Down With Morning People

Morning people fizzle. Non-morning people get stronger as the day wears on.

Illustration of fried egg with frowning angry face in yolk in black frying pan on yellow background
Tim Lahan

This article was published online on July 30, 2021.

Me, I can fake it.

Stale as I may be from the night before, one foot—one leg—stuck in the underworld, I can still crank up the sociability. I can manufacture perkiness at an early hour. Good morning! Good morning! Am I even faking it? Perhaps not. It is good to wake up. I do rejoice in the restoration of consciousness, the grand democracy of daylight. Yes! Good morning!

You, on the other hand … No faking for you. You’re condemned to a splendid and groaning authenticity. Waking is suffering, humans are intolerable, and you cannot, you will not, hide it. You wince, you flinch, you shuffle around. Should you happen, by some mischance, to encounter another person before you’ve gotten yourself together, you rear back like a scalded troll. The hours of sleep, it appears, have not refreshed you—they have flayed you.

And that’s what I like about you, non–morning person: your fastidiousness. Your great delicacy of being. You don’t bounce giddily from oblivion to wakefulness, taking it all for granted, confident of finding things more or less as you left them at bedtime. No, no, it’s a change; it’s arduous; it’s real. Deflector shields: gone. Resilience: none. The world is upon you as a pressure, an aesthetic offense, a ghastly payload of noise and glare and babbling, galumphing people. You’ll be okay, you’ll get there, but you need time. Complex operations of personal reassembly are required. There’s an essential, existential honesty to what you’re doing: Every morning, out of old socks and empty bottles of ibuprofen, you build yourself anew.

Morning person versus non–morning person. It’s a classic duality, isn’t it? It’s Hardy versus Laurel. It’s McCartney versus Lennon: Woke up, fell out of bed, / Dragged a comb across my head versus Please don’t wake me, no, don’t shake me, / Leave me where I am. And, this being America, we’re heavily weighted in favor of productivity and go-get-’em-ness. What politician will confess to having trouble waking up? You’re a bit countercultural, non–morning person, sunk in your vibes, crowned with your bedhead. You’re a subversive.

And here’s a truth: Morning people fizzle. They front-load the day, they burn all their energy before 10 o’clock, and the remaining hours are just a kind of higher zombiedom. By mid-afternoon, a morning person is wan and sugar-starved. But you non–morning people get stronger: Like Antaeus, whose power increased every time Hercules took him down, you are nourished by contact with the Earth. You run on heavy fuel. You draw your strength from the slumbering core of the planet, where morning never breaks.

This article appears in the September 2021 print edition with the headline “Ode to Not Being a Morning Person.”