Sometimes to encourage our efforts in friendship, we need real examples of women who are cultivating deep, life-long relationships with one another. Author, Melanie Shankle, celebrates her twenty-five-year friendship with her best friend Gulley in her latest memoir: Nobody’s Cuter than You. This book made me laugh, cry, and reminisce on the beautiful and difficult friendship stories that have been written on my heart. But more importantly, it inspired me to be a better friend because twenty-five years from today, I want to be surrounded by women “who love me in spite of myself.”
Melanie was kind enough to do an interview with Radiant Magazine, elaborating on her new book and friendships. Enjoy!
Tell us about the origin of your title “Nobody’s Cuter than You.”
I can’t remember when it first began, but Gulley and I started this thing when one of us would call each other after a bad day when the world seemed to be stacked against us, and we’d say, “Well, nobody’s cuter than you!” It just became our way of reminding each other that we would be able to get through whatever came our way.
Why write a book about friendship?
Over the years, I’ve told a lot of stories on my blog about my best friend, Gulley, and me. We met in college and have been best friends every since. So many women have emailed me to ask how we have stayed so close and about the key to our long-lasting friendship. It made me realize that real female friendships haven’t been written about very much and how precious these relationships are in our lives. I wanted to celebrate that in a book.
What’s one quality every woman should possess to be a good friend?
I think to be a really good friend requires some degree of selflessness. There are going to be times when we have to put our friend’s needs first. And I realize this is another quality, but never underestimate the value of loyalty. Gulley and I always say that our name is never safer than when it’s on the other one’s lips, which just means we both know we will never say something bad about the other one behind her back.
In your opinion, what keeps women from experiencing real friendships?
I really believe it’s a couple of things. One, every woman I’ve talked to has a story about how she was hurt by another woman at some point in her life. I think when you’ve put your heart out there and been burned, it becomes scary to open up again and a lot of women choose not to take that risk. Second, I think our social media culture can keep us from forming real life relationships. Instagram and Facebook and blogs can make us feel like we have community because we know all kinds of details about each other, but I always say it’s like wading in the shallow pool of relationships because the only way to have real depth is to dive into real life with another person.
How did you maintain your friendships after college, when you no longer lived in the same town?
It definitely takes a little more effort, but it can absolutely be done, especially with all the technology we have available these days. One of the biggest things my college friends and I did was make sure we scheduled a couple of weekends a year to be together. We’d meet back at Texas A&M for a football game or at one of our homes for a weekend to just eat junk food and stay up way too late and basically revert back to our college self. It’s so important to make these friendships a priority. I always tell my daughter that you can always make new friends, but you can never replace the people who have known you since you had a bad perm and braces on your teeth.
If you were to plan a girl’s trip, what activities would you include that cultivate growth in your friendships?
To me, the best trips are the ones that involve a lot of downtime to just relax, catch up and be able to have real conversations about what’s going on in life. I love a good spa weekend that also involves a lot of time by a pool or on a beach. And I have a dream of taking a group of my best girlfriends to Napa Valley at some point. I think that would be the ultimate!
In your book, you share stories about your once in a lifetime friendship with Gulley. How does that meaningful friendship shape your prayers for your daughter and her current community?
From the time my daughter, Caroline, was born, I have prayed that she would be surrounded by close girlfriends and we talk all the time about the importance of authentic friendship over popularity. I believe our friends play a huge role in shaping the woman we become and we can never underestimate the value of having those people in our life who will challenge us and cheer us on and love us no matter what.
What advice would you give to a twenty-something who longs to feel known in friendship but feels like she hasn’t made those connections, yet?
My biggest piece of advice is to never give up on finding that real connection with a friend. Sometimes it can be hard when we’ve just been limited to who we meet in high school or college, but the world is full of all kinds of people who are looking for real friendships. I’d encourage you to join a Bible study, find a book club, start a dinner group…just find something you’re interested in and you have a great chance of meeting people who share those same interests, and I think that’s where you can find your person. And to remember that to have a friend, you have to be a friend. Put yourself out there. You will love harder, laugh louder, live richer, and become more with a friend than you could ever be by yourself.
To purchase Nobody’s Cuter than You: click here.
Mel’s book collection!