Elation this morning.  

I read in The New York Times about feces transplants—quite possibly the future of post-antibiotic intestinal medicine—and the future of my entire family suddenly seemed rosy. With the amount of shit my daughter generates in one day, she could put herself through college, or maybe buy a college. The article did not specify how much a pound of healthy tot feces goes for on the black market, but if it’s anything like kidneys and livers, I’m sniffing a Bentley in the garage by Christmas. Picture Chiwetel Ejiofor from Dirty Pretty Things, only instead of uncovering a hotel organ removal racket, he stumbles on a hospital nursery running an industrial baby crap factory.

You don’t consider, going into child-rearing, the amount of fecal-centric activity you’re going to be enjoying with your child. In my own case, the grumpy business is amplified by the fact that I also walk two dogs in the morning. And, as is custom in my neck of the planet, I stuff a batch of plastic shitbags in my pocket before I leave the house, and pause to gather up dog-bombs as they drop and sneak them into the nearest garbage cans. (In Nick Tosches’s wrongly overlooked masterpiece The Hand Of Dante, the author devotes some serious ink to the grisly phenom of humans picking up canine waste, and is suitably repulsed. For this giant of American of literature, the practice embodies, more or less, the Decline of Western Civilization. It’s a powerful notion. And I’m with him—though, in all honesty, my concerns, at the moment, are more mercenary. The potential for bootleg feces, it suddenly hits me, could be huge. With enough dogs in his posse, a guy could make serious money. I could be the Henry Ford of Fido-bagging.)


Hours later, at the 10:30 AM baby-friendly matinee at our local multiplex—this week, Zero Dark Thirty—I find myself watching a man strapped to a wall with his pants at his ankles while my eight-month-old lolls on a blanket on the theater floor, footloose and diaper free. The whole thing feels very Mapplethorpe/Nan Goldin-ish, had Garlic Nan or Mapplethorpe been inclined to feature naked-from-the-waste town toddler-voyeurs in their shots. Either way, of course, the torture isn’t real—it’s just, you know, entertainment. But still… The images are big, blaring and onscreen, and I can’t help but ponder the savage wonders no doubt churning, that very moment, in my offspring’s’ nascent psyche. (See Melanie Klein, below.)

Truth be told, I missed the peanut butter on genitalia action—you can only half focus during your Mommy and Me, what with the actual “Me” in question needing semi-constant tending. Still the juxtaposition of screamy detainee and screamy babies is a not undisturbing one, especially when the screaming is accompanied by manic under-one year old giggle-howls. The random babies in these M&Ms have a way of communicating, below (or beyond) language, and it is hard not to read meaning into their collective Wahs and Dah-Dahs during the “enhanced interrogation” scenes. Hard not to picture pink-cheeked Dick Cheney, on his back and waggling his fat white legs, chittering happily and tugging his turgid pee-pee as the onscreen pain-fest surges on.

With assorted parents and spawn arrayed on seats and carpet for public diapering, the entire theatre morphs into a kind of poopatorium. But, in truth, our girl didn’t just stay naked for her dipe change, she stayed that way for half the movie, cooing delightedly at the breeze in her pudenda, while Jessica Chastain moved relentlessly toward that Patriots-Will-Cream-In-Their-Popcorn boffo ending, locating and smoking the villainous bad actor-with-a-beard. (The actor in question being Ricky Sekhon, a Brit whose role involved playing dead in a bodybag. With a beard. Step aside, Ian McKellen!)

The Mommy and Me torture-fest left Nico happy as a clamcake, even as it left her parents seriously creeped out. (Yay! We’re America, and we’ll make you wear panties, show your junk to white women and stuff you in a box for 24 hours to get you to tell us what we want!) What little girl doesn’t dream of growing up and hanging with the boys hanging putative terrorists from meathooks in the ceiling? Will Nico now eschew My Little Pony for Tiny Taliban, anatomically correct Al Qaeda to suspend from hooks in baby’s first black site fun kit? For that matter, will little kids still play army—or will they now play drone, and simply launch firecracker-rigged hot dogs at each other? Too soon to tell. Though – as far as Baby Nico goes – her fave pre-lingual toy of the moment is a scruffy tractor, missing a wheel, and painted the color of farm mud. (The great thing about flea market toys, for you parents on a budget, is that they come pre-broken, so you don’t have to worry about shelling big bucks only to find pieces of whatever the hell you just bought lodged under the couch with the molting Christmas Huggie and the missing pink bunny hat.)

Driving home, post ZDT, when the little bugger looks up with those blue eyes and goes ga-ga just like a movie baby, I wonder if the movie was such a good move. Why not just head to Texas, strap her in her stroller and roll her to an execution?

I have, as it happens, just been reading Melanie Klein, Godmother of Child Therapists, and her theories of the ultra-aggressive fantasies brewing in the dark hearts of children everywhere. Could taking my gurgly daughter to a Kathleen Bigelow torture porn trigger the inner torments already roiling under her fontanel? (And, by the way, can we talk about the whole notion of this wafer-thin throbbing soft spot above my baby’s brain-pudding, vulnerable to a world of flying pencils, ice picks and poorly child-proofed table edges? No wonder Klein thought children were borderline mini-psychotics. They basically have a tiny, trauma-susceptible scrotum slice wedged on top of their heads. Who wouldn’t be annoyed?)

It’s no picnic, being a pre-lingual ankle-biter. But thanks to a medical breakthrough, and my baby’s bounteous output, her future may be paved with diapers of gold.

NEXT TIME: The Tooth of Crime… Learning To Crawl… The Twelve Steps Of Milk-anon…


Rumpus original art by Jason Novak.

Jerry Stahl has written 8 books, including Permanent Midnight, Bad Sex On Speed, and I, Fatty. His new novel, Happy Mutant Baby Pills, is now out from Harper Perennial. More from this author →