Joanna was the queen bee in high school, an ambitious “mean girl” who was the head of the cheerleading squad, who had a string of boyfriends a mile long (one of whom she left standing at the altar with no explanation), and who enjoyed humiliating those weaker than herself, namely the pimple-covered “four eyed dork” named Marnie. When Marnie catches up with her again, Joanna has become a nurse, answered phones on a suicide hotline, and is effective at getting others to like her. She easily gets them to respond to her in the way that she wants, from getting Marni’s mom to cheer with her in the family living room, to ‘sucking up’ to Grandma Bunny through pretending to be a sweet, nice and thoughtful girl, and to her self-deprecating stories about having done so much good in the world. And some of it is even true, since her parents death did cause her to reflect and want to be a better person. But the more Marni chips away at this “image,” the more Joanna starts to spiral into her old mean behaviors, including finding ways to stick the proverbial knife into her future sister-in-law (torturing her with the song she sang while she locked Marni out of the school, giving her a necklace that says “Moo” on it even though she knows Marni is sensitive about her emotions, pointing out that she is still a “four eyed dork,” and coming unhinged at the rehearsal dinner and throwing plates at her, even going so far as to dump a canister of pea soup over her head). It devastates her that the love of her life wants nothing to do with her after the incident, but she is also able to forgive Marni, apologize for her evil high school behavior, and move forward.

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You know, Joanna could have just admitted to Marni’s face that she is ashamed of how she behaved in high school and wants to apologize for her cruel behavior. What does she do instead? Ignore it and pretend it never happened. Deny remembering Marni at all. Put on a smiling face and wild enthusiasm for life and focus on the good things, like the music she loves, instead. Joanna has chosen to move beyond her past and ignore it by focusing on all the “good” things she has done since then, and doesn’t want anyone else digging it up. And it almost ruins her marital happiness, because she cannot admit to what an awful human being she was, she does not want to face the past, and she would rather die than let the man she loves know about the dark side of herself. Joanna keeps up this happy go lucky pretense until Marni’s behavior starts bringing out more and more of her 8 wing aggression, domination, and desire to put her in her place. She gave it free rein in high school, when she said high school is a prison and “I am the warden.” She bullied others students mercilessly without regard for their feelings, and still likes to have the upper hand in her discussions with Marni, taking a dominant stance in the bathroom, and losing her temper when things do not go her way.