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But it soon aired late nights on Lifetime, and I watched it like the Phi Beta Kappa scholar of secular society I had become.
Because here were characters who could teach me something. I wanted so badly to be just like them: middle-class, comfortable, seen, loved, career-driven, relationship-driven, tortured by tiny things but overall a good, upstanding yuppie trying to navigate her place between her idealistic values and what the world demanded of her. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about “Thirtysomething” again.
My mother, truly out of nowhere, became religious when I was 12. She and my father had divorced six years before, and now we lived in Brooklyn, in what was called Flatbush at the time and has probably been renamed something fancy. My sisters eagerly followed my mother’s path to observance.
Not just regular religious, lighting Shabbat candles and forgoing pork, but truly Orthodox. My mother remarried when I was 14, to a newly Orthodox Israeli just like her, and suddenly nothing in my house — now located in Canarsie, which retains its name — made sense. I was sent to a yeshiva, and, with no friends outside this community, I began to grow concerned that I was not being prepared for the larger world.
I began wondering just how much “Thirtysomething” did end up influencing me, how much I was affected by those late nights, watching in the darkness and silence of my childhood home. Ellyn, Hope’s childhood friend, has a black leather coat so angular that it makes her look like the commander of a space army from the future. It is in the show’s flannel — as opposed to, say, its casting — that “Thirtysomething” commits to diversity: Tartan, Scotch, Black Watch, Tattersall, Glen, you name it.
I decided to watch the series again, all the way through. When Nancy gets cancer, her sister, Deb, brings her a navy plaid flannel robe, whereas Deb has a red flannel one, almost the same model.
There is so much flannel in this show that Hope even addresses it in Season 2.
Packing for a camping trip, she speaks dreamily of her feelings for the fabric.
It’s hard to imagine that I ever wanted to be a Hope or a Nancy, but I definitely would never have wanted to be an Ellyn or Melissa, out there in limbo, video-dating for love while the cold Susannahs of the world got pregnant with upstanding (if doomed) guys like Gary.Lately, as I’ve been discussing the book, I’m asked the same question over and over: People wanted to know when I started thinking critically about marriage. It’s not on every night in perpetuity like, say, “Friends,” or “Seinfeld,” a tether to the past that makes a person wonder if time is actually passing. Once you have the DVDs, you may realize that you haven’t used DVDs in a very long time and that you have to buy a DVD player too. On the endless late November day when “Thirtysomething” seems to take place, the characters, differentiated in personality and marital status, meet squarely in the same aisle of an L. Bean, where they have somehow all found that they have the exact same taste in Fair Isle sweaters, plaid scarves, elastic-cuffed sweatpants, cozy woolen socks, tucked-in sweatshirts, tucked-in cardigans, jumper dresses, wide-legged jeans, long, full skirts, Top-Siders, suspenders.The answer is that I’ve been doing it for so long I can’t remember. For outerwear, Hope, the same-age-as-everyone-else matriarch, wears a puffy, shoulder-padded coat that looks like a burrito costume.All these years later, I am publishing my first novel this month and it just so happens that it’s about marriage and how it has changed as we inch closer to gender parity (actual or perceived).It is about this agreement we make, rooted in religious observance and in tax law, and trying to figure out if it’s still a valid one, if it can ever be a fair one. I can evaluate this like a scientist, now that I’m safe. It’s not that easy to watch “Thirtysomething” again. I mean that it’s actually difficult to watch it: None of the seasons are currently available on streaming services and You Tube is spotty.