Random Acts of Awesomeness

Courtesy Operation Beautiful

Courtesy Operation Beautiful

For all of the hype about women and their low self esteem, it didn’t really hit home until the other night when I was out with a few of my beautiful and brilliant girlfriends laughing and chatting and having a great time until-dare I say it-one of them challenged the rest of us to say two things that we were good at.

You’d think she had ordered us to rob a bank or step on a crack and break our mother’s back for all of the nervous shudders that greeted the prospect of simply giving ourselves a compliment.

“I think I’m a pretty good cook,” said T, who could easily rival Rachael Ray in the kitchen. “I guess I’m sort of creative,” said M, who has such a beautifully decorated house that it could put Martha Stewart to shame.

You think?

You guess?

You’ve got to be kidding me!

I couldn’t help but contrast these women’s struggles to say something nice about themselves with the way my 11-year-old son’s top three adjectives to describe himself rolled off his tongue: “awesome, awesomer and awesomest.”

Awesome indeed. How can an untested 11-year-old kid have so much more confidence in himself than a group of fully-grown women who have proven their awesomeness time and time again? The answer is complicated, but one antidote is amazingly simple-in fact, it’s as simple as a Post-It note. Just ask Caitlin Boyle, founder of Operation Beautiful, a positive thinking movement so simple that all you need is a pen and some paper to participate.

It all began when Caitlin was having a really bad day and wanted to do something small and simple for someone else to make herself feel better. Tired of watching women criticize themselves while staring into bathroom mirrors, she scribbled, “You are beautiful” on a Post-it and slapped it on one of the mirrors in her Florida office building. Then she posted a picture of the note on her blog, www.HealthyTippingPoint.com. Soon women around the globe began mimicking her random act of kindness.

Notes started showing up on diet books, scales at gyms and on Slim-Fast boxes. Then Caitlin started the operationbeautiful.com blog, with a simple mission to leave positive, body-affirming notes in public spaces and invite others to do the same. The response was so overwhelming that she’s chronicled some of her favorite messages in a new book, Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-it Note at a Time.

Since starting the project about a year and a half ago, Caitlin’s left hundreds of Operation Beautiful notes of her own, including her favorite saying of the moment, “Scales Measure Weight, Not Worth.” She also leaves notes around the house to inspire and motivate her, like the recent “You are the creator of your own destiny.”

Talk about a girl after my own heart.

One of my favorite things to do is write myself a message when I order things online, like a recent prescription order that came with a gift card saying, “Leslie, you rock!” And a book I got for my son arrived with the message, “Your mom must be awesome to have such an awesome kid.”

Not surprisingly, when it was my turn to say what I was good at, “amusing myself” was at the top of my list. As for Caitlin, she said, “I can seriously do anything I put my mind to- launch a small business, move across the country, practice yoga, run a marathon. And I have epic calf muscles.”

She’s got some pretty epic ideas too.

Keep an eye out ladies: you might just see a message on a mirror near you.

When Leslie’s not leaving random post-it notes in library books and public bathrooms, or writing cards to herself, she can be reached at Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com. For more columns visit www.LeslieDinaberg.comOriginally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on September 24, 2010.

I Second That Emotion

Stockimages, freeimages.net

Stockimages, freeimages.net

I’m not quite sure why I felt like doing a victory lap when I read about the latest round of “Mars versus Venus” differences between men and women research, but I couldn’t help myself. It may have something to do with the fact that when I told my husband about it, he pretended not to hear me.

A recent academic study found that, contrary to popular belief, men are actually more affected by rocky relationships than women are. That’s right, no matter how many stupid movies and TV shows there are that portray women as banshees in the boardroom and dandelions in the bedroom who blow caution to the wind at the mere whiff of romance, thorny relationships actually take a far greater toll on men than they do on women.

“Men are more sensitive than we often think they are,” said Robin Simon of Wake Forest University, in an interview with Courtney Hutchison for ABC News. She then snickered, “Wusses” under her breath. I might have made up that last comment.

I’ve been saying men are sensitive for years, and insensitive as it may sound, I couldn’t help but yell out “gotcha” for every single time I’ve heard a guy tell me to “stop being so sensitive.”

That’s a lot of “gotcha’s.”

I’ve always been sure that somewhere deep inside my husband was a super sensitive side, and that I just needed to chip away at that jokey exterior for a few more decades and that treasure of emotion would be mine, all mine!

