Discovering the Man-Jumma

saw a guy on the bus today. He was a fairly normal looking guy in most respects. Around 5ft 10, mid 30s and dressed in a blue t-shirt and tan three quarter length trousers. The three quarter length trousers, perhaps, should have given a clue, but they’d barely registered before I was dazzled by his socks. His rainbow socks, accompanied by what appeared to be a pair of woman’s bathroom slippers. To top it all off, perched on his head was a helmet-shaped straw hat, adorned with a spinning feather arrow complete with propeller, just in case he should ever need to fly his way out of there. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, I have discovered the Man-jumma.

As a principal, of course, the Man-jumma is a somewhat flawed concept. First of all, Ajumma’s (note to those not in Korea: Ajumma is a generic term for a married woman in Korea, but is more often used to describe insane old bats over the age of 50, who can only be described as women in the sense that they have the right bits. Not that I’ve checked….) don’t accept men as a worthwhile part of society, so for an Ajumma to be a man does not compute. Secondly, distinguishing an Ajumma from a Man-jumma is something that can only be reliably completed by a close up examination of the Adam’s apple region, or… well the alternative is too horrifying for words. Fundamental issues aside, my eyes were not deceiving me, and what I witnessed may well have been a revolutionary moment in Korean ‘fashion’, a coming together of he and he-she. To make a he-she and a she-he. You follow?

Crazy middle-aged men apart (maybe he was on his way to a fancy dress party, though personally I’d have chosen to get dressed in the corridor before knocking on the door…), I’d really love to know what possesses these nutty old women. Whilst my Man-jumma had managed to restrict his wacky attire to the polar extremes of his not insubstantial frame, the hunched old women of my fair adopted country have no such reservations.

A typical outfit – which must be worn every day without exception – consist of the following:

1. A hugely oversized visor style cap, preferably either in garish colour or – for the stylish old probably woman – a colourful flowery design with stylised faux-American brand name.
2. A headache inducing bright top containing at least four different material patterns, preferably not resembling each other in any way. Somewhere along the way there should be an Italian brand name tucked in there too. I have no idea how, as an Italian wouldn’t be seen dead in this stuff. Literally. Though I always thought that Louis Vuitton pattern was nasty myself, so what do I know…
3. Trousers. More likely to be plain than the top, Could be of any colour, but must be at least luminous enough to be seen from the top of Seoul tower on a smoggy day during a thunderstorm. Likely to feature muddy patch on the back, a result of spending a lot of time sat on park benches.
4. The perm. Now I couldn’t write all this without mentioning the perm now, could I? Apparently it’s ‘practical’. The fact that it’s also less attractive than Korea’s Olympic weight lifting champion doesn’t seem to be a factor in the decision. To be a true Ajumma, a thinning mop top is essential.

If you want to make it, Mr Man-jumma, that’s what you’re up against. Your city bus effort was impressive indeed, but you’re going to have to add that perm, and a few more colours before I’m buying. Then again, if you do, I probably won’t be able to tell you apart from the real thing. Which begs the questions: how many Man-jummas are there hidden amongst our ranks? I think I may have discovered a new species, or at least the evolution of one. I really, really hope I haven’t.


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