Recently, I listened to Ruby Wax talking about why her career dropped off post 2000. Or as Gabby Logan termed it, ‘The Louis Theroux effect’. Effectively, Ruby was dumped by TV executives because women over a certain age weren’t welcome on TV. They hired Louis Theroux instead. She says, he took her job and her career pretty much ended.
The woman who helped to birth Absolutely Fabulous. The woman who wrote the first Patsy skit. Come on, this woman is a creative genius! But I guess all of that talent was only skin-deep according to society.
As an aside, when I was 18, I dressed up as Patsy at a party. My Edina, Sara Nicolson, has since sadly passed from breast cancer. But I will never forget that evening of pretending to be Joanna Lumley at Sara’s shoulder. As a petulant soon-to-be English and Drama student, I stayed in character all night, drank fake champers and generally annoyed everyone. It was a quality evening. So I have an affinity with Patsy. And, ergo, with Ruby Wax.
If we don’t accept the future, we become irrelevant
Ruby Wax has since studied at Oxford for a Masters in Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. As anyone with a curious mindset knows, it’s important to always keep learning and adapting. “Women have to reinvent constantly because we live too long”, says Wax. She was always interested in people and their stories, their “puzzles” as she calls them. I relate to this as a writer. Roald Dahl said of writers they’re “terrible nosey parkers”. I think that’s true enough. I certainly don’t stop asking questions, which can often be a bit much, I know.
It’s a fascinating look at life as an older woman. Ruby is, for many today, a lesser-known polymath and unlike, the David Walliams’s and Matt Lucas’s of this world, she hasn’t been celebrated as such. I hope this is Ruby’s time.
Hiring creative women inspires a generation
And now we get to the really interesting bit. Ruby says she was a terrible mother. She was always working as the main breadwinner. She can’t remember birthday parties. But with age, her children respect her now. They see her hard work and it sounds as though they have fed off it. And on top of all of that, Ruby Wax has been incredibly ill over the years. So ill, the anxieties of menopause have almost passed her by.
If you know anyone who has had a breakdown, it often comes with major memory failure anyway. And the most intelligent people are often more adversely affected, with one in six people having a mental disorder at some point in their lives. She became ‘frazzled’ and wrote a book about it, with the same name. “If you’re not frazzled, you’re either in a coma or you’ve reached enlightenment,” says Ruby. But at the time, we were fed the mantra that her ‘craziness’ was wrong. That mental illness was wrong.
The creative mindset is unique
Now if this isn’t relevant to copywriting, creativity and advertising agencies, I don’t know what is. It’s certainly relevant to the recurrent problem of ageism within recruitment and employment. Check out Ruby’s interviews now showing on Channel 4 on Sunday nights.