The day-to-day life of Kendel Kay, one of TikTok's maligned "stay-at-home girlfriends," appears in her viral videos to be, well, fairly dull. We’re jealous.
Her glamorous nonemployment doesn’t seem to entail much more than journaling, preparing healthy snacks, and seeing an occasional butterfly. On Twitter, people say that she seems like she had been lobotomized, highly medicated, or generally unfulfilled. Her meticulous self-care and fitness routines, a symptom of the spreading “that girl” aesthetic, have been compared to that of American Psycho’s serial killer Patrick Bateman. Parody videos abound.
But her “slow, soft life” resonated with many — instead of criticizing her lack of a 9-to-5, they related to the dream of one day being rich enough to have a “do-nothing” job. We’ve long been on the verge of a hustle culture reckoning, and Kay is one post away from leading the revolution. Is it possible some of those critics were just jealous, too?
“It seems like nobody wants to work these days,” Kim Kardashian said in a March interview with Variety about women in business. Though many found her statement to be out of touch — a billionaire reality mogul probably has a very different understanding of labor compared to the average worker — she was kind of onto something. It’s not that we aren’t working. It’s that we don’t want to.
In the past year, we’ve seen stories about the “Great Resignation” and “quiet quitting” attempt to explain how rising inflation and the agony of nearly three pandemic years have bred a desire to escape work as we know it. It’s a Sisyphean task, going to work every day knowing wages can’t keep up with the cost of living. Perhaps it’s even enough to make a person not want to work anymore — so much so that when Beyoncé suggested people quit their jobs in her song “Break My Soul,” people listened.
As hot girl summer grays into sleepy girl winter, a yearning for rest — and, more specifically, sleep — has reared its head in memes. We need more than to be just stay-at-home girlfriends. We’d rather be “snug as a bug” or making the “honk shoo mimimi” noise or emulating the well-rested Celestial Sleepytime Tea bear mascot than working. We’ve entered the era of the sleepytime girlfriend.
To attain the aesthetic of a sleepytime girlfriend (or a sleepytime partner), prioritize snuggliness over everything. Surround yourself with either the relaxing pinks and blues of a “sleepycore” dreamscape or the deep browns and greens of a cabin in the woods. Wear clothing designated solely for bedtime, like matching pajama sets and fuzzy socks. Stock up on pillows, fluffy blankets, and warm drinks. Settle into an armchair fit for a sitcom dad in front of a fireplace, hygge style. Shift into soup mode. Succumb to introversion and hit the hay before 10 p.m. (after a daily nap, of course).
People who escape the grind of our normalized hustle culture often draw disdain. When Daisey Beaton tweeted that she spends one hour each morning just drinking coffee and talking with her husband, she was dragged to hell and back by Twitter users offended by her failure to consider their misery. The women in tech who shared videos of what a day in their lives looks like were met with ridicule when they omitted the hours spent staring at a computer in favor of the moments spent making green juice. Both parties were still working, but the hustle wasn’t the highlight of their day.
There are some obvious challenges about being a sleepytime queen, with the biggest being that, well, you need money to live. Without going as far as religiously motivated tradwives, the TikTok stay-at-home girlfriend seems to have a partner who funds the slow coziness of her domestic life while she retains the agency it takes to post content.
Kay did not return BuzzFeed News’ request for comment, and she hasn’t responded to the criticisms. We don’t know if being a stay-at-home girlfriend, dependent on someone who isn’t legally liable for her, is her life dream. It could just be something she tries to romanticize on TikTok while she works on her next endeavor, or maybe she has passive income streams. We know nothing of her educational or health status that might impact her ability to work outside of the home. We do know that her captions have declared “every day is a self care day” and celebrated the “acts of service” she’s able to do for her boyfriend (as well as the money she’s able to spend). Her TikToks show her doing household laundry and cooking, the unpaid and often dreaded chores involving physical and mental energy that are so often overlooked when considering the contributions of women to family life.
Still, there’s something highly compelling about the leisurely pace of her life. LinkedIn’s broetry posters and deplatformed misogynist Andrew Tate say you’re dissatisfied with life because you’re not working hard enough. But when has working hard ever provided someone with the same gentle vibes as a warm drink and a good night’s sleep? To some, the grind is inherently fulfilling, and plenty of people find meaning and purpose in their work. There’s a reason the era of hustlers and bosses reigned supreme for so long — work yields wealth for those deemed lucky enough by society’s standards.
For the rest of us, though, the rewards aren’t always that great, and neither is the labor that satisfying. Rest is necessary and inevitable; it can and will come for us all. To stay at home is not enough. Some of us work there. Our sleepy memes and jealous disdain for nonworkers send a clear message: We need some honk-shoo time. We’ve earned it. The sleepytime girlfriend era came just in time. ●