How Did the ‘Lazy Girl’ Take Over the Internet?

Photo: Frederic Cirou/Getty Images

Lazy Girls, as you might imagine, need a lot of instruction to get through life. Just consider the average woman: lolloping around like a friendly dog, with food and coffee stains on her rumpled clothes, hair matted in a pile, not even a little dismayed that her eyeliner is wiggled. She eats whatever, and doesn’t exercise either; she’s content to forego fitness crazes because how could she be any more comfortable with who she is? If she weren’t so tragic in her ignorance — so lazy — you’d think she was standing astride the self-care industry and society’s standards for women, arms akimbo, laughing.

Fortunately for women in our modern times, publications old and new now offer “Lazy Girl” guides to shape them into some level of fitness for society. And I mean fitness in more than just the natural-selection sense: Lazy Girl guides can give her a great butt. They can style her clothes so she does not scare others, banish her cystic pizza face, make her lose weight, help her with her morning makeup, feed her a healthy meal, repair her tattered rags, tame her rat’s nest of a haircut, fix her repulsive cuticles, contour her shapeless blob of a face, learn her manners, teach her to keep house. The lazy girl is Eliza Doolittle, and the internet is her Henry Higgins.

The rise of the “Lazy Girl” meme is difficult to track because it’s something no one actually goes looking for; there are no obvious spikes in Google Trends, for instance. But the term has quietly bubbled up into the headlines of service journalism for women over the last few years — here is an early one, the Lazy Girl’s Guide to Felting Rocks — to the point that no slideshow telling you how to live is complete without it.

I used to click on every single Lazy Girl article I came across, and I get a lot of lifestyle newsletters. I would never seek this stuff out, but if it appeared in front of me, it was like candy. And this sort of puzzled me because I am not lazy: If anything, I care too much about everything, especially whether I’m doing any given thing the right and best way. Just now I sealed the end of my planner’s bookmark ribbon with nail polish so it would stop fraying. I don’t have everything figured out, by a long shot, but what I have scraped together is the result of trying what at least feels like very, very hard, all of the time. Being together and groomed and presentable in addition to general operation as a human is tiring.

The precursor to the Lazy Girl was the Busy Woman, who had to learn to cook, to sew, to manage her life, to survive, to actualize, to elevate herself. Now publications have shifted stance — the salable idea is that something can possibly be easy. If we just flop in the general direction of the task at hand, we could do it. Or, more important, that there is maybe, just maybe, a secret, easier way of doing things that we somehow didn’t know about.

In an article titled “7 Lazy Girl Beauty Hacks,” the author points out that toilet-seat covers can be used to blot oil from one’s face, if one takes the time to trim them into “small squares.” In another Lazy Girl’s guide to better skin, the very first tip is to apply SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF, a serum that costs well over $100 per bottle. This one, on “holiday beauty hacks,” holds it together for three list items before suggesting in the fourth that you simply apply eyeliner not once, but twice, in the same perfect straight line. This one tells you that you can pull off pajamas as formalwear if you can simply have the taste and fashion sense of an impeccable stylist. (There is also the occasional attempt at Lazy Girl identity content, which would seem to get the meme’s appeal backward by correctly identifying and listing a bunch of actual lazy behaviors.)

These Lazy Girl guides admittedly offer much the same set of lessons women’s publications have been peddling for decades, and they generally follow long-established formulas: Assemble some obvious facts, add a couple genuinely insightful tidbits, lay it all out in an attractive way. The Lazy Girl label gives it an insidious new twist — it purports to offer a way around the rules, but still keeps those rules firmly in place, all with the impossible sheen of effortlessness.

As the Hairpin’s 2014 analysis of snackwave showed, even a simple act of apparently carefree cool online can become a kind of performance: One does not simply eat a piece of pizza on the internet; eating a piece of pizza is a defiant action, a rejection of health-food culture. And yet this kind of rebellion perpetuates more norms than it resists — the piece’s authors note that snackwave’s accepted poster-women tend to be thin, pretty, and often white. The whole thing smacks of the “cool girl,” to use Gillian Flynn’s description of conspicuous, attractive female chillness. The allure of the effortless reigns supreme online, where it’s easy to chase each other around in circles about who’s faking and who actually doesn’t give a fuck (see the debate around the You Did Not Eat That Instagram account) and to applaud the occasional admission of a constructed identity. The only real conclusion that falls out of all this mess is that, still, effort is never cool.

Lazy Girl speaks to how we’d all like to put forward less effort. But at the same time, to the extent that these articles continue to exist, we will always believe it takes a large amount of effort to be acceptable. The tacit promise of the Lazy Girl is that it’ll be easy to add yet another self-improvement habit to your routine, normalizing the endless list of obligations while implying they should take no effort or time at all. To be a lazier woman is a worthy aspiration: Actual Lazy Girls are heroes. The Lazy Girl meme represents, if anything, the opposite .