In this case study, Subhuti illustrates the strategy of Enneagram Number Two (‘The Giver’) with singer-songwriter Dolly Parton.
Dolly and Oprah
To enthusiastic applause from the audience, Dolly Parton, the well-known American country singer, walked onto the stage at the Chicago television studios. She was welcomed by her equally famous hostess, Oprah Winfrey.
Oprah began the interview by saying that when her plane landed at the city’s airport the previous evening, the airport staff were still excitedly talking about Dolly’s arrival, which happened a couple of hours earlier.
Jokingly, Oprah implied that Dolly’s arrival made far more impact than her own.
Immediately, Dolly turned the compliment around, telling Oprah, “Well, they were all excited because a lot of people in the airport knew I was here to do your show and they’re real proud of you here in Chicago – as they should be.”
Naturally, the audience burst into applause.
Oprah then handed Dolly another compliment, saying she’d always wanted to do this interview because Dolly Parton’s down-to-earth honesty reminded her very much of herself.
Dolly smoothly welcomed the comparison, then deepened the sense of intimacy between the two women by saying, “I’ve heard a lot of people say that you and me are alike. I have a movie production company and one of the things I’ve been trying to get somebody to develop, or come up with an idea, is something for me and you to do in a movie together.”
This was followed by another enthusiastic round of applause from the audience.
Bonding like friends
The interview happened in May 2010. Dolly Parton was 64 years old and had been in the entertainment business almost all her life, starting as a song-writer for others, then evolving into a singer herself.
Of course, the repartee with Oprah was pure showbiz – a couple of well-known celebrities helping each other to shine in front of the television cameras. But the nature of the dialogue also revealed Dolly Parton’s style as an Enneagram Type Two personality.
Twos excel at flattery and, when they wish to do so, have a natural ability to make others feel important. They also have a knack for rapidly creating a sense of intimacy and making people feel heard, seen and understood.
And so, within minutes of appearing on one of America’s most popular television talk shows, Dolly Parton had succeeded in bonding closely with Oprah and making it seem like they’d been friends forever.
Daddy’s little princess – Mommy’s little prince
Twos love this feeling of creating a special connection. After all, this is the basic purpose of the strategy that female Twos develop in childhood: to feel safe through knowing they are “daddy’s little princess” and that he will always love, cherish and protect them. For male Twos, it’s more about being “mommy’s little prince” but the strategy is the same.
It is a form of seduction, rooted in a lack of self-worth, which in turn creates an early understanding that love and affection have to be earned by meeting other people’s needs. This continues into adult behaviour.
Misunderstood sexual attention
Twos intuitively mould themselves to fit your idea of the perfect partner and this can create problems, especially for female Twos. Their talent for creating closeness can easily send the wrong signals to the men they attract.
Attractive female Twos frequently report that guys start thinking “Oh wow, this woman wants to go to bed with me,” when sex is not even on their own radar screen.
The bottom line is: Twos want you to appreciate them for being open, caring and friendly, but they don’t necessarily want to go to bed with you. They are more interested in sexual attention than in sexual intercourse.
Dolly Parton certainly validates this point. Her extremely large breasts have always been one of her main features and over the years have attracted lots of attention, including speculation about how much silicon has been added to boost her natural charms.
“It takes a lot of money to look this cheap!” she once joked, referring to the cost of repeated cosmetic surgery.
Especially in modern times, women’s breasts have been culturally enshrined as symbols of love, sexuality and nourishment. In Dolly’s case, such large breasts attached to such a small body seem to deliver a message and a promise: “I have so much to give you!”
‘The Giver’ – the supportive role
This is very much in tune with the Type Two personality, which some pundits refer to as ‘The Giver’. But whatever is promised by Dolly Parton’s appearance isn’t delivered in sexual terms to anyone except her husband. Parton married Nashville businessman Carl Dean way back in 1966 and they have remained together ever since.
“He knows I’m a flirt and a tease, but it’s harmless,” she told Oprah. “I’ve never met the man that would take his place.”
In 1980, Dolly Parton starred in an American comedy movie, called ‘9 to 5’, in which the problems of being a female Two were caricatured. Parton played a voluptuous blonde secretary who was being sexually harassed by her boss.
The paradox of wanting to be sexually attractive and yet not wanting to be sexually molested came across loud and clear, as Parton tried to defend herself against her boss’s crude advances. Then, with two other secretaries, played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, she plotted revenge.
But Parton is no dumb blonde. She wrote and recorded the movie’s theme song, ‘9 to 5’, which became a major hit. The song might also claim to be one of the most effective indictments of modern capitalism since Karl Marx.
Marx needed to write a long, complicated book called ‘Das Kapital’ to make his point. Parton captured the essence of financial exploitation in a few lines:
It’s a rich man’s game, no matter what you call it,
And you spend your life putting money in his pocket.
Due to her success as a singer, plus her solid performances as an actress, Parton, who started life as a “dirt poor” Tennessee farm girl, is now herself playing a rich man’s game. She is currently thought to be worth around US $650 million.
“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene”
The song ‘Jolene’, which in 1973 gave Dolly Parton her breakthrough to stardom, was written by Parton herself and is interesting from an Enneagram perspective, because it carries a distinctly Twoish flavour.
In it, she is pleading with another woman not to take away her man. The song begins with a flattering description of her rival, in which Parton freely admits she cannot compete with the other woman’s looks:
Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green.
Your smile is like a breath of spring
Your voice is soft like summer rain
And I cannot compete with you, Jolene.
