Are You Ready, Boots?
In life we are faced choices all the time: Should I spend two months’ rent on a pair of boots? Should I wear these boots that I just spend two months’ rent on? Do I love my boyfriend – and do I love him more than my boots? These are some of the questions that the main character in the short story “Are You Ready, Boots?” must ask herself as she ponders her life and potential future.
When we first meet Lulu, she’s in New York with some friends and they’re shopping for shoes. Lulu finds the perfect boots – as she says, “they make me feel like a Bond girl” (“Are You Ready, Boots?”, line 37). Other than that she also refers to Nancy Sinatra and Carrie when talking about the boots; shortly stated, they make her feel like a star. These pop culture references also tell the reader that the story is set in modern times.
We hear this story with Lulu herself as the narrator and the first person point of view helps express not only her happiness with the Manolo boots but also how “sick and ashamed” (l. 47) Lulu feels about buying these very expensive boots. The first time she decides to wear her perfect boots – six months after she bought them and now back in London – she happily finds her perfect man – or so she thinks. In the beginning everything seems perfect; they do normal date things such as “a walk in the park, an exhibition, a movie” (l. 89) and finally become girlfriend and boyfriend. Lulu seems to think she has it all; “He was always cuddly, always rang me when he said he would…” (l. 93). These are the things that all women seem to want, however when you think about the fact that Lulu is an impulsive, modern young woman – after all, she did spend two months’ worth of rent in four days on her trip to New York – you can see that these two aren’t a very good match. This is also the opinion of Lulu’s friend, Spencer, thinks when he asks her, if that “isn’t just an eensy weensy bit straight” (l. 107) for her. The traditional female role doesn’t suit her and neither does this perfect boyfriend with his perfect family, perfect friends and perfect life.
Lulu is too independent for this and although she enjoys it while they are together, she also has a more crass side as she shows on the night where she meets Charlie.
Spencer has planted the doubt in Lulu’s mind and she begins to notice things about Charlie that she doesn’t like – she ignores them however until it comes to the boots. As Spencer insinuated, Charlie is very predictable and Lulu therefore knows when he plans to propose to her. To celebrate she brings the outfit she wore when they met – and thereby discovers that he hates her boots. This gives her a choice, as she “for the first time saw right through the dashing, handsome exterior, to the bigoted bore inside” (l. 147). She can either spend her life with this seemingly perfect, boring man, or she can be free; her choice is made clear with the last lines: “I… looked down at my kinky boots. They were so great. ‘Are you ready, boots?’ I said to them. ‘Start walking.’” (l. 150). This very open ending leaves the reader with the impression that Lulu is free – free to meet an uncertain, but probably exciting future.
This story paints a great and also humorous picture of the theme of the modern woman and her relationships – not only with men, but also material things. The boots in this story seem to be an expression of Lulu’s more wild side – the modern side that makes life fun for her and makes her feel like she can take on the world. They make her feel like a Bond girl – that is girls are famous for their skills, looks and intelligence in the movies – and they give her the courage to take the initiative when it comes to Charlie – who may be seen as a representation of a traditional society and its view on the sexes. Meeting and later dismissing the seemingly perfect man is also seen in such books as the Danish “Nynne” and the English “Bridget Jones”; here the women are also strong, modern and they have no qualms leaving behind those men that seem perfect but who are clearly incompatible.
The central problem and solution for Lulu is the boots; se could have just said she would never wear them again and everything would be fine between her and Charlie – on the surface. They represent a much bigger incompatibleness, though, and their importance is emphasized with the title “Are you ready, boots?”. The boots are addressed as if they were a person and not just a representation for Lulu’s freedom – the modern woman’s freedom.
It might seem quite mad to spend a small fortune on a pair of boots – one might even feel ashamed afterwards, just as Lulu does. However, these boots can turn out to be of great importance to your life. For Lulu, they lead her to her (almost) husband – and they lead her to her freedom. Fifty years ago it might have seemed mad to choose a pair of boots over a safe life with husband and kids, but today it is doubtful that many women would make a different choice than Lulu did. Because while materialism and the need for a great relationship are driving forces in many people today, the need for happiness and freedom are even greater.