Buster

(Arrested Development)

At the tender age of twelve Buster and his imaginary friend, Mr. Jinglebottoms, were making their favorite snack – Saltines crushed into his time tested blend of orange juice, grape juice and Hawaiian Punch to be eaten slowly with a baby spoon.  On days when he felt dangerous Buster would dare to use the baby spoon topped with the tiny silver head of a goat wearing a blue ribbon tied in a bow;  it was deliciously thrilling to be so close to such a terrifying and unpredictable animal.  But more often than not Buster allowed himself to be guided by the steady hand of Mr. Jinglebottoms, selecting the spoon with the soothing image of the adorable Gerber baby.

Buster enjoyed these moments of cooperation between them because unlike most imaginary friends he and Mr. Jinglebottoms didn’t always get along.  Mr. J. could actually be quite mouthy and Buster felt it was his responsibility to show a firm hand and offer proper guidance.  Buster wrote down every nasty thing Mr. Jinglebottoms ever uttered about Lucille – so there would be a record in case Mr. J. ever tried to protest his innocence.  With the particularly egregious comments, usually involving Lucille’s hair, Buster would smack Mr. J. around a little bit to let him know such things weren’t taken lightly in the Bluth household.

Usually after such a spat Mr. J. would have a good cry and then apologize with a peace offering such as a compliment on the sausage-like fit of Buster’s contemporary argyle sweater.   The olive branch could also be an idea for a gentle, non-interactive pet that would be sure to impress the other kids.  Last time they settled on a worm farm.  Buster blamed the colony’s death on his mother’s insistence that it be kept in the storage unit – not on Mr. J’s suggestion to coat them all in iridescent paint transforming them into a gorgeous Glo Worm (& Friends!)

Recently, Buster and Mr. J. had taken to communicating in their own secret language.  It was part Latin he mis-remembered from school, part mangled Spanish he tried to copy from Rosa the housekeeper and part rhythm.  Toe tapping, thigh slapping, counter banging – any mix was fair game so Buster could work his hips like a Solid Gold dancer recently fired from the Broadway cast of Cats.

They both agreed that each component of their secret language deserved visual representation in their choice of dress.  The first two parts were obvious – a polo from The Milford Academy and a feather duster.  But the glamor factor proved more difficult.  No amount of hairspray or Vaseline made Lucille’s pantyhose shine like those of the carefree prancers on T.V.  And sure her diamonds were nice, but they didn’t provide an all-over sparkle like gold glitter leotards.  Hairline already receding Buster knew he had a problem, but Mr. J. was spot-on with a solution; they quickly put the ponytails of Buster’s female Cabbage Patch Kid to proper use.

Which piece of this mayhem nudged Lucille to the edge we may never know, but once she committed Mr. J. was done for.  Buster knew something was wrong when his mother joined him in the kitchen and actually choked down a single Saltine.  He looked away when she asked to whom he was speak-dancing because he knew she knew that answer already.  Also, he didn’t like to say out loud the infantile name of his dear imaginary friend; he’d tried more than once to get Mr. J. to change it but on this point, as on many, Mr. Jinglebottoms was immovable.

Forever burned into Buster’s brain is the image of his mother’s mouth as she spoke the words of horror.  Her lipstick moistly glistening with Vodka and angry spittle, sprinkled with a light dusting of cracker crumbs, she told her youngest that no one was listening.  Mr. Jinglebottoms had met the fate of all boys who dared to be dirty in the Bluth household.  Lucille cleaned him up.  And then forgot him.  In the dryer.  For days.  And you better believe the heat was HIGH.

 

Joan

(Mad Men)

As a little girl dolls held no interest for Joan.  Instead she spent every second she could outdoors, scrabbling up and down trees and playing Red Rover.  Her behavior was undoubtedly driven in large part by the reaction she elicited from her mom.  Skinned knees, a shirt torn from wrestling – when she came home like this her mother could barely stand the sight of her and it made Joan feel utterly, delightfully rebellious.  Her achilles heel was her sweet tooth and she would play quietly inside in exchange for a Twinkie.  However, with a mother as fearful of fatness as her own this exchange didn’t happen very often.

