The Best Revenge

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our social faux pas du jour: rsvp to my payback party

by lorraine duffy merkl

what if you threw a payback party and nobody came?

recently, much mention has been made of lady gaga's return to her alma mater, convent of the sacred heart, where she apparently felt dissed when she was enrolled. to settle the score, she made a spectacle of herself by upstaging her sister's graduation.

this scenario brought to mind the story of when janis joplin, as rolling stone cover girl and rock diva, returned to her texas hometown for her 10-year high school reunion. according to the article "janis' texas hurt" on, she was also going back, in part, to make a statement about her success and specifically to flaunt it before those who had treated her badly as a teenager.

"dressed in the popular san francisco hippie fashion of the day with feathers and beads and her trademark purple-tinted glasses, joplin answered questions at a press conference, during which some of her more painful high school days came up again. all in all, it wasn't a pleasant visit for joplin. generally, this visit home to port arthur for the reunion did not achieve what she had hoped, and once again she left town feeling rejected and unloved."

this event was duplicated in the movie the rose, in which bette midler plays a joplin-esque character. she takes the stage at a local bar triumphantly, only to be brought down by hecklers who hurl the same insults from back in the day. it's heart wrenching to watch her shake her head and mouth, "no," as her reprisal fantasy, where they beg forgiveness and say they wish they'd been nicer to her, shatters.

in the case of lady gaga, my guess is that the only thing anyone associated with the school wishes is that their alum, formerly known as stefani gabriella germanotta, had gone to spence.

the retribution vibe also comes off new york's real housewives. it's like they're hoping their questionable notoriety will get back at parents, ex-husbands, former employers, colleagues or friends. "look, i'm on tv with a book, record, jewelry line. love me now? bet you wish you'd kept me around." i bet no, basing this on personal experiences.

one in particular took place in the late '80s. i ran into a former classmate who told me that a girl we knew growing up had become a hotshot music industry pr exec. it had been a decade since i'd heard the name of this person, who i remembered as being rather silly and immature, but my reaction was good for her. she had clearly gotten her act together, risen above her bronx roots and carved out a nice career for herself. and then, well, that's about it.

never once did it cross my mind that, "if only i had not let her off-the-wall behavior get on my nerves and drive me as far from her as possible, today i, as her guest, could be dancing on tables in nightclubs with sinewy lead singers." quite frankly, no hot spot or grammy-winner access would be worth the draining experience i would have had to endure being her friend throughout high school.

instead of finding peace in success and pride in the fact that the non-supporters did not keep them from their dreams-the best revenge being simply living well -some people need to rub it in the faces of those who didn't care back then, and probably don't care now. what a waste of time and it just shows how much you-gaga and co.-still care about them.


lorraine duffy merkl's debut novel, fat chick, from the vineyard press, is available at and

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