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Arts Vanity: I Inspired Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’

Please stop begging me not to take your men.

Allison J. Scharmann '21

In a recent appearance on “The Tonight Show,” country music icon Dolly Parton revealed the inspiration behind her 1973 hit single, “Jolene.” What she didn’t reveal is that the woman who inspired “Jolene” is me.

I know what you’re thinking: How could I possibly be the inspiration for a song released 25 years before my birth? Allow me to explain: Time is a social construct.

To quote Walt Whitman, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” One of my “multitudes” just happens to be that I am the inspiration behind Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”

Exhibit A: The Lyrics

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Take a moment to consult the following “Jolene” lyrics and a photograph of me (provided above):

“Your beauty is beyond compare / With flaming locks of auburn hair / With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green”

Auburn hair? Ivory skin?? Eyes of emerald green??? Check. Check. Check. You may be able to chalk up my appearance to that of a leprechaun on steroids, but make no mistake. Who else could this song could possibly be in reference to?

Exhibit B: The Story

Parton identified the real-life Jolene as a redheaded bank teller who “got this terrible crush on [her] husband.” It is clear to me that “bank teller” is a secret code for “donut shop counter girl,” a position I held for approximately four years at a shop in my hometown which you cannot prove Dolly Parton has never visited.

I, for one, resent the accusations levied against me. As a service worker, I am obliged to be polite to everyone that comes into my shop. If your husband “talks about [me] in his sleep,” that’s certainly not my problem.

And let’s get another thing straight: If I were to flirt with anyone in this scenario I’d flirt with the nine time Grammy winner and unofficial gay icon herself, not her husband. No offense to Carl Dean, but I couldn’t pick that man out of a one-person police lineup.

Exhibit C: The Name

According to Parton, she got the idea for the name “Jolene” from a redheaded young girl in the audience at one of her early shows. Do you know what the “J” in Allison J. Scharmann stands for? Do you? That’s right. It’s “Jolene.” The girl in the audience, you may have already guessed, was also me.

It is the curse of my existence that I must live out the rest of my days with the physical and linguistic markers of Parton’s infamous “Jolene.”

In the meantime, please stop begging me not to take your men.

I’m not interested.

— Allison J. Scharmann is the outgoing Music Exec and incoming Arts Chair. She would really appreciate if one of her more affluent, Ivy League peers could convince our lord and savior Dolly Parton not to press charges. To request the return of your man, please reach out to iris.lewis@thecrimson.com.

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