When I was in third grade, my teacher, Ms. Berthume, asked us to make a collage the week before winter break. She brought in Highlights and National Geographic magazines for us to cut up and paste together into a vision board for the next year. When Ms. Berthume let us loose to grab for materials, I had my eye set on a particularly enticing Better Homes and Gardens magazine. With a little bit of heart and a whole lot of hair-pulling, I finally found it in my clutches. I felt I had won the third grade, but I had been sorely mistaken.
Tony Garcia was the shortest kid in our class. Although I was not monitoring him closely during the scuffle for materials, I can easily see how he could have been elbowed to the side in the rush. I imagine that’s why Tony had not been able to push his way into a Better Homes and Gardens like yours truly, or even a measly Highlights.
He instead walked away a big loser, clutching only a Time magazine. Time magazines are the crust of collaging magazines — and not the pizza crust, the crust of an item where crust does not belong. Time magazines are terrible to collage with. Time magazines now serve as a great decoration on your coffee table to convince guests you read while also prompting no further questions about articles inside because no one has read a Time magazine since 2014. If you’ve ever found yourself flipping a 5-year-old Time in a doctor’s office, you might be struck with the crispness of flipping through a magazine that has literally never been touched by another person or by how few photos in it would fit well in the collage of an 8-year-old.
However, little did my class know that inside Tony’s magazine sat a small index card advertising the other magazines distributed by Time Inc. On this index card was a tiny picture advertising the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition with an inch-by-inch-and-a-half picture of a scantily clad bikini model.
At about this time, my older sister noticed that someone who shall remain anonymous was googling “xxx netflix movies” and “american beauty when does the sex start.” When she brought this up to my mother one day while we were driving to do an errand, I peered to the front seat to see my mom roll her eyes and say, “Leave it.” Ultimately, my brother’s private Netflix viewing habits show that in 2006, good pornography was hard to come by for people without a credit card and that in our third-grade class that day, Tony Garcia had seemingly hit the jackpot.
And Tony was not at all blind to what he had stumbled upon. Slowly and systematically, he began to call boys over to his desk to look at the picture up close. At first, I didn’t know what was happening — why the boys kept giggling and walking back to their desks. But eventually, the hot gossip got back to me. I, like the other girls, never got up to view Tony’s peep show. Instead, I dutifully sat and continued to hack away at my magazine, feigning a disgusted disinterest in the horrors and mysteries of the adult human form.
Eventually, the teacher caught on as well. Ms. Berthume walked over to Tony and snatched the card out of his hands, disappointed that her harmless arts and crafts project had devolved into some sort of red-light showcase.
It is hard to imagine that Tony’s Sports Illustrated card was the first time I had been in the same room as a photo of a woman in a bikini. Yet I think this moment has stuck with me for so many years because I felt I had the rug completely ripped out from under me. Procuring the Better Homes and Gardens Magazine should have garnered me a spot at the top of the third-grade food chain, and yet somehow my achievement was surmounted by something the size of an index card.
I consider Tony to be among the chief titans of industry of that time. He was given the worst Ms. Berthume’s stack of magazines had to offer, and yet he completely turned it around for himself. At the end of the day, all the flowers and lawn decor in the world have nothing on a pair of shapely double D’s.
So now, as I muddle on through life, bogged down by schoolwork and clubs and relationship problems, I remind myself that anything could be that ad insert. Minimum wage job? Could be your ad insert. Heartbroken by a guy you never dated? Insert. Infected with scabies from a windbreaker you got at the dump? Insert! So although I ultimately was outmaneuvered by Tony Garcia on that fateful day in the third grade, I learned a valuable lesson on ad inserts and the power of an underdog. And that, my friend, is worth all the Better Homes and Gardens in the world — dare I even say, the Best Home and Garden.
“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the summer semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.