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Fighting the ‘frump factor’

February 18, 2012

Frump: the “F” word that strikes fear in the souls of women everywhere. It can make your blood run cold and hives appear on your neck. It’s that awful condition that can set in around age 40 when you’re focused on something other than yourself for a change.
The frump factor is easy to recognize in others, but we’re often blinded or in total denial regarding our own “frumpity.”
But face it, girls, we all succumb to the condition from time to time. You wear that new cable knit shawl that looked so good hanging in the store, only to catch your reflection in the door at the Piggly Wiggly and try to place the old woman walking toward you.
I’ve been doing some research on the frump factor and have discovered some reliable symptoms that you might be showing early signs:
u Your hair is usually in a bun on top of your head;
u You wear the same sweatpants to the store that you slept in the night before;
u You wear your slippers outside of the house;
u Your favorite sweater is beginning to look like ironed porridge;
u And your wardrobe consists of sweats, pants with elastic waists and running shoes even though you haven’t been jogging since before Christmas.
There are two things I never thought I would be caught dead doing — leaving the house without drawing on my eyebrows (mine are blonde) and putting on my earrings — the bigger the better. To my horror I did both this week. I needed one little ole thing from the market, so I put on a big pair of sunglasses (I always feel invisible wearing shades) and dashed out of the house.
Not only did I break my own cardinal rules, but I wore my house shoes and the gym pants I slept in the night before. Welcome to Frump Central, Miss. Of course, I ran into a quarter of the population of my community, and no one recognized me. Whew. Maybe my dirty little secret hasn’t been discovered yet.
What shocked me so much is how fast the Frump Factor can multiply and suddenly, you really don’t care anymore. No, sir, I’m not going to let that happen again unless it’s in the middle of the night, and I’m having a chocolate attack.
What really galls me is that the word frump is always applied to women; there does not seem to be a male equivalent. I asked the question online, and one person answered “John Madden.” Bless his heart.
And bless your heart when you’re having a frumpy moment. It happens to the best of us and is usually followed by a “clean up your act” moment when you deck yourself out to the point you are dancing with the “floozy factor.”

Emily Jones is a retired journalist who edits a website for bouncing baby boomers facing retirement. She welcomes comments at

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