WESTLAND, Mass. Twenty-year old Todd Blinstrup, Jr. is, in the words of his mother Elaine, the “spitting image” of her mother, a former stewardess who at the age of 89 retains the striking good looks of her youth. “Unfortunately, he got my mom’s brain as well, which hasn’t worked out so well for him.”
In this high-achieving suburb, where failure is defined as not getting into an Ivy League school, Todd was carried along by the rising tide that lifts children from affluent households into competitive colleges and rewarding careers, but he eventually found out that he wasn’t equipped to, as he puts it, “swim with the sharks.” “We all had programmable calculators in 8th grade,” he recalls, “but I re-programmed mine to play video games.”
So the Blinstrups, who had paid for various private schools and enrichment programs designed for “gifted” children throughout Todd’s youth, eventually decided to “pull the plug,” in the words of his father, Todd, Senior. “You wouldn’t buy a diamond collar for a mutt,” he says with readily-evident disgust. “Why would we pay top dollar to educate a kid who’s never going to be more than a middle manager,” he says of the decision to take his son out of an expensive private liberal arts college and put him in the University of Massachusetts-Seekonk, the least prestigious campus of the state university.
Todd Jr. is one of a growing number of “re-gifted” children; young people who are given every advantage starting out in life but nonetheless blow it, and are then downgraded in their parents’ expectations and budget. “Regifting has become more and more acceptable,” says etiquette expert Priscilla Mainwaring of the practice by which the donee of a gift becomes a donor and passes it on to a third person. “Rather than taking a gift–or your child–to the town dump, you simply re-purpose it in order to pay the disappointment forward.”
Emily Froshtat’s parents had hopes that she would become a concert violinist and with that goal in mind paid for lessons and exposed her to the Boston Symphony children’s matinees throughout her childhood. “We did everything we could for her,” says her father Joseph, an amateur flautist. “The poor kid can’t carry a tune in a bucket,” he adds as he shakes his head ruefully at the thought of the time and money the family wasted. And how, this reporter asks, have they re-directed her artistic energies?
“Her stage name is Lady Disaster,” her father says with relief if not pride. “She’s a rapper.”