By Kenneth Stepp
I have been told that one of the first things a person notices about me when we meet are my shoulders. I’m a big man and have a large upper body. So I get that. But right now I am thinking about another type of shoulder. I’ve been single going on 7 years now. I was raised seeing women as the fairer sex, us guys should protect them at all cost. My dad would have and I’m certain did during his lifetime. But the women I have met along my singles journey have been different from those my father taught me about. They’re tough, their shoulders are broad and strong, metaphorically of course. They are people who can wear multiple hats every day. They shoulder responsibility better than any others I’ve known.
Many, if not most, had the all American dream at one time. You know, the house, kids, and a husband who was always there for them. A life that only an intact family can offer. Usually, by no fault of their own, they find themselves alone in a world they really didn’t know existed. Everyone I have met have been survivors. Some have defeated homelessness. Others defeated sickness and disease. Depression is rampant in the singles community. A single girl in this world has many disadvantages. First, she’s alone. No one is protecting her against what life throws her way. And life always does throw things at us. Friends help, but having someone who loves you unconditionally, and holds your hand, makes a difference.
These girls shoulder so much. One thing that I noticed is that they make a home, where guys like me just live in one. When I visit one of my guy friends, their home is just a place to hang their hat. But these girls, they make whatever they have a home. I walk in and feel welcome. It feels like a home because it is a home. The details, the yard sales they visit to find the small things that make their place what it is. The frugality they live with to survive and make it look easy, but we all know it isn’t. Often their income is below the poverty level. Most have no backup if something goes wrong. Many are stranded at home because they had to spend their grocery money on a battery for their car, so wasting fuel or going out that week is off the table.
I have a friend, she means so much to me. She has a very challenging health problem, life threatening even. Yet she works hard everyday. She does what is necessary to pay her bills and put food on her table. She stands toe to toe with what could be death daily. She bravely stares death in the eye and says, not today… Not today, I have things to do, a life to live, and responsibilities to fulfill, so not today. I am a retired professional fighter. A heart like that wins a fight every time. Sometimes they aren’t the biggest, the strongest, or the best trained. They out gut their challengers. Girls these days deserve superstar status. They deserve undying respect from us guys. Regardless of what we might think. They are stronger than we will ever be.
The shoulders that face life with a gentle smile, an “I’m just fine” attitude, and I’ll get it done myself, way of life, deserve so much more that they get from us guys. They carry more on their shoulders than they were ever meant to. They struggle quietly. They do life day to day. They survive when I don’t know that I could. I admire these girls more than my words could ever explain. One day I’ll stand next to one I love dearly and join her in a journey. One where I will accept half of her struggle. One where she will no longer face anything alone again. I only hope I am half as strong as she is. I hope to earn half the admiration I have for her, from her. My shoulders, although strong, have never worked like hers have. Her shoulders are magnificent. The only thing missing from hers is a cape.
Respect, kindness, being a gentleman, and always being kind. These are what these wonderful creatures have earned. These are the simple things we owe them. They are mothers, daughters, lovers, and partners. Give them their due. Let them know how special they are every day. Be a man. That’s what my dad would say…
“She made broken look beautiful
and strong look invincible.
She walked with the Universe
on her shoulders and made it
look like a pair of wings.”
― Ariana Dancu