Besides, I know that women aren’t the only ones getting all weepy at that Folger’s coffee commercial where Peter comes home for Christmas. And you’d have to have a heart made of stone not get emotional at weddings, graduations and when your kid finally scores a soccer goal, right?

Sure, some of the stereotypes still ring true. When women get together we tend to drink poetically named cocktails and chat about designer footwear and our children’s wisdom beyond their years with the same level of passion and precision in which we dissect our romantic relationships. Guys tend to drink beer, play poker and watch or play sports-which is likely one of the reasons that women fare better when things go sour in the romance department. We have more opportunities to express our emotions because we can discuss our problems with friends.

Guys, at least the ones I’m around, tend to joke and needle each other when the conversations get serious. It takes a while for them to be comfortable enough to express their own emotions, let alone show empathy for each other. Guys are much more likely to identify their wives or girlfriends as their “best friend,” which may also be a factor in making breakups more emotionally difficult.

Of course the study, published earlier this year in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior by Simon and co-author Anne Barrett, associate professor of sociology at Florida State University, drew on mental health and relationship data among college students, and most of my experience, at least recent experience, is with full grown adult men.

But even among “Men of a Certain Age,” there is a large body of research that shows that they are actually more affected by relationships than women-they just don’t like to admit it. For example, married men live longer. And women fare much better on their own than men do, both physically and emotionally, although maybe not so much financially,

I guess the one thing we can count on is that interest in the “Mars versus Venus” differences between men and women conundrum will continue to compel lots of research and cocktail party conversations-where the men will only pretend not to listen.

When Leslie’s not pondering the mysteries of the opposite sex, she can be reached at Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com. For more columns visit www.LeslieDinaberg.comOriginally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on September 17, 2010.

Working Girl

I Have A Quick Update To Share by stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net

I Have A Quick Update To Share by stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net

“I don’t know what inspiration is, but when it comes I hope it finds me working.” -Pablo Picasso

Just about every college bound kid I know has an impressive record of digging ditches in Cambodia, planning the prom, singing on stage and scoring soccer goals. According to one admissions counselor friend, the extracurriculars are a dime a dozen, “If you want to distinguish yourself as a high school student these days, what you really need to do is get a job.

Many kids seem to think J-O-B is a four-letter word, but my parents had an ingenious method of motivating my sister and I to go to work: they refused to buy us all of the things that we wanted.

We had to earn our own cash if we wanted to keep ourselves in Ditto jeans, Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers and John Hughes movies. Thus began my own intricately tailored vocational education program.

I started out babysitting for families in my neighborhood, a surreal experience since we lived on a block of almost identical tract houses. There’s something very disconcerting about snooping through the drawers in a bedroom exactly like your mother’s, only to find compromising pictures of your current employers.

Rule number one in the quest for the perfect job: it can’t be anything that tempts you into embarrassing behavior.

Next I handed out food samples-Gorp, Country Time Lemonade and Pringles were among the products I peddled to shoppers at the old Santa Cruz Market on the Mesa, which has since been yuppified into Lazy Acres. It was fun flirting with the box boys and peeking in people’s carts, but I wasn’t allowed to sit down on this job, not even for a minute.

Rule number two: you don’t come home from the perfect job with aching feet.

My next job was working at Harvey’s Tennis Shop on upper State Street, now the home of BB’s Knits. This was a great gig. I mostly remember giggling, trying on clothes and getting lunch at Petrini’s … until the owners got wise and figured out that they really didn’t need two teenage girls (me and my best friend) working all day Saturdays to service just a handful of customers.

Rule number three: make sure your employer is going to stay in business.

I was now addicted to trying on clothes, so when the tennis shop closed I jumped at the chance to work at Rumor’s in Piccadilly Square (the precursor to Paseo Nuevo). Little did I know that my future husband was toiling away nearby at Hot Biscuits, I was too distracted by my job in fashion heaven. My entire paycheck–and then some–seemed to go back to my employer, but that was definitely my best-dressed year ever.

Rule number four: it’s great to work for love, but you do need to take home some money.

As a waitress at the Lobster House (now that fake lighthouse on Cabrillo Blvd. with a Rusty’s Pizza Parlor) I learned some important lessons from the manager: you balance a tray from the inside out; the customer is always right, even that old lady who tips you in pennies; Frank Sinatra has a song for almost any situation; and most importantly, even when you do get good tips, it’s hard to appreciate them in a clam chowder-stained yellow polyester uniform and white nurses’ shoes.

