Last week I vented about back-to-school shopping and the relentless, unavoidable pressures on young girls to look, dress, move and eat — or not eat — like celebrities.
This week I have a bit of encouraging news:
Transforming the way a woman feels about herself, at whatever age and whatever size, could be as easy as leaving a little note on a bathroom mirror.
We're not talking about miraculous, life-altering, culture-shifting changes here. But you can make someone smile and feel better for a minute, or even an hour. You can remind them that the secret to happiness isn't how you look, but how you see.
It's called Operation Beautiful.
Caitlin Boyle, a 26-year-old North Carolina woman, was feeling stressed out and negative about herself and her life. One day a few years ago, she was in a public restroom, staring blankly into the mirror, and felt the urge to do something positive.
She scribbled "You are beautiful!" on a scrap piece of notebook paper and stuck it on the mirror. That night, she posted a photo of the note on her blog and encouraged other women to spread the love.
That small act kick-started a movement. Boyle's e-mail was flooded with pictures and stories from women who posted their own notes on mirrors, magazines, windows and gym scales.
She compiled many of them into a book, "Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-It Note at a Time" (Gotham Books, $17), which came out last week.
I read about Operation Beautiful online last week and posted a note in the women's bathroom at work. Now, journalists are a cynical bunch, so I figured that Post-It wouldn't last long. It would no doubt be thrown into the trash with an eye roll and a hearty "pshaw."
I was wrong. The note survived, and at least four colleagues mentioned it that afternoon:
"A Post-It that says 'You are beautiful' was left on a bathroom mirror at work," one posted on Twitter. "Dear unknown coworker: Thank you. I needed that today."
So much for anonymity, but the experiment worked. It shows, not surprisingly, that women appreciate kind words and positive messages.
"Girls and women are striving to reach this unattainable ideal, and we're making ourselves miserable in the process," Boyle said from her home in Charlotte, N.C., where she lives with her husband and two dogs.
"When they find the notes, sometimes they feel like it's divine intervention. They found it at the right moment, the right place. ... It's truly amazing that one little note can make such a difference."
I agree, and so does my seventh-grade daughter. When we went shopping for school supplies, we added Post-It notes to the list.