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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.

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.

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.

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.

It debuted in 1987, when I was 11, but I didn’t get wind of it until I was in 10th grade, just before it was canceled.

But it soon aired late nights on Lifetime, and I watched it like