I love this song. I love it so much. As do millions of other people all over the world since it was first written and released by Dolly Parton in 1973. She says she wrote it as something all women could relate to- please don’t take my man. I always felt it in that way too, the lyrics evoking all the times I’d felt jealous or threatened by a fellow female. I would sing along, becoming more and more incensed by the nerve of that metaphorical Jolene. How dare she sashay into our lives with her luscious locks and emerald green eyes, distracting my man with her ‘come hither’ gaze and a “voice soft as summer rain”? I’d ride the rollercoaster of emotions from fear to anger to desperation, pleading with this woman to relinquish the power she held over my future happiness, and walk away from this game she was playing with my man. In other words, please, fuck off Jolene.
I started listening to this song again at Christmas, after Reina gifted me a gorgeous, glossy coffee table style hard cover book of Dolly Parton’s “My Life In Lyrics”. I was hooked, all over again, but this time, as I sang along, full of heart, I realised there had been a change. I wasn’t feeling threatened or jealous. I wasn’t feeling insecure or angst ridden. I wasn’t relating in that way at all any more. I wasn’t singing to some other woman. I realised that this time, I was singing about me, when, many, many, many years ago, it had been me being Jolene.
I was young, it was complicated, I thought my actions were justified, convincing myself her beef should be with her partner, not with me, because he was the one with the commitment to her, not me.
Slippery slope Mia, slippery bloody slope. I am quite shocked that I am realising only now, decades later, that while I certainly had not made a commitment to her, as a fellow human being, I still had obligations. I still had a responsibility to be kind. To be respectful. To be compassionate and empathetic. To be decent. Not to be a Jolene.
I’m dedicating this to her. She deserved much better, and so, ultimately, did I.