From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

In Praise of Best Girlfriends

A friend never defends a husband who gets his wife an electric skillet for her birthday.

Erma Bombeck

There are no courses in how to be a best friend, or in how to find one either. There’s no Friends ’R’ Us personalized dating service you can sign up for. If you’re lucky, you stumble upon a lifelong best friend by accident.

There has to be extraordinary chemistry in a friendship. And by this, I mean Mouth Chemistry. Motor mouth chemistry. Otherwise, all you have is a fond acquaintanceship.

No man will ever understand this, but the main prerequisites for friendship are nonstop talking at the same time for at least seven and a half hours, followed by going home and then calling each other up on the phone in order to discuss all the things that were not discussed in person. In the case of my best friend, Judith, it is particularly extreme because she is a columnist, like me. We see each other in person, then we call each other immediately on the phone, then we write each other letters about the things that weren’t discussed in person, then we send each other copies of the column we wrote about the visit and the phone call.

How did I decide that Judith was going to be my friend? It was easy.

When I first visited her home, I saw immediately that she had the same Purina Cat Chow ad taped to her refrigerator that I have taped on mine. This struck me as not merely cosmic but decisive.

Also, her husband is not a jerk. It’s amazing how many best friends insist on acquiring wholly unacceptable husbands. If best friends were required to fill out a form before acquiring a husband, the world would be a better place, but so few of them show this kind of courtesy.

So now, let’s review the criteria so far: nonstop talking, identical refrigerator art, acceptable (or at least non-jerk) husband. Who could ask for more?

But I have omitted the most important trait of all: generosity.

By this, I do not mean “free with money.” Very few women care about that type of stuff. Money was invented by men, and then men invented office buildings so that they could have a place to talk about their money and write amounts of money on pieces of paper and fax them to each other.

When I say “generosity,” I mean a generosity of spirit: a lack of pettiness and jealousy, and a meeting (or close to it) of the minds. “This is obvious,” you say, but alas, it is hard to find in a friend.

I had a best friend for a while who was a professional therapist. A very nice woman, actually. Unfortunately, therapists and humor columnists do not get along very well.

The first time I saw the therapist’s house, I said, “Oh, what a dump!” (It was actually a gorgeous house, and everyone knew it and said so.) But “Marion” looked at me and said, “Stephanie. You seem a little hostile.”

“It was a joke!” I said. Marion looked at me as if I had a frog crawling out of my eye.

Marion and I tried to be friends for a while, but we had radically different philosophies of life. Her philosophy was that I was out of my mind; my philosophy was also that I was out of my mind but that I deserved to be paid for it.

After a while I stopped seeing Marion because I felt she was excessively biased in favor of rational, tasteful behavior.

Luckily, my friend Judith agrees with this, wholeheartedly.

To wit, I recently called Judith up and said, “What’s your Thanksgiving column about?”

“It’s about liposuction,” she said. “It’s about how every time I look at jellied cranberry sauce, I think that it must be the stuff that they go in and vacuum out.”

“That’s disgusting,” I said. “Can I steal that idea?”

“Sure,” she said.

But the thing is, you see, I lied to my best friend: My column is not about jellied cranberry sauce—it is about her.

And now I have to pencil seven and a half hours into my schedule so that we can talk about it. The screaming alone should take four and a half. I am not sure whose dump we will meet in.

Stephanie Brush

More stories from our partners