren’t psycho anymore because you know what buttons not to push.
Rajni: Also, when I met you, David, I wasn’t even 20 yet. What I wanted at that age is the complete opposite of what I wanted at 28, and 30 and 32. Things change. You have to be able to say, “I don’t know if we are going in different directions right now, but this is where I’m at. It seems like you are here, so what are we going to do about it?”
Nothing is going to work unless you open your mouth and have that conversation. And we had to learn how to have that conversation.
Amelia: A lot of the people who we’ve talked to for this series happen to be in the same industry, like Derek Lam and Jan Hendrik-Schlottmann, or Simon Doonan and Jonathan Adler, but you guys are in different worlds. Does career come into play in your conversations?
Rajni: We don’t talk about it in that way. Our careers are so different. He’s a project manager at Pink Sparrow, I work in fashion… But I when I go to fashion parties, I like bringing David. He adds another element, he makes it funny. He will analyze the room with another set of eyes and it will make me laugh.
He’ll take the seriousness and all of the façade out of it.
Amelia: Dave, what do you think of the fashion industry?
David: I’m proud of her. And, I dunno, what do I think of it?
Rajni: Well, he was gonna start a blog…
David: That was a joke idea. It would be an average guy’s fashion blog where I’d write about fashion shows.
Amelia: That would be funny. You should do it!
Rajni: Tell Amelia who your favorite designers are.
David: I have a really good memory, and when we were first dating she would take me to stuff, and then the following year I’d be like, “What’s up with Peter Som this year? What’s his collection going to be?”
Rajni: And DVF is his favorite.
David: Diane von Furstenberg.
Amelia: DVF is your favorite designer? I can see that. Rajni, what made you keep your last name?
Rajni: To be honest with you, I like my name.
David: You have a great name.
Amelia: Did you just say she has a good name?
David: Yeah, I think it’s a great name. It sounds a lot better than Rajni Dowd. And Rajni had a career 10-years deep with her name.
Rajni: Well, that’s true. But I didn’t even think about that. It was just what I was used to.
Amelia: We just had a whole conversation about that at Man Repeller. Like, why does it have to be a thing?
Rajni: For me, it’s like, taking someone’s name doesn’t make you less or more of a person. It’s whatever your preference is.
David: I love how she dresses.
Rajni: You do? Tell me more!
A lot of the stuff I wear is his.
David: [Points to shirt around her waist] This is mine.
Amelia: I feel like a few times I have asked you what your jeans were and they were David’s. Jeans by Dave Dowd.
David: Your style is cool, Rajni. You’ll have a pair of $500 shoes on with all cheap stuff. But even back then, you always dressed well.
Rajni: Yeah, what did you think of my outfits back then?
David: She wore dresses with jeans underneath. That was her own individual thing. I’ll joke and be like, “She invented the jeans under the dress.”
Amelia: Okay, last question. What is your favorite thing about one another?
Rajni: I really like — and I’ve told him this — I love David’s hair.
Amelia: It looks good today.
Rajni: And I think you have really nice legs and a great body. Butt.
Amelia: Nice legs?
Rajni: He has really good legs.
David: Yeah, she compliments those a lot.
Rajni: Yup. And he has this crazy, very quick, off-the-bat wit. Like if someone says something, he responds very quickly, but it’s always abstract references. Never the low-hanging fruit. I am always intrigued by that. It amazes me.
David: Yeah, I think you are beautiful, smart, and a very good person.
Rajni: That sounded so bad.
David: You are a very good person! You are, you are a very loyal, good person. You’ve helped me a lot. You always tried to steer me down the right path. And I don’t know where I’d be.
Rajni: So if I left you…
David: Yeah, I’d be a wreck.
Dave: And you’re funny. And super smart. And very driven. I am always proud. She is very successful, and I am very proud of her.
Rajni: Yes, I do have to say, sometimes I am like, “It’s not that big of a deal,” about work or something, and he’s like,”Yes it is! We need to celebrate!”
Amelia: So you’re a good cheerleader.
Rajni: Yes, he’s definitely always excited and in my corner, 100%. It’s nice having a companion like David Dowd.
David: I will say…going back to the beginning of this story, back to seeing you in the hallway and that weird smiling thing…I’ve never had that weird smiling thing with anyone else. It was like some crazy weird attraction that I hadn’t ever had before.
Amelia: Like something cosmic.
David: Something. It was crazy and great.
Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.