Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
Paris, France
December 31
Writer, copy editor, translator, travel planner. Head servant to my cat.
A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out


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NOVEMBER 28, 2010 7:22AM

Competitive Eating

Rate: 13 Flag

Some saucy, imperfect weekend fiction fresh out of the oven. 


Alice was hungry.

She’d been on a sex strike for almost three months.  It wasn’t for political reasons.  Nothing noble like that.  It was because of Harold.

He was a good husband, always home on time, sharing in her interests, ready to help when things needed to be repaired or computer problems explained.  She’d fallen in love with him for his laughter and the way he could make a joke out of anything.  The only thing she hadn’t expected was his lack of physical affection.

He could caress her with his eyes, he could be kind.  But when it came to hugging or kissing or touching, he was cold.  She’d developed various theories as to why this was, everything from shyness to the way he was raised.  And she’d come to accept it and move on. 

Things in the bedroom were no better.  Sex was rare and perfunctory.  Nothing new was tried.  Once Harold had found the best position – a discovery he claimed to have made long ago, and long before her – he’d never moved, despite her verbal and physical suggestions.  On the very rare occasions he did want to try something new, she always gamely went along, and usually enjoyed herself.  She also knew for a fact that Harold enjoyed himself, too, regardless of what they did. Previous love interests hadn’t called her “The Mouth” for nothing.   

Still, it was rare that Harold felt very motivated. When she tried to suggest things by a small word or even just a glimmer in her eyes, he more often than not shook his head and said he was tired.  Then he’d go play online poker until three in the morning.  She’d never thought having sex would be such a challenge, especially with a young, healthy man, but she accepted that she was married to a (gaming-addicted) monk.  Or almost.  Because the most frustrating thing was that he was always looking at other women and always making appreciative sounds when a typically sexy living Barbie sauntered across the TV screen.

Short, plump little Alice with her A/B-cup and her pale, jiggly thighs, had explained it away by the fact that she wasn’t his type. She probably wasn’t the “type” for most men.  But there were those exceptions….  One daring night, after a few glasses of wine, she’d suggested they have an open marriage.  She’d done it like stepping close to a cliff, close as you could go, so that your toes were hanging over the edge and it might crumble and carry you away.  But Harold had insisted he wanted only her.

While some of her friends told Alice that rare, passionless sex shouldn’t matter, and wouldn’t to them, Alice couldn’t shake her expectations.  She believed in love and passion, she needed contact pretty regularly. And what’s more, the steady diet of sitcoms she’d grown up with told her she should be the one brushing away advances; the man always wanted to have sex.

It was hard to be in a situation where it was quite the opposite.

She’d tried everything.  She’d suggested jaunts to sex shops, bought skimpy lingerie and spike heels. She’d done things to him at unexpected times, even inconvenient ones.  But those were only met by laughter, refusal, or even anger.  And in retrospect, stroking Harold's vegetable in the produce section of their local grocery store may not have been a good idea.  But she was a desperate woman.

She’d also tried the self-help book route, and had started seeing a therapist herself (Harold refused to go with her).  One night, after a dry spell of over three weeks, she asked him as sweetly and nonconfrontationally as possible what she could do to make their sex life better. 

“You could be more affectionate,” Harold had told her. 

For the first time (which, on the positive side, maybe said something for the quality of their life together), she’d wanted to murder him.  Here she’d been starving for the slightest embrace, here he’d seen every advance, every half-hug as a slight, and she was in the wrong.  She’d retreated.  Literally, in fact, sleeping on the couch that night.

A few weeks later, emboldened to try again, she asked, “Do you think there’s something we could do to improve our sex life?”

Harold had fixated on a particularly pretty crime show blonde.  He made a little “Hm.”

You wouldn’t even know what to do with her if you had her, Alice found herself thinking.

“What?” he’d turned to her.

“How can we improve our sex life?”

“Ah,” he’d sighed, “you always seem so demanding.  Stop asking for it.”

Alice’s mind had reeled again.  Everything she looked for in a partner was based on equality.  If Harold suggested he wanted to have sex, she obliged him.  But she’d apparently been doing things all wrong.  She shouldn’t have obliged him, she realized suddenly, and she shouldn’t have expected things had evolved to where he could accept that she’d want to have sex.  The sitcoms she’d grown up with had told the truth, sadly; maybe the women didn’t want to refuse, deep in their hearts, but they had to.  No matter how far females had come, they were still trapped.  She sniffled at this depressing thought.

Still, she loved Harold.  So she’d decided to play along. She’d be meek, she’d refuse.  And it would drive him crazy. 

Of course, it would have worked if he’d ever wanted to have sex in the first place.  The first time she'd refused, she'd felt victorious. But Harold had just gone away to play poker and had probably, she realized, completely forgotten being turned down.  The next time, four weeks later, she’d brought out the classic headache excuse. He’d accepted.  Six weeks later…. She was starting to suspect her dramatic decision hadn't even been noticed.

The only difference her sex strike had made was that now she turned to other things for physical enjoyment.  She wasn't much for self-pleasure, and she couldn’t bring herself to cheat on dear old Harold, much as she often wanted to, so she found something else: food. Alice had always liked to eat, but she'd always watched her calorie intake and held herself back.  Now she devoted herself wholeheartedly to the pursuit of overindulgence.  Every day she ate at a different restaurant.  Every  night she prepared a new meal, and a new dessert.  Harold never had a big appetite, so a lot of it was left to her.

