A confession: I am a 34-year-old woman, and every single day until my first day of college, I wet the bed. Until last year, I slept with a mattress protector, because old anxieties die hard. So when David Rose (Dan Levy) woke up in the opening moments of the latest Schitt’s Creek to discover he had a run-in with his ol’ nemesis, nocturnal enuresis, I felt that shit in my bones: the horrific realization. The slow churn of humiliation. The intense desire to make it go away immediately. To say nothing of it happening in bed with his fiancé, Patrick (Noah Reid)—perhaps the biggest nightmare of all. The shame he felt in that scene instantly transferred to me: My head was dizzy with memories of waking up wet (ew) every day despite my best attempts at pre-sleep dehydration. In the era of oversharing, there are still some things too difficult to discuss without immediate judgement or reaction from others. Our bodies’ failures, the moments we lack physical control, are particularly painful, because they’re simultaneously humiliating to us and hilarious to other people.
Until Sarah Silverman’s 2010 memoir Bedwetter, has anyone ever publicly admitted to wetting the bed? (I remember a Margaret Cho joke, vaguely, but otherwise, this is all I’ve got.) But David Rose’s bedwetting, his “oopsie daisy,” was perfect comedic fodder for his pre-nuptial excitement. Bedwetting is mostly a psychosomatic response: a physical, uncontrollable reaction to a mental or emotional stressor. Of course, it’s hard to laugh about that, but it’s also exactly why you should. It’s why I’m writing publicly about my wee-woes—it’s hard to normalize conversations around the most vulnerable, and sometimes grossest, parts of our lives.
Unlike David, my bedwetting was a years-long battle. Though there were others in my family who wet the bed occasionally as kids, I was a Gladwellian-level expert, with far more than 10,000 hours of night-peeing under my belt. Why? I’ve wondered this a lot myself, and it’s hard to say. Was it the sexual abuse I experienced? Maybe it was the bullying. It also could have been the violence and yelling that were regular occurrences in my well-meaning but ultimately severely repressed home. Or maybe it was the pressure I put on myself to excel academically to get the heck out of there. As a child and then a teen still pissing herself at night, I moved from a bedroom to the finished basement near the washer/dryer to assure no one else would encounter my shame and stench. I had learned, growing up with addicts who often resorted to yelling, violence, and lacerating observations over compassion and love, that comedy helps. I would make jokes at my own expense to lighten the emotional toll of everyone else’s—often to my own emotional detriment.
The beauty of Schitt’s Creek telling this story—and the difference from my own experience—lies in the intimacy and care the Rose family has for one another. They respond in very human but empathetic ways; they don’t use each other’s secrets against one another, and they understand inherently that shame can’t curb uncontrollable responses. Because that’s the thing with psychosomatic struggles—they make you feel dumber than you are. They make you feel incompetent, like your body has an intrinsic malfunction that nobody else can understand. They make you feel broken and wrong, because they’re a mental response made physical. It’s basically urinary wizardry. Which, again: funny!
We make light of our vulnerabilities, our most human bits, because comedy helps us relate to one another and ultimately, overcome our battles. The human body is an equally miraculous and hilarious thing, and it’s trying to tell us stuff all the time—if only we’d shut up and listen. My body and mind knew something I couldn’t consciously fathom or believe out loud: that my bedwetting was a byproduct of living in a chaotic, anxiety-filled, at-times-traumatic house, and once I was free of it, all the bedwetting would end.
Because that’s exactly what happened: The second I moved away to college and felt free of my home life and surroundings, I stopped. Immediately. And I never wet the bed again. It’s not shame, but the right amount of vulnerability, that helps us see the reality of our situations sometimes. Isn’t that funny? And isn’t it beautiful that Schitt’s Creek delights in celebrating the most vulnerable, sensitive, and fallible things inherent to being alive? Even if they had to take the piss out of David a little bit. (Sorry.)