Shani Latimer had heard a lot about “Uncle Tom.”
One of her best friends, who had persuaded her to move to Washington from her native Arizona in January 2010 after the end of a long-term relationship, was close with Tom Boesen’s brother and sister-in-law.
“You should meet him. You guys would be great,” Shani remembers her friend saying.
And she did meet him once. In the fall of 2009, while scoping out the District and looking at housing options, they ran into Tom on Capitol Hill. He was walking with his ex-wife, so the two women assumed they were getting back together.
In fact, Tom and his ex were still trying to figure things out. They had divorced before he moved from Phoenix to the District in June 2009 and for a while reconsidered their decision and contemplated the idea of a long-distance relationship, Tom says. But he soon realized it wouldn’t work, and they separated for good.
In the District, Tom fell in love with the walkability of Capitol Hill, launched a career in politics and waded back into the dating world with tepid enthusiasm. One date ended with him going overboard in a kayak into the Potomac. Even on less eventful outings, the rules and etiquette of modern dating often stumped him.
Shani avoided it altogether. She lived in Arlington and commuted out to a finance job in Falls Church. And while she made a lot of good guy friends, she wasn’t interested in dating any of them. “It took me a long time to get over the relationship in Arizona, so I was holding on to that,” she explains.
But by early 2011, she realized she needed to move on. “One day I woke up and I was like, ‘Okay, what am I doing?’ ” she says. Not long after, Shani’s friend mentioned Tom Boesen’s name again.
He would be at a benefit party during March Madness, she said, urging Shani to go so that the two University of Arizona alumni could watch a game together.
Shani agreed, and as soon as she walked in and met Tom, she noticed “immediate butterflies.”
Tom was impressed by her good looks, taste in beer and impressive sports knowledge. They were kissing at the bar by the end of the night. “We just got along really well,” says Tom, now 44.
After a chaste sleepover at her place, Shani woke up feeling as comfortable in Tom’s presence as she had the night before. They went to brunch before she drove him home. When he got out of the car, promising to be in touch in a few days, she started dialing all of her closest friends.
“I was so happy. I’ve never felt that way,” says Shani, now 30. “It was like we already knew each other.”
Tom texted the next day, saying he knew he was supposed to hold out for a while but couldn’t wait.
Two days later, Tom showed up with a bottle of Shani’s favorite wine. The next weekend, they had a marathon date that culminated in dinner on the Hill. “We basically told each other all of our deepest, darkest secrets,” she says. “We laid everything out on the table.”
“We aired all our dirty laundry, and we were okay with it,” Tom adds.
He told her he never wanted to get married again. “I felt I gave it a shot and had been there, done that,” he explains.
The disclosure didn’t phase Shani. “I never really wanted to get married, either,” she says. “It just didn’t seem necessary. So we could just be ourselves, and we didn’t have to put a name to this.”
Tom was astounded by her honesty and the depth of connection they were developing. After knowing each other two weeks, he told her he loved her.
“Just being in each other’s presence — even if we weren’t doing something fun — just felt like it was right,” he says. “It was easy. We had a lot of similar interests, a lot of similar history, and we’d both been through previous relationships and learned from them.”
Soon, they were together every night. After six months of dating, Shani was sent on a two-month work assignment to Australia. Both felt they were at a pivotal point in their relationship, and Tom had seen previous relationships damaged by distance. But they texted constantly and spoke daily, and Tom visited for a week. When Shani returned, it was “better than anything,” she says.
A few weeks later, she moved into his place. As they spent time with his young niece, Tom noticed something shifting in Shani. “I could see a twinkle in her eye,” he says. For the first time in her life, she realized she wanted kids.
And, she told him, she wanted to be a family — officially. Tom didn’t need convincing. “I just really became convinced that (a) I have the right person and (b) I’m in the right frame of my life right now. I can do this. And I wanted to keep her around.”
The day after Christmas last year, he proposed at Acqua Al 2, their favorite restaurant on the Hill.
On May 4, Shani walked into the courtyard of the Tabard Inn to “Air on a G String.” Tom’s brother, Chris, officiated the wedding ceremony, and 37 guests watched as the pair exchanged vows before an ivy-covered brick wall.
“My whole philosophy on life is just to see with your heart and to be open and loving,” Shani said after the wedding. “We both just have a lot of love to give, and I think that’s what makes it work.”