What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Last year, the interwebs were abuzz with news of a company that would pay you actual money in exchange for your own human feces. Cash for brown gold, if you will. As an investigative journalist (actually, it might have had much more to do with the fact that I was in a very precarious pseudo-homeless situation at the time) I felt it was my duty (doody?) to get to the bottom of this poop-for-pay craze, so I signed up to become a professional shitter.
Surely this must be some sort of perverted scheme started by some scat-porn-loving scammer, right? I assure you, it is not. A nonprofit company in Massachusetts has begun recruiting donors to supply stool samples for the purpose of generating lifesaving fecal matter transplant (FMT) treatments for patients sick with infections caused by Clostridium difficile bacteria, a particularly nasty stomach bug that immunocompromised people often acquire in hospitals. Traditional treatments don’t really work so well, which left doctors struggling to find alternative therapies. As it turns out, introducing healthy patient FMTs via a tube up your butt or in your mouth (hopefully not using the same tube) causes the good bacteria from healthy dung to repopulate the diseased colon by kicking out the bad bacteria, which has proven much more effective than conventional antibiotics.
For every sample donated, they pay you $40, with a $50 bonus if you come in five days per week.
At first glance, this sounds like the best idea ever! However, it’s not all as simple as it seems, and only four percent of potential donors actually make it through the process far enough to get paid. The CEO of the company says it's harder to become a stool donor than it is to get into MIT. And while that may be true, the fact remains that nobody's parents are gonna be like, "My kid didn’t get into MIT, but he does poop into a bucket for money."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I'm one of very few lady donors. As with many body-associated donations like blood and sperm (I assume) the first step is to fill out a pretty aggressive questionnaire. They ask you a lot of the normal stuff like, "Have you traveled outside the US?" "Have you taken illegal drugs intravenously?" and "Have you had sex with a man who's had sex with another man since 1974?" (Good first date question, by the way.)
However, there are some questions that are not as straightforward, which for someone (like me) who doesn’t always read things correctly can be kinda confusing. For example: “Have you ever had to digitally remove feces?” My first thought was that “digitally” in this context meant “electronically” and I immediately envisioned the claw game, only instead of grabbing stuffed animals, you try to win turds. As it turns out, “digitally” on this survey meant using a finger to remove your own feces from your bum. Luckily for me — and I’m not trying to brag here — I’ve never had to do that. Another doozy: have I ever had "receptive anal"? This is probably obvious to normal people, but I thought it meant, like, was I emotionally into it? Were there candles? Just a heads up: “receptive anal” just means “anal.”
So you passed the Q&A and you’re onto round 2, which is literally round NUMBER 2, as it involves — you guessed it — poop. They give you proper provisions: a medium-sized Tupperware bowl and lid, a blue plastic thingy to place in the toilet to hold the aforementioned container during collection, and a fitted plastic bag to help ensure you don’t turn the inside of your backpack into that breakfast scene from Trainspotting.
They also give you a guide to look through so you can first judge by eye whether or not your stool stacks up. On the Bristol chart, which details the range of acceptable donations, type 1 or 2 is described as “lumpy like nuts,” or too dry to process into a treatment, while a 6 or 7 is too “mushy” and considered a potential sign of a gastrointestinal infection. You only get paid for samples they can use. Also, they need it quite fresh (within 45 minutes of release), which means you have to do it at the donation place or discreetly underneath a nearby bridge.
I would be lying if I said my first time wasn’t an absolute nightmare. Handing over an unlabeled Cool Whip container full of a weighable amount of my own excrement to another human being really changes a person. It didn’t help that my first delivery was to a rather handsome gentleman.
There I was, standing at the door with what felt like a pretty solid pound and a half of primo type 4 or 5 stuff, when the door swings open and there appears a young fellow, about six feet tall, with pretty blue eyes, who looks like his name might be Seth or Jake. I find I can’t make eye contact, but I can’t be sure if it’s because he’s attractive or because of what I’m about to surrender to him.
He notices my apprehension and says, “First time?” and I look down at my feet.
“Yup,” I reply, blushing and smiling like a 14-year-old girl.
He looks at the bucket to make sure I’ve filled out the information properly and asks, “Are you feeling OK today?” as though he actually cared and was not just following protocol. I could tell right then and there we made a connection.
Of course, there are perks to being a stool donor; at $40 a plop, you really can’t go wrong. Plus the hours aren’t that bad, coffee is highly encouraged, and it’s easy to work and multitask. Heck, I could even use Tinder on the job if I wanted.
But there are definite cons as well. It sounds crazy, but every time I would donate and it didn’t make the cut, I would feel really bad about myself. If the sample is not big enough (it must be at least 55g, the size of a large egg) it gets tossed. If you get a drop of pee in it, it gets tossed. One time after inadvertently turning in a particularly runny dump, I was placed on a quarantine watch list, like some type of colon terrorist attempting to poison people via her own poop. I started to get really bummed out about it (no pun intended). I never imagined my self-esteem could be so influenced by my ability to defecate a certain way. I also started having what I call Pooper’s Remorse, which was the unanticipated guilt from flushing $40 down the toilet every time I couldn’t give it to the donation center in time.
While this is an absolutely amazing cause, I'm not sure how long I can keep at it before officially retiring from the professional poop game. However, I strongly encourage everyone who can to give it a go. You may save a life one day, if you give a crap.