Bumblebee Tights and Jojo Moyes’s “Me Before You”
“‘I have never found a pair of tights I loved like that again. They don’t do them anymore. Or if they do, they don’t make them for grown women.’ ‘Strange, that.’ ‘Oh, you can mock. Didn’t you ever love anything that much?’ … ‘Yes,’ he said, quietly. ‘Yes, I did.’”
We just passed Valentine’s Day, so I proudly present to you one of the best romances. EVER. Yes, that’s a rather bold statement, but after swooning throughout the novel and finding myself sobbing by the end, I feel justified in my declaration. For those of you who have yet to experience the tears that accompany “Me Before You,” let me provide a summary without spoilers: Moyes’s novel begins with Louisa “Lou” Clark abruptly losing her job, her family’s main source of income. While searching for a new one, she applies to be a caretaker for Will Traynor, a successful man who lived for the thrill of adrenaline-filled activities until a devastating motorcycle accident paralyzed him. The pair’s relationship begins in a typical “grumpy-sunshine” trope as Will’s perspective is justifiably grim and cynical while Lou brings new light and levity to his bleak outlook on life.
Alright, now for the spoilers. If you do decide to read this romance, I would highly suggest keeping tissues on hand because Will does eventually choose to commit suicide despite Lou’s best attempts to help him see the good and fun in life. The best part of the novel, however, is Will and Lou’s relationship. Yes, it does develop past their platonic feelings for one another, and I entirely swooned for that part of the book, but Moyes clearly made the decision not to plunge her characters into rushed emotions. “Me Before You” follows Lou and Will from the early stages of their connection, beginning with both of them barely being able to stand the other and transitioning into a strained friendship. I think this phase is the most touching part of their story because as Will eventually dies, it leaves readers with a sense of “what could have been” as their romantic relationship had not necessarily fully blossomed as it might have if given more time. It reminds the audience that even though two people can have a cliched relationship perfect for a fairytale, there might not always be a “happily ever after” in the end.
“Me Before You” is full of flawed characters and teaches us that no matter how hard you try, love can’t always conquer all. But even still, Lou and Will’s connection leaves both of them in a better state of mind, which considering Will’s ultimate decision sounds contradictory. An example of this element appears in Lou’s case with the theme of her clothes; she wears eccentric clothes to express her quirky personality, and her staple is most likely her striped tights. Among other heartfelt and deeply personal stories, Lou tells Will about her favorite bumblebee-striped tights that she had when she was three but eventually outgrew and was unable to find a pair to replace them. These tights, and her other cheerful outfits, symbolize her determination to remain true to her identity despite others’ criticism. Later in their relationship, Will gifts Lou with a replica of these tights for her birthday, an acknowledgement of her eccentricities and encouragement for her to continue expressing this side of her. In his final letter to her, Will again references her fashion and tells Lou, “Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Wear those stripy legs with pride.” Throughout their relationship, Will helps her experience new things and pushes her out of her comfort zone, but more importantly her gives her the support to be herself, something she lacks in her family and previous relationship. Like all healthy relationships, the two have had their ups and downs, but in the end, I think Will sums their love up in his final letter (an absolute tear-jerker by the way): “So this is it. You are scored on my heart, Clark. You were from the first day you walked in, with your ridiculous clothes and your bad jokes and your complete inability to ever hide a single thing you felt. You changed my life.” And with that, I highly recommend you read Moyes’s novel and have a good cry. And if you really like it, check out the rest of the series and watch the movie, too!
“Don’t think of me too often. I don’t want to think of you getting all maudlin. Just live well. Just live. Love, Will.”