Rule number five: the perfect job will include the perfect outfit–comfortable and cute.

My next job was working at the snack bar at Cathedral Oaks Tennis Club (now Cathedral Oaks Athletic Club) followed by a stint behind the desk. It was a lot of fun, but I was envious seeing my friends playing tennis, while I supplied their Gatorade and court assignments.

Rule number six: the perfect job should make others jealous, (i.e. “You really get to sit around and write all day?”) but not me!

Speaking of envy-worthy gigs, one of the best ones I had was working security at the County Bowl. That’s right, I was one of those girls in the attractive yellow windbreakers looking through your purse. But unlike the courteous crew they now have–who send you to the office to check in your illegal cans, bottles and alcohol–in those days we confiscated it all for the post-party.

Rule number seven: beer before wine makes you feel fine, but confiscated liquor makes you feel sicker.

Basically all of these pre-college jobs taught me more about what I didn’t want to do than what I did. Looking back at all my jobs, I only wish that when I was applying to colleges they had put more weight on my employment history. With a resume like mine, I definitely would have gotten into Oxford.

When Leslie’s not working for a living-actually even when she is-she can be reached at Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com. For more columns visit www.LeslieDinaberg.com. Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on September 10, 2010.

Blooming Girls and Blooming Idiots

Photo by by imagerymajestic, freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by by imagerymajestic, freedigitalphotos.net

Sixth grade started last week and I was shocked to find my still-squirrelly-not-yet-pimply-but-still-closes-his-eyes-when-people-kiss-in-movies little boy in a class full of young women. Never have I seen such blatant evidence of girls maturing faster than boys as I did in that sixth grade classroom.

If Koss had been aware enough of the opposite sex to look-really look-around, he would have been shocked at the new uh, developments that had perked up among his classmates over the summer. Those giggly little girls were growing into graceful young women, or at least women-in-the-making, while the boys were still, for the most part, goofy little boys. Sure, the boys were microscopically taller than they had been in June and their trash talk was becoming a bit more colorful, but these were basically the same increments of gradual maturation I’d been witnessing since preschool.

The girls, on the hand, seemed to have catapulted into womanhood in the blink of an eye. It was like they’d all been sucked into some kind of puberty-filled time machine and grown three years older in just three months. I know there are lots of theories about genetically modified hormones causing girls to mature sooner, but given the preponderance of glitter nail polish and day glow accessories, I’m starting to think they might be pumping something into the air at Claire’s.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when Koss came home from his first day of school and told me about the new rule for the sixth graders: deodorant was mandatory. After all, last year’s sex ed video gave a very basic anatomy lesson, just slightly above the level of the one I gave Koss when he was potty training, and then spent the rest of the video talking about the importance of wearing deodorant. He’s been asking a lot of questions about Old Spice and Right Guard ever since, but sex, body hair, voices changing – all of that stuff – is still way, way off his radar.

I have noticed a few strange and alien tween behaviors, like eye rolls, shoulder shrugs and “yeah, right mom’s,” but not really anything else. Seeing those girls so developed kind of freaked me out. Naturally I went to my friends for advice on dealing with the inevitable onset of, gasp, puberty.

“He’s still a long ways away,” said my friend Audrey, whose three teenage sons give her a lot of street cred in this arena. “But I would advise you to start investing in hair dye pretty soon,” pointing to a new streak of gray in her once auburn tresses.

“At least you have a boy,” piped up Penny, whose daughter, at age 11, is already shaving her legs and buying tampons. To think I used to envy this particular mom when the kids were little and her daughter would swing docilely for hours while I wore myself out running around the park with Koss, feigning endless interest in trucks and dinosaur action figures.

“I’ve got a good idea,” suggested Krista. “We should send the girls to middle school in sixth and seventh grade, and leave the boys in elementary school till they hit puberty.”

Holly laughed, “As soon they tell you they are too old for Superman underwear and watermelon flavored toothpaste, then they have to go to junior high.”

“We could even throw a commencement party and all chip in to buy our boys boxer shorts and sheets that don’t have Bob the Builder on them,” said Nina.

“I’ve got an even better idea,” said Audrey, the only one of us who has been through this multiple times and lived to tell the tale. “Throw mom a puberty party and give her a few years supply of wine and chocolate-and don’t forget the hair dye.” I knew there was a reason why we were friends.

Send your puberty party suggestions-and early donations-to Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com. For more columns visit www.LeslieDinaberg.com.  Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on September 3, 2010.