A.C. Snow

Snow: Of best friends, male vs. female

It was a provocative statement and bound to be batted around on the Internet.

A lecturer at the Stanford University Department of Psychiatry said that one of the best things a man can do for his health is to be married to a woman.

He then said that one of the best things a woman can do for her health is to nurture her relationships with her girl friends. Is that a male putdown?

He noted that men rarely sit down with a buddy and simply talk about their feelings or the condition of their personal lives. Women, on the other hand, bare their souls to their best female friends.

According to the article, “girlfriend time” is supposed to create more “serotonin , a neurotransmitter that helps control depression and creates a feeling of well being.”

The article also states that women-to-women sessions can be as healthy as working out in the gym, taking long walks or other forms of exercise.

I remember that when I was a kid and a crowd of kinfolks gathered at our house every Sunday, I sometimes lurked just outside the dining room to eavesdrop on the women still lingering over coffee and exchanging news and gossip.

Hearing about a neighbor’s unmarried daughter who was “with child,” was far more scintillating than hearing the men out on the front porch lamenting the lack of rain on the just-planted tobacco plants or the fact that Smith-Douglass had gone up on the price of fertilizer, or how to keep the crows from pulling up the just-sprouting corn.

It’s my observation that men are more reticent to reveal the highly personal stuff that camps out in the far corners of all our psyches.

Women’s telephone conversations also are apt to be of longer duration.

Sometimes, after she concludes a long session on the phone with a relative or close friend, I ask my wife, who normally is not a phone-a-holic, “What was that all about?”

Sometimes she may reply, “Nothing, really, “ or give me a 10-second capsule of the extended conversation. Either response could be interpreted as a nice way of saying, “Actually, it’s none of your business.’’

Women are more inclined than men to organize reunions of female friends they’ve known for long periods of time.

One friend of ours has been meeting six of her first-grade classmates for for luncheons or beach trips for more than 50 years.

That’s not to say that men don’t develop friendships that spawn fishing or hunting excursions together. For years three buddies from The N&O and I enjoyed annual beach outings together.

But, according to the Stanford psychiatrist, male bonding doesn’t measure up to the friendships among females.

That’s debatable. I imagine that many males have enjoyed “best friend” relationships as enduring as those of their female counterparts, although men may be more reticent in sharing personal details.

“Best friend” status doesn’t develop often or casually. It has to stand not only the test of time but other tests as well.

From childhood forward, best friends are essential to one’s happiness and well-being beyond the cocoon of the family. A best friend is, in a sense, our security blanket as we maneuver our way through the briar patch of life.

Best friends can’t be thin-skinned. A best friend can criticize without generating resentment. Best friends are there when we need them, the 911 people in our lives.

Walter Winchell, the late writer and broadcaster, once said, “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”

I’ve had no more than half a dozen best friends over my life span. Whether male or female, “best friends” are pearls of great price.

Snow: 919-836-5636; asnow@newsobserver.com