by Sean McConeghy

Do-It-Yourself Botox

Tim Smyth might look like any other 13-year-old, but what this young boy has been through is something no child should have to endure.  Heading into his birthday in late January, Smyth had his heart set on an Xbox 360, along with two other games, Grand Theft Auto IV and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Unfortunately for him, his parents just couldn’t afford the $420 price tag.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Smyth.  “I took out the garbage twice last month, didn’t curse at my mother for three weeks, and this was the thanks I got!”

When reached for comment, Smyth’s mother burst into tears and said,  “I can’t believe this had to happen to him when he’s so young. I would like to give him an outlet for acting out the gratuitous violence and sexual content he sees on Showtime after we’re in bed, but I just couldn’t afford it.  Now Tim has been forced to take up soccer.  Soccer! Can you believe it?”

Sadly, stories like Smyth’s are happening all across the country, and the recession’s forgotten victims seem to be suffering the most.

In Springfield, Missouri, nine-year-old Jack Mazer is also having a hard time.  Counting on his parents to plunk down nearly $200 for his new Wii and his chance to imitate his favorite basketball player Kobe Bryant, Mazer stormed up to his room in a huff upon discovering that his parents had instead gotten him an unidentifiable orange orb.

Jack’s father Mark, who apparently was somewhat familiar with the strange object, said that he had vague recollections of using it in his youth.  After years spent sitting in front of the TV, though, he had to admit that he was no longer sure of what to do with it.  “I hoped that my son would be able to figure it out, but apparently I was wrong.  I may now have to take the drastic step of spending time with him rediscovering its use,” he said.

Not being able to enjoy imaginary worlds is a comparatively minor problem for these forgotten youth. They are also being confronted with massive psychological trauma.

EstebanMario Esteban, an 11-year-old in Colorado Springs, has been catatonic since late December. Esteban’s mother, Lupe, described the traumatic event: “We were hoping that we’d be able to get Mario a PS3 during the after-Christmas sales, but we just couldn’t swing it.  Mario came to us begging, but we had to tell him no.  Then he asked us the question every parent dreads: ‘What do I do now?’  Then… I’m sorry, it’s just so difficult for me to talk about it… I told him that he had to go outside and use his imagination, and that’s when…” Her voice gave out before she could finish.

Fortunately, there are occasional bright spots in this otherwise devastating phenomenon. After receiving only clothes and a few books for Christmas, 12-year-old Francis Barnbey got an unexpected present: some chalk and a rubber ball from his grandparents, who explained that their children had used those items themselves.  “Your parents used to play with these when they were young. Maybe you’ll enjoy them too,” they told him. Barnbey’s 15-year-old brother then stepped in to help him draw nipples on the ball.

Even with hopeful stories like the Barnbey’s, most American children continue to wander playgrounds aimlessly, desperately waiting for the day when they will once again be able to spend six hours a day staring at a screen with their friends.  Sadly, though, that day does not appear to be in the foreseeable future.

Update:  Since this article was first written, Tim Smyth has discovered his creative side.  Now rather than pretending to steal cars and run over old ladies, he’s doing the real thing and is now wanted in four states.

Sean McConeghy has spent most of the last decade traveling around the world, mostly teaching to support that occupation. He’s currently in Honduras starting his own business. He is working toward his Rhett Butler moment when he can say to his former life, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

All Downsized Living blog posts are fictitious and satirical. Any resemblance to real persons is coincidental and unintentional.