Then she describes the pain of knowing that her man is already attracted to Jolene:
He talks about you in his sleep
There’s nothing I can do to keep
From crying when he calls your name, Jolene,
And I can easily understand
How you could easily take my man
But you don’t know what he means to me, Jolene.
In the hook line, repeated through the song, Parton makes it clear that she is giving all the power to the other woman, combined with a plea:
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man.
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him just because you can.
As an intuitive Two, Parton, in her song, reaches out to the other woman at a level of intimacy that is unusual, because the normal reaction in such a situation is to either give up, run away, fight, compete, cry and weep, blame the boyfriend… and so on. Instead, Parton flatters her rival and surrenders before her beauty, as way of trying to save her relationship – an approach that has “Two” written all over it. Of course, the situation in the song is fiction. Parton isn’t really in this kind of trouble. But her feeling for the song may well have arisen out of her experience of the Two strategy.
“I Will Always Love You”
Parton’s other massive hit of the Seventies, which she wrote one year later, was titled ‘I Will Always Love You’ and also has a distinctly Twoish flavour. It was her tribute and farewell to Porter Wagoner, a country singer who had been hugely influential in helping Dolly’s early career.
By the way, almost two decades later, Whitney Houston recorded Parton’s song for the 1992 movie ‘The Bodyguard’ and it became one of the best-selling singles of all time.
Apart from Dolly Parton, Twos are not found so frequently among the ranks of famous people, since their natural tendency is to choose supportive roles, either as love partners or personal assistants. Rather than taking the front seat themselves, they feel more comfortable leaning forward from the next row back and softly whispering words of encouragement in the ear of their chosen partner.
However, there are exceptions. Elizabeth Taylor, the Hollywood actress, is widely considered to have been a Two, although this assessment seems to be based mainly on Taylor’s track record of having been married eight times to seven men.
Certainly, in her stormy relationship with British actor Richard Burton, Taylor was a devotional partner and played a supportive role in his career. But even Twos have limits and eventually Burton’s explosive character and alcohol addiction caused her to break up with him.
Taylor and Burton made several films together, including the 1966 movie ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf’, a brutal portrayal of a middle-aged couple locked in a deteriorating relationship.
Elizabeth Taylor’s Academy Award winning performance as the bitchy Martha might well be seen as the vindictive revenge of a Two, who failed to get what she wanted through flattery and manipulation, and has now shifted to bossy behaviour at stress-point Eight.
Taylor and Burton had met two years earlier, in 1964. They fell in love while making the epic movie ‘Cleopatra’, documenting the love affair between the legendary Queen of Egypt and Roman general Mark Anthony.
Here, Taylor found herself in the interesting position of being a Two playing a Two, since Queen Cleopatra is also considered to have chosen this strategy as a child, using her bonding skills to survive all kinds of dynastic intrigues among Egypt’s ruling Ptolemaic family.
First, Cleopatra ruled with her father, then with her two brothers, one of whom she married, and then by herself. As an adult woman, she sought to protect her throne by becoming the lover of two Roman conquerors, Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony.
Madonna (a Three)
Pop superstar Madonna is often tagged as a Two, because while building her career, she became lovers with a succession of influential men in the music industry. But you don’t necessarily qualify as a Two just because you share your bed.
Madonna’s personality lacks natural empathy with others and she looks much more comfortable in the Three category as the Performer.
Elvis Presley (a Nine)
Elvis Presley has also been named a Two, mainly because of his long, symbiotic relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. But when you study their relationship, Presley comes over as a weak-willed Nine, who for years was just going along with whatever “the colonel” decided was good for his career.
Parker was a classic Eight and, true to type, a bullying manager. Born in Holland, he was an illegal immigrant to the United States and for this reason never allowed Presley to tour abroad. Parker had no US passport and was afraid that his true nationality would be discovered while crossing America’s borders.
Parker even persuaded Presley to turn down a $10 million offer to perform in Saudi Arabia and, after mildly objecting, Presley just caved in. Sad to say, the mighty King of Rock ‘n Roll was in reality nothing more than a spineless wimp.
Mother Teresa (a One) and Mary Magdalene (a Two)
Two more candidates need mentioning here:
Mother Teresa has been typed as Two, because of her charitable work for the poor in India, but she exudes no warmth, intuition or seductiveness. It is more likely she was a One, rigidly doing her duty while piling up credit in the after-life.
Mary Magdalene, the famous Jerusalem prostitute, became a follower of Jesus and bathed his feet in expensive perfume. Her generous and devotional manner fits into the giver category and as such Magdalene may well have been a Two.
Let’s give Dolly the last word. In her 1992 movie, ‘Straight Talk’, Parton plays a character called Shirlee Kenyon, who hosts a call-in radio program, giving personal advice on the air to those who seek it. New to the job, one of Shirlee’s first callers is a deep-voiced man who says he is considering having a sex change and wants to know if she thinks it’s a good idea.
Remember, this was about twenty years before the so-called ‘transgender tipping point’ in America when it became more socially acceptable to switch between the male and female genders.
What would Parton’s character say? How could she bond with the caller without offending her mainstream listeners?
After a moment’s hesitation, Parton replies: “Well Gary, if you’re sure that’s what you really want, all I can say is don’t try to perm your own hair and don’t wear high heels on a soggy lawn!”
Subhuti gives workshops about the Enneagram all over the world and also gives individual online Enneagram sessions. Contact: anandsubhuti (at) yahoo.com
Related articles on the Enneagram by Subhuti
All articles in this series: Enneagram Famous Figures
The Enneagram – a journey with the Enneagram from Oscar Ichazo’s original school to Osho’s Multiversity
The Enneagram: Types – Enneagram type descriptions, childhood environments, problem areas and sentences which characterize each type