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Silver Threads: Gal Pals

Sunday’s take on the comic-strip Flagston family — “Hi and Lois” — got me to thinking about a column I’ve long planned to write. Lois and Chip and the twins and baby Trixie are seated at the dinner table when Hi enters.

“You’re late,” Lois says.

“We had a little bull session after the game,” says Hi.

“What do you guys talk about?”

“Sports, music, movies, books, politics, cars, money ..”

“But not about your family?”

“I don’t like to brag.”

I’m inclined to think that Hi Flagston and his friends didn’t talk about their families because that’s not what most men talk about. I remember attending the funeral of a male friend and co-worker at which his closest friend delivered a brief eulogy. They had been buddies for more than 40 years, since high school and college and through employment on two newspapers, said the speaker. “And we never talked about anything personal, “ he wound up — rather proudly, I thought, amazed at the very idea.

I’d never before heard such a bald admission of a man’s disinclination to connect intimately with others of his gender. What are friends for if not to share examinations of every triumph and disappointment that life brings?

Well, according to an email passed along by a woman I’ve known for more than 60 years and with whom I’ve discussed everything personal, a gal’s “gal pals” are also good for her health.

According to an article released on the internet by Saint Francis Health System, a psychiatry professor at Stanford University says that one of the best things a woman can do for her health is to nurture her friendships with girl friends.

“Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help one another deal with stress and difficult life situations.

“Physically, this quality girlfriend time helps us create more serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well-being.” It seems it’s even more helpful than jogging is.

That leaves the men out, since they’ve been hardwired from pre-history to skirt the emotional issues. What DID they talk about in the kiva after the hunt? You may be sure it wasn’t mom‘s failing health or that sister has failed to find a strong hunter for her own because she’s painfully shy and has buck teeth. They didn’t discuss the fact that little Johnny’s a chicken when it comes to a fight or that Sonny smoked too much of the magic weed after the latest lunar get-together. You can’t change human nature; only temper it a bit with rules, regulations and religion.

My husband, more talkative than most, has been fortunate in his ability to win men friends who are caring and supportive, will discuss the important things about family and work. But he’s always been in a small minority and his chances for same-gender intimacy are dwindling.

I don’t have to tell you that as people age, their support groups start drying up. It’s not that some new friends aren’t willing to listen, it’s just that there’s not much shared history.

If I happen survive all the gal pals I’ve loved and vented to over the years, I guess I’ll just have to take up jogging — but it won’t be as much fun. Because we always got a little shopping and a lot of wine-drinking in, too.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at


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