Then her father left, for good this time, and a dark sadness enveloped the household.  Thrown together in their grief, Joan and her mother became an odd pair of partners trying to impress the not always so gentle men who came to call.  After school she’d read Vogue and Mademoiselle at the local five and dime, stuffing the best one down her skirt so she could replicate the hair and make-up tips on her mother.  At first she was so nervous her sweaty palms could barely grip the glossy pages,  but quickly she realized the same bat of her lashes and swivel of her hips worked just as well here as in her living room.  It was in these gleaming pages that she fell in love with advertising and also learned that anything French = sexy.

To pay for her accordion lessons she took a job babysitting a few afternoons a week.  Mostly she read her magazines while the kids played tag.  From time to time she’d try combinations of their mother’s make-up on them, which little Billy actually really enjoyed.  Without fail she fed them ketchup noodles; the culinary arts would come later.  When she tried to give Billy the latest style and instead left him with hideous whitewalls and a bald spot on top, she received her first pink slip.  But by now she could sing, play and squeeze several Edith Piaf songs in all the right places; she was well on her way.

In high school her best friend Cherise became “in a family way” and had to marry.  Determined to help her friend make the best of it, Joan threw herself into planning the wedding.  She spent many afternoons at Cherise’s home, guiding her friend toward elegant choices such as silk tulle for a fingertip length veil.  The groom frequently arrived to call on Cherise while Joan was still there.  One evening he horrified Joan by cornering her and expressing his concern over who would take care of his manly needs once Cherise became large.  He made it overly clear he hoped Joan would offer her services, starting right now.  Her rebuff was razor sharp, stopping just short of an open palm slap.

Still fuming she told her mother whose admonishment to just keep quiet left her shocked and appalled.  Her mother’s words rang in her ears.  The last thing young Joan wanted to cause was the disgraceful demise of her dear friend so she remained silent, but the choice left her Incredibly distraught.  She couldn’t sleep or hold anything down.  When she was fitted for her maid of honor dress they told her she would need some falsies so the top of the dress didn’t cave in.  Well, crisis or no crisis this simply wouldn’t do.  Firmly setting her jaw Joan began a vigorous regiment of phyto-estrogen, massage, and at least thirty minutes a day in the Stoffer machine.  The effects she achieved were unprecedented.

Donna

(Parks and Recreation)

Young Donna had a good life smoking cigars with her dad on the front porch of the family’s lake house and waiting to be trained to take over the family candy business, ToffeeHey.  But she also had ambition and by her teenage years it had caught fire.  Tired of singing into a hairbrush and performing her renegade dance moves for her unappreciative brothers, a headstrong Donna hopped on a bus to Minneapolis.

She was convinced that if Prince could just see her deep understanding of rhinestones and hear her stage name, Exotic Erotic Eva, they would form a lifelong bond.  Despite haunting his club, Glam Slam, she couldn’t ensnare him and had to take a part-time job in an attempt to pay the bills.  While sullenly re-stocking shiitakes at the Seward Co-op Donna couldn’t help but notice a man wearing sunglasses and pushing a cart overflowing with nothing but luxury mushrooms.

Acknowledging her stare the man pushed his glasses down to the tip of his nose, winked and explained that he was Executive Chef for the artist commonly known as Prince who ate only funghi.  Next came a rare moment when Donna did not keep things classy, but instead went weak in the knees and careened to the floor taking a display of  Chick’n Nuggets with her.  Embarrassed by her poor performance and dreading another winter with only bedazzled, fingerless gloves to protect her from the freezing cold, Donna headed home.

Not a patient or warm people Donna’s family trained her brother Lavondrius in her absence, solidifying a deep hatred between the siblings.  Determined to still enjoy the finer things and live like a free and easy retiree, Donna set out to marry well.   The fourth time she found herself in divorce court she burned her copy of Gush: Amor Through Time #2 and got into the nightclub business with her cousin Ginuwine’s step-daughter.

Business boomed until De’jan decided they needed an exotic animals room, bringing the wrath of the health department down upon them.  With the help of a handsome Inspector Donna was able to save her favorite tiger, Treat Yo Self.  Computer Blue, the chimpanzee, didn’t fare so well; Donna vowed to live his dream for him and by any means necessary become the proud driver of a Mercedes-Benz.  She launched a successful side venture offering Treat Yo Self for photo shoots;  he was especially in demand around prom time.  In addition to assisting with the tiger ‘s rescue, the Inspector took Donna to the mall and the movies – all while on the clock – which planted the seed in her mind to get a gig working for the government.

