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Thanks to the internet, there are fancy names for old-fashioned laziness writes Suzy Weiss for The Free Press.
Tracey Emin’s 1998 piece My Bed, on display at Christie’s on June 27, 2014, in London, England. (Rob Stothard via Getty Images)

Hurkle-Durkle Is the New Way to Self-Care Ourselves to Death

Thanks to the internet, there are fancy names for old-fashioned laziness.

Every few years, the algorithm latches on to a new justification for doing absolutely nothing. 

Sometime this winter, I noticed videos about bed rot, which is what it sounds like: plonking down in bed indefinitely. Like most people, I didn’t need an instructional video to teach me about lying down. My bedroom is tiny; it basically just fits a bed, on purpose. I’m one of those people guilty of working, watching TV, and in rare, particularly undignified moments, eating in bed. I’m not proud. I certainly didn’t know there was a name for this slovenly behavior. 

Then, more recently, the term hurkle-durkle began flashing across my screen. This one sounds more like you’re having a stroke in a fairy tale, but the message is the same. 

Videos on TikTok are quick to explain that hurkle-durkle is an eighteenth-century Scottish concept, wherein you stay in bed past the time you’re supposed to be up. It comes from the words hurkill, meaning to crouch, and hurklin, meaning to stagger. But on TikTok and Instagram it means to hit snooze, curl up under your duvet, and relax. To hurkle-durkle is to be at rest but not exactly sleeping. Kind of like you’re in a coma. 

This is not the first time a European concept loosely tied to hanging out has captured hearts online. There was hygge, from Norway, which means getting cozy inside the house—presumably by a fire, during long Norwegian winters. Fredagsmys is the Swedish word for staying in on a Friday. 

These have dovetailed with various de-productivity trends that don’t have a Scandinavian patina but mushroom up nonetheless, like quiet quitting, which is about keeping a job but purposely not excelling at it, and the soft life, which instructs us to choose comfort and ease over the hustle and grind of getting up and squeezing the most productivity possible out of the day. There is endless content about the sweet relief of canceling plans, and nostalgia for the pandemic lockdowns, where not having plans became something of a moral win. 

File all of these online trends under the large umbrella of self-care, which has become shorthand for just doing whatever you want to. Taking care of your skin? Self-care. Cooking while sad? Self-care. Protesting? Self-care. Taking a dance fitness class? Self-care. Lying in bed all day? Also self-care

Self-care is like self-help, but with no goals or striving. The $11 billion industry is mostly geared toward women, and while hurkle-durkle might not be associated with a particular product, it smuggles in the same insidious message: anything you do for yourself is inherently good and you should never feel guilty about it. 

That’s how being idle has become synonymous with being well. It’s how being chronically ill has become a sacred identity. It’s how, if you signal your beliefs zealously enough, sleep can even be activism, and your bed can be ground zero for a revolution

Except not.

The Vietnam War didn’t end after John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent days doing “bed-ins” in hotels in Amsterdam and Montreal in 1969, and even they admitted the demonstration was kind of a joke. As a bed-rotter by nature, I wish staying in bed could bring about progress, but all of human history begs to differ. 

John Lennon and Yoko Ono holding a press conference in their bed at Amsterdam Hilton Hotel, during their honeymoon. (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Of course, there is no shame, if you’re sick or grieving or newly married or heartbroken, in spending a little extra time under the covers. There is a difference between being a bed person and being a hermit.

So many stories covering the hurkle-durkle trend ask whether it’s possible to stay in bed for too long, invariably asking the experts to weigh in, as if you need a sleep specialist, a kinesiologist, and a psychiatrist to spell out what is painfully obvious: making a hobby out of being horizontal is a very bad idea. Hurkle-durkle posts always glamorize it—the videos show women in cloudlike queen beds, with a candle burning, possibly an open book. But should we glamorize solitude? 

When I see videos of women luxuriating in their bedroom during daylight hours, I don’t think of Scottish people cozying up with a quilt and a book of poems. I think of Japan, and the legions of social hermits called hikikomori. There are an estimated 1.5 million hikikomori, or “shut-ins,” according to the Japanese government. While they’re mostly men, the hikikomori take hurkle-durkling to the extreme: to qualify as one, you must stay in your home for six months or longer, sometimes in the same room. 

We’ve become like the hikikomori here in America—it’s only that we call it hurkle-durkle and self-care and bed rot. 

It’s not just that people are giving in to being alone and calling it liberation. It’s that those people who are striving, who are working hard, who are willing to fail and sweat, are demonized as try-hards.

Trying hard is good. Those who resist bed rot—which include both tradwives and girlbosses, by the way, and yes, I know whatever readers I had holding on until now I’ve now lost—know that their time is limited. They know we’ll all be hurkle-durkling forever, in the cold, hard ground. So they choose not to sedate themselves. We’d all be wise to choose the same. 

Suzy Weiss is a reporter at The Free Press. Follow her on X @SnoozyWeiss.

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