Connecting With Abigail DeWitt’s “The Sex Appeal of the French”

by Varsha Iyer  ·  April 16, 2018

As a young girl, I have always been in love with the idea of “love.” Whether it was the handsome actor who played the popular high school jock in all the movies or the boy who sat two desks down from me in a boring science class; imagining scenarios was a worthwhile pastime. Maybe deep down I knew these imaginary scenarios would never become a reality but more than often I pushed that down and let myself delve into fantasies to indulge in a feeling I had never felt before. As I read “The Sex Appeal of the French” by Abigail DeWitt, first published in Five Points Volume 18, number 1, I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me, revisiting the feelings and memories of creating another universe in my head. It’s funny to think of how years ago I thought falling in love meant falling in love with the boy I bumped into at the grocery store by accident. It was all naive, ignorant, and not at all the reality of what it really is like. 

DeWitt’s authentic tone seeps in throughout the story that allows the reader to connect with the naivety of a young 16-year-old girl and her obsession with wanting love and passion and a better life than the one she currently had. Lies came easy to the girl at the times when they were needed and that was just all part of playing the heroine in hew own imagination. She indulged in her fantasies, and in France where she was vacation, fantasizing came easier  to her—and she mentions how the French ooze sensuality unlike any other place where she had been to.

DeWitt’s lyrical prose reads in a consistent, steady rhythm—much like the waves that resided on the Paris seaside. It submerges you into its dreamy, lulling prose pulling you in deeper into the narrator’s imagination—making you just as absorbed in a world of euphoria as the girl.

The line, “To be afraid of death, after all, you’d have to be convinced of your existence,” sits in my mind as I read this story again and again. When you’re so absorbed in a fantasy and imagination sometimes your whole being becomes arbitrary and you forget you exist yourself.

But the sudden shift in this story from naivety to the snap in the narrator’s mind when reality sets in is what makes this story so amazing. When the girl sees the father grope his daughter on the beach in ways she shouldn’t be touched, the narrator realizes that the perfect idea of sexual appeal doesn’t always exist, sometimes the reality of it is that sex isn’t love, but it’s merely lust unto those who have no right to have it.

DeWitt writes a brilliant, poignant piece and one that I won’t ever forget— being naive about love at a young age and realizing the horrors that come with it when it actually happens is something that happened to me recently—and connecting with that ignited a newfound perspective of how one can perceive and understand love, lust, and sexual appeal.

Varsha Iyer is currently pursuing a Journalism degree at Georgia State University with a minor in English and aspires to work within the community of editing and publishing.