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Vinay Menon: Dolly Parton posing like a Playboy Bunny at 75 is a delightful middle finger to Father Time

Vinay Menon: Dolly Parton posing like a Playboy Bunny at 75 is a delightful middle finger to Father Time
Entertainment
Instead of devouring self-help books, hiring life coaches or going on spiritual retreats, maybe we just need to be more like Dolly Parton.

The singer, at 75 years young, was back in the news this week. Her husband, Carl Thomas Dean, turned 79 on Tuesday. Instead of getting him a Mercedes or new yacht, Dolly settled on something more intimate: side-by-side, then and now, framed photos of her dolled up as a sexy Playboy Bunny.

“Remember some time back I said I was going to pose on Playboy magazine when I was 75?” she asked her fans. “Well, I’m 75, and they don’t have a magazine anymore. But my husband always loved the original cover of Playboy, so I was trying to think of something to do to make him happy. He still thinks I’m a hot chick after 57 years — and I’m not going to try to talk him out of that.”

By the way, between yesterday’s dispatch on a 1975 Bruce Springsteen song and this one, I apologize if you feel like a hostage in bell bottoms inside a time capsule. I will try to avoid writing about JFK, the Pyramids or Betty White this weekend. Well, unless Ms. White dresses up as a Playboy Bunny, in which case all bets are off.

But Dolly Parton is worthy of a shout-out a couple of times a year because she is self-actualized in a way few celebrities can ever imagine. She generates more organic PR than Whole Foods. Does that mean we all should sling on fake boobs and make a pilgrimage to Dollywood, belting out “9 to 5” in search of divine meaning?

No. I’m not suggesting Dolly Parton has unlocked the secrets to the universe — just the secrets to her universe. We should all be so lucky.

She keeps proving George Bernard Shaw was wrong when he observed, “Youth is wasted on the young.” She’s still wasting her youth at 75. At 100, she’ll be on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and taking up new hobbies such as Bungee jumping. Her bunny ears might as well be two middle fingers to Father Time.

What’s most impressive about Ms. Parton is how she leans into her quirks and foibles. Vanity is generally frowned upon. But here is a woman who brags about sleeping in full makeup just in case there’s an earthquake or tornado and she is forced to leave her house and be seen by others. Here is a woman who quietly donates to vaccine research while also helping finance the summer homes of cosmetic surgeons.

It’s as if she keeps renovating herself according to preordained blueprints only she can decipher. For all the lip service we pay to “authenticity,” her embrace of fake is genuine. As she noted in 2019: “It is true that I look artificial, but I believe that I’m totally real.”

In this week’s viral video, she refers to her 1978 self as “kind of a little butterball.”

“Well, I’m string cheese now,” she adds. “But he’ll probably think I’m cream cheese.”

I’m not even sure what that means. But aside from suddenly making me crave a bagel and smoked salmon, the self-deprecating charm of this septuagenarian smokeshow is a big reason she’s now often described as a “national treasure” or “living legend.”

I can tell you right now, if any other female celebrity dressed up as a Playboy Bunny as a “gift” to her husband, the cultural scolds would be screeching about the patriarchy and objectification. But since Dolly is the one who objectifies Dolly, she retains all the power and agency. I mean, in this goofy video, you can’t even see Carl’s reaction.

All you see is the back of his greying head popping up from a leather sofa like a horny meerkat in tall grasslands as she grins and leans over, presenting him with two photos of herself while simultaneously dressed as she was when Jimmy Carter was president.

It’s like two mirrors pointed at one another: infinite Dolly forever.

And it’s a beautiful reflection of someone who refuses to get old and stop living. How lovely to see a couple married in 1966 and who long ago qualified for a seniors discount at Shoppers Drug Mart carrying on like they’re still on their honeymoon.
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