Beast of Burden 9/30/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

The Rolling Stones recorded a song called “Beast of Burden”, one of my former wife’s favorite songs. In it, the lyrics promise that “I’ll never be your beast of burden”. She periodically informed me that that was what she was seeking in a lover, a man that will never be a beast of burden for her. But the funny thing is that she clearly misunderstood the meaning of this song.

A “beast of burden” is something like a plow horse or a mule. No, they’re not sexy, but they’re reliable. The work for the humans and in doing so take care of us. Before the advent of diesel-powered equipment, it was these beasts of burden that helped us with our crops, helped to move goods, and that we relied on for transportation. When Mick sings, “I’ll never be your beast of burden, my back is broken, my feet are hurting, all I want is to make love to you,” what he’s really singing is that he will never take care of you, he’ll never be reliable, and he’ll be nothing but someone with whom to have sex.

Now, let’s be fair for a moment. Some people only want this, men and women alike. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, considering what happened in our marriage, perhaps this is exactly what she meant, but she did seem surprised when I explained to her what the lyrics really mean.

If a woman wants nothing more than a boy toy rather than a relationship, I get that. After nearly six decades of being without a partner, I know it can be done, and women honestly don’t need men nearly as much as men need women. But a partnership is more than just having a “beast of burden” on which you can rely. Sometimes it means being the beast of burden for your partner.

This is something she never understood. I worked hard to be there for her and worked hard on the relationship. Unfortunately, during that time she was very busy sliding deeper into alcoholism leaving her very little time for me or the relationship.

I’ve been in relationships where I was simply the boy toy, something that broke my heart every time because I’ve never been physically involved with a woman without at least believing that it had the possibility of an actual long-term relationship, and it always hurt when I came to realize that wasn’t in her plans. And I’ve been in relationships that we thought would last only to discover we weren’t made for each other. That happens.

But for a relationship to work, it’s just that; work. It takes effort, it means thinking of your partner instead of just yourself, and yes, the sex and tenderness is great but for a real relationship to work, sex alone is never enough. Being in a healthy relationship means understanding not only when your partner is upset or struggling, but at least trying to understand the reason as well.

I miss being in a relationship. The reality is that I am painfully lonely and am going through a very difficult and stressful time right now. It would be great to have somebody not only to share my stress with, but just to be there to encourage and motivate me would mean the world.

I don’t have it, but I’m hoping that you, my reader, does. If so, take a little time to do something special for your partner, something to show your appreciation and so they know that you recognize their importance in your life.

Okay, maybe that’s enough preaching on that topic. As it turns out, this isn’t even the main point of this post. What I wanted to discuss is the importance of understanding the meaning of your references. My ex-wife didn’t understand the lyrics to a song she tried to use to insult me and ended up calling herself a, well, I’m sure you see where this is heading. And lyrics are not always easy. Musicians are the poets of our day, and often use obscure references in their lyrics. It took me decades to make sense of “Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harem (by the way, a fascinating song). Politics being what they are today, people are becoming better at reference checking and these mistakes are starting to become the fodder of jokes. And trust me, I’ve been laughed at enough to know that it’s not fun. Today, though, it’s not enough to just know the meaning of the quote but the origin as well. There have been some great quotes from some truly horrid people, and those mistakes are being caught as well.

So, check your references, take care of your loved ones, and be happy. There, now; that wasn’t so bad, now was it???


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