After years of counting calories, Alice found herself freely savoring salt and buttered bread.  She experienced something a bit like an orgasm while eating a perfect chocolate chip cookie.  

She felt in tune with her body, and began to exercise more than she had before. The good, rich food and the hours at the gym and outdoors, brought a glow to her. Friends told her she looked good.  They couldn’t quite explain what it was, but she looked good.

Sometimes, she experimented with hunger.  How would it be to eat nothing all day, then come home and devour an exquisite dinner?  This was another kind of pleasure, a holding back that made the food all the better.  She closed her eyes as she bit into a roast chicken leg and felt her eyeballs roll back in her head.

Now, after nearly three months, she was looking for something bigger and better to celebrate her anniversary.  In the paper one morning, she saw an ad that inspired her: a hot dog eating contest was set for the exact date in question.  Alice had heard about competitive eating, and had even seen documentaries where champions had discussed their strategies. The combination of stuffing and fasting and stuffing, fascinated her.  She debated on it for a day or so, then signed up.

And so one fine morning, the air tinged with sea breeze, the eyes of thousands of admirers fixed on her mouth, she found herself finally doing something that at least mirrored what she’d expected when she’d met Harold so many years ago.

Author tags:

relationships, food, fiction

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I am hoping this is the first chapter. I am completely hooked. I love love love this story.~r
(don't ... comment ... about ... the ... obvious ... "weiner" ... jokes)

I read this rather long blog because the complaint is something I've come across several times among a group of female friends ... lack-of-physical-intimacy while hubby is hooked on the Internet/video games ... odd

btw, Alice "The Mouth" ... chuckle
Joan - Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words! I just threw this one out there, and had no idea what people would think. I'm glad and honored that you liked it so much. As for it being a first chapter, that's something I'll have to think about.

Craze - I don't think all guys who are gamers do this, but it is something that happens. Also, the weiner jokes are there to be laughed at, no worries! And I'm glad you liked "The Mouth".
Joan - Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words! I just threw this one out there, and had no idea what people would think. I'm glad and honored that you liked it so much. As for it being a first chapter, that's something I'll have to think about.

Craze - I don't think all guys who are gamers do this, but it is something that happens. Also, the weiner jokes are there to be laughed at, no worries! And I'm glad you liked "The Mouth".
Craze - Oh and as for length, I feel like a story comes as it comes. I try to be concise but sometimes it's hard for me to say it all if I limit myself. Besides, in keeping with the naughty tone here, sometimes longer is better ;-)
- well done, Alysa! [And what Joan said... ] Joan and I would like to put in a request for an autographed first edition, please.
Great writing. I'm with Joan, a part II wouldn't hurt!
Interesting twists, not sure were this was going but enjoyed the journey.
The hunger artist....
Food and sex and sex and food are hardwired into the pleasure receptors of the brain.
You've obviously met my wasband.
Dom – 1. Nothing can kill our “Carl” idea – though maybe Alice could be involved with him somehow…. We’ve got to get on that. 2. Sorry to be disturbing! 3. Indeed he is. Unfortunately, I’ve known and known of some different Harold’s in my time. 5. Thank you so much – but I don’t know about “wholesome”!

Catherine – You (and Joan) are too kind!

scanner – Thanks for reading, and wow – I’m starting to feel some pressure here. Maybe I’ll have to see if I can continue this!

rita – Thanks. I just had this idea and decided to go for it. No particular major goals or themes in mind.

Elijah - Oooh – so well-put!

Trudge – Exactly. And sometimes people even get them confused or prioritize them in unexpected ways. I’ve heard of studies being done where a majority of women polled preferred chocolate to sex.

Gabby – Haha! First off, I love “wasbind” – you are so good at coining these new, helpful words! Secondly, glad he’s a “was”!

rita (2) – No worries – I didn’t even notice the mistake. Too tired and my eyes have gone bloodshot from the wind. You were safe, but I appreciate your coming back to correct. :-)
If not for Rita's mistake this would have been a great read. Kidding.

I too am hooked. Looking forward to the next installment.
HILARIOUS and over the top and yes it should be a book. Didn't really expect the ending. rrrrrrrrr
fernsy - Thanks for your support and your clemency toward rita :-)

Bernadine - Thanks! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I had no idea this piece would get such strong reactions. I'll have to see if I can do more with it.

rita (if you're reading these comments), no hard feelings, I hope - I've often wanted to go back and correct my mistakes on comments. Bravo to you for having done so. Not surprising from a wordsmith such as yourself.
I so much enjoyed this... Please write the second chapter, . It brought memories of a once upon a time marriage. Rated
Simone - Thanks for reading! As I said, I am so surprised and flattered that people want more. Hopefully inspiration will come.
Simone - Thanks for reading! As I said, I am so surprised and flattered that people want more. Hopefully inspiration will come. As for the one-time marriage, I'm glad it's over if it was anything like this. You deserve a million, billion times better!
I loved your saucy weekend fiction. I too hope you keep it up.
This is darling--what an ending! I can totally relate to a woman obsessed by food!