Toby

(The Office, U.S.)

When Toby was a youth nothing excited him more than the glossy pages of Consumer Reports.  Sure the current issue was catchy, but he also liked to look back and get a deep history of a product.  At the moment he was particularly infatuated with the frozen pizza phenomenon since each parent told him they would stock this treat for him if he would testify against the other in the custody hearing.  Could there finally be a shred of goodness in this torturous situation?  But which frozen pizza should a young man select?

They all claimed to include six ounces of real cheese on their twelve inch pies, but Toby would wait until Consumer Reports revealed those who had fibbed.  He was partial to Mama Celeste, though he fought the feeling because he knew it was rooted in emotion.  Clearly Mama Celeste was a one-man lady who cared about family.  She would never get a divorce.  Her friendly eyes, her tastefully dangling earrings – she would never ask her son to testify.  But, he’d felt this way about his own mother once and he knew now that people could change.  He needed proof of her honesty before “Celeste, Pizza for One” could become his brand.

The report he required was nestled on the top shelf at the public library.  The librarian had expressed irritation with him earlier today, admonishing him to go outside and play.  Yeah, well what did she know about it?  He didn’t need her and her judgmental blouse.  He could reach it himself.

As he fell, plummeting downward, his first thought was that now his parents would have to stay together to jointly nurse him back to health.  Twitching on the floor he heard the annoyed librarian call an ambulance as he formed his brilliant, two-prong approach;  ham up the pain and consistently compliment his mother’s hair.  It worked wonders on his male nurse who increased his pain medication and remarked on the suaveness of his mother’s locks.  His father unfortunately remained immune.  His parents argued about the bill, who would cover which portion of visiting hours and who drank the last TaB.

In the end Toby received a metal replacement hip.  Back at school, he instantly regretted trying to woo Tiffany Hatcher by hinting that his new hip gave him superhuman strength; “Toby Sommers the Bionic Spaz” still haunts him on his bad days.  Now when it chafes, resulting in local swelling, he gets that pinched look on his face and puts “Mood Indigo” on repeat.

 

Henry

(Party Down)

Henry was first bit by the acting bug when his performance in the all youth version of Death of A Salesman at Camp Cucamunga caught the attention of Counselor Brittany Baumgartel.  She asked him for a “couples” paddle on Lake Michunamatoc but he’d read Cabin Three’s dog eared copy of Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus and frankly, he was overwhelmed.

Henry promised himself to jump in wholeheartedly the next time an opportunity of love presented itself.  He did so, and had a steady relationship with Jenny Foster through junior high.  They practiced their parts for jazz band together, taking turns moistening her clarinet reed.  Learning lines for community theater plays – yes, by now Henry had branched out – was also a good time.  He was surprised when Jenny agreed to his suggestion that a blindfold would provide assurance that neither one was cheating and peeking at their lines, though simply tying a blindfold over Jenny’s eyes did not provide the intensely erotic sensation he’d hoped for from his glimpses of The Red Shoe Diaries.  Indeed, he soon admitted to himself that Jenny rarely caused him to need to hold his books in front of his pants as he saw the other boys doing.  So, he delivered his first “as a friend” speech, wiped her angry spittle out of his eye and tried to move on.

High school was when Henry realized that his ability to cry on cue made girls turn to putty in his hands.  It was a fun time, absolutely filled with breasts, but it left its mark.  No truly caring person is comfortable knowing that they’re running the show.  So, Henry eased up a little.  Oh sure, he’d still get a girl out of her back clasp Maidenform on her parents’ sofa in celebration of the weekend, but school nights became time for pondering the future.

In college he really thought he’d found her.  Two years together, just before Christmas break of their senior year – why not let fly with the ultimate romantic who lives deep inside?  As he watched her try to compose her shocked face into something resembling normalcy – watched her eyes fill with anxiety as she stared at the now terrible little velvet jeweler’s box – he suddenly became aware of the biting cold.  She said something but he only heard the wind howl.

With one semester to go he dropped out and headed to LA to pursue acting, the one love that hadn’t yet disappointed him.