Saturday, June 20, 2009

No MSG, and no STDs: The Curious Phenomenon of Substituting Chinese Food for Sex

Recently, I found myself with a new boy-toy. Mr. Perfect was, as his pseudonym suggests, perfect. Perfect to look at, perfect to talk to, perfectly nice, perfect in between the sheets, and even so perfect he not only put the toilet seat down, but also the cover and closed the bathroom door when he left, just like I like it. Perfect, that is, in every single way except for the fact that he lived forty-five minutes away with a full-time job and so was not always perfectly available.

I was fine with this for about ten days, which was the amount of time it took for me to become a raging ball of hormones and pent-up frustration. More frustrating was the fact that his weekend schedule included an unplanned-for cold and a previously planned-for visit to his college that knocked our plans for knocking boots and my bed frame against the wall out of the water.

And so, after a week without Mr. Perfect, I found myself sitting bolt-upright in bed during the middle of a Sex and the City marathon with a desire that demanded to be addressed: I wanted, no—NEEDED Chinese food. I found myself fantasizing about…rice. Dreaming of hoisen sauce and stir fry. Fingers clenching for chopsticks to hold. It was the oddest moment of misplaced lust I have ever felt in my entire life.

And I was not alone. One of my roommates had lamented a few months earlier one late night that because she was lacking a sex-life, she had turned to making rice to satiate herself. As I found myself in my kitchen at 1 AM, chopping garlic, boiling rice, adding a splash of soy sauce to my pork and carrots and orange pepper, I couldn’t help but wonder: is my stir fry addiction replacing my need for sex?

Let’s think about this: Chinese food and sex aren’t so very different in the first place. When they’re good, they’re really, really good, and when they’re bad, it’s horrid. Both have the ability to make you sick to your stomach. Both contain three-letter acronyms that hold feelings of dread—MSG and STD. Both are really good the next morning, too, even cold. And the most curious similarity between your lo mien noodles and your favorite sex partner: after a half an hour, you always find yourself hungry for more.

The more I looked around, the more places I saw it. In the early and slow stages of her newest relationship, a friend of mine turned to Tiny Thai’s tofu when she couldn’t get laid yet. Another friend used dumplings as a replacement for her boyfriend after he left, eating them almost every night. And I, the mistress of the calm, cool, collected and self-sufficient, turned up in my kitchen to make a brown sauce good enough to make me forget about Mr. Perfect’s blissfully bulging biceps. If only for that half an hour.

Maybe it’s the convenience of Chinese food that makes us readily willing to use it to replace sex. Like sex, it can be cheap, quick and greasy to get. Unlike your love life at times, delivery is guaranteed in 15 minutes or less. Tipping is done monetarily, and not in emotional change.

But let’s face it: your General Tso’s chicken cannot hold you. It cannot keep you warm at night, compliment your choice in outfit or movie, and if it can ever make you orgasm—well, you are a far luckier person than I. Your beef and broccoli will never break your heart, nor will it ever make you learn from your life lessons. It will not show up unannounced on your doorstep to surprise you just because it thought it would be nice. It won’t call you to ask how your day has been or to tell you it misses you. Your Chinese will never give you the same butterflies that someone else’s smile will. And in this aspect, Chinese food loses to sex every single time.

For the meantime, though, my elegant bowl of julienned carrots and sliced pepper and pork over steaming jasmine rice will fill me up. It will comfort me and make me sleepy. It will warm up my stomach, and it will make me satisfied for this next half-hour. And after that, I can go back to wanting Mr. Perfect.


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