Letter from America, part 19: Qatar and the secret meaning of Bonnie Raitt’s ‘Love Me Like a Man’

New York, 11/28/2022 (Note the proper way to write the date!)

Dear Friends Across The Pond,

So it’s the World Cup … or as Stephen Colbert calls it ‘The Super Bowl of Football’. But nobody on the news is talking about the actual game of football (that’s “soccer” for my American readers). Instead, they’re talking about Qatar’s intolerance of love, and in particular, their stance on homosexuality.

To get away from the news, I went for a run and put some music on to distract myself and take me to my own special island, as Billy Joel once put it. It’s funny though – when you purposefully try to empty your mind, your focus becomes even more acute on the thing you want to leave behind.

As I settled in to my run, Bonnie Raitt’s 1972 hit “Love Me Like A Man” comes on.  It starts with a Mississippi roll from Raitt’s fingerstyle guitar and then Dennis Whitted softly bangs the pickup on the drums. Perfectly blended, Freebo lays into that big fat bottom on the bass and suddenly, smoothly … it’s a driving, rhythmic series of undercut punches for the next three minutes and seven seconds, laying the foundation for Chris Smither and Georgette How’s biting lyrics about the lack of sensually available men for this sexually-self-aware, 1970s feminist narrator. 

Here’s the opening shot:

These men that I’ve been seeing, baby
Got their soul up on the shelf
You know they could never love me
When they can’t even love themselves

The men want to be emotionally available for the singer, but can’t quite get physical the way she wants them:

I come home sad and lonely
Feel like I wanna cry
I want a man to hold me
Not some fool to ask me why

To be fair, the men want to get physical, but they want to be “serviced”, not to serve:

They all want me to rock them
Like my back ain’t got no bone
I want a man to rock me
Like my back bone was his own

The big ask in the song comes down to the refrain:

And I need someone to love me
I know you can
Believe me when I tell you
You can love me like a man

The singer wants her lover to love her like a man. In essence, she’s saying “I’m a woman, and I want a real man to make love to me”. She’s encouraging her lover, telling him exactly what she wants. With Raitt’s gravelly, alto voice, and the backdrop of hard, driving blues, this is a charged, erotic plea. And I’m hooked! Yes, baby, I can love you like a man!

But wait … uh … Do I really understand what she means when she asks to be loved “like a man”?  Is there an alternate reading here?  Perhaps hidden in plain sight?  

Does the narrator want her lover to make love to her in the same way he would make love to another man?  

Is this narrator telling her lover the exact position she wants him in and, perhaps even where she wants him to make his love? 

Apparently so!  The evidence is in the last two lines of the song:

Don’t you put yourself above me
You just love me like a man

She flatly tells her lover not to use the missionary position (“Don’t you put yourself above me”).  Instead, “just love me like a man”!

Oh my, now that is liberating, even for 1972!

But what does all this have to do with Qatar and the World Cup? Apparently, Qatar is not a fan of love. Certainly not physical love. Even the sight of flesh is forbidden.  Taking off your shirt is grounds for arrest.  The biggest news from the World Cup came when captains of seven teams were threatened with disciplinary action by Fifa if they wore an armband proclaiming love. The armband was intended as a symbol of inclusiveness and love for all … something initially promised by Qatar.  

Nasser Al Khater, the chief executive of the 2022 World Cup, stated early on that the LGBTQ+ community would not have to worry about “persecution of any sort”, describing Qatar as a “tolerant country”. Despite Al Khater’s claims, homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and there have been multiple, documented cases of mistreatment and abuse of LGBTQ+ people. And at the World Cup, banners, flags, fliers, apparel, or anything of an “offensive nature” are prohibited. This applies most especially to written statements about love.

Am I so innocent and naïve to think that love is a universal truth? Aren’t we all just looking for love?

What’s wrong with love, Qatar?  Your promises tell me that you are emotionally available for love, but I’m getting the vibe that you’re just not willing to get physical with me the way I want … the way a testosterone-fueled, male-dominated, physical sport like soccer (er … “football “) should get.

So Qatar, I ask you to take some sound advice and encouragement from Bonnie Raitt:

… I need someone to love me
I know you can
Believe me when I tell you, Darlin’
You can love me like a man

Picture by Gustavo Ferreira on Unsplash 

Letter from America part 18: Penises everywhere

Letter from America, part 17: Hot chocolate bombs

Letter from America, part 16: Waiting For Water To Boil

Letter from America, part 15: This shoe is a cake

Letter from America, part 14: Love and isolation

Letter from America, part 13: Words with an ‘F’

Letter from America, part twelve: Nostalgic fiction and fictional nostalgia

Letter from America, part eleven: I went to camp with Jeffrey Epstein

Letter from America, part ten: Yesterday, yesterday

Letter from America, part nine: Where are your balls, Theresa May?

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