I've been alone for a long time. The last time I was seriously in love was in the mid-90s. That romance had serious problems... my girlfriend then wasn't so much in love with me as she was with the idea of not being alone. She constantly compared me, unfavorably, to prior partners she'd had. When she finally broke up with me, she said that I wasn't as smart as I liked to think I was. And while I now recognize that she was saying harsh things in an effort to make me give up on her, it hurt me deeply, because I genuinely in love with her. When you're in love with someone, you let them in through your shields; you give them the power to wound you deeply.
So it had been a long time since I was with anyone, seriously. I'd dated a little here and there... there was a girl in New York, and one in Tucson; a third in Flagstaff. But none of those were anything more than a little companionship; not so much Ms Right, as Ms Right-Now. And I'm not good at recognizing signals... or else, women don't really send me signals. I have to be hit by a clue-by-four to recognize that a woman is interested in me.
The Redhead hit me with that clue-by-four. She hit me with it in possibly the most effective way she could have; in a way that reached all the way back to my childhood, when I was first forming my ideas about sex, and desire, and love. She was smart, and beautiful, and eloquent. She was a geek, and sarcastic, and tender. She was everything I've ever wanted in a partner, even the incredibly shallow things that I would never admit to anyone else.
And she loved me. That love changed my ideas about myself. It made me see myself in a completely different light. If someone as wonderful as she was loved me, how could I be as lacking in human virtue as I'd come to believe?
But she changed her mind. And I'm still trying to find a way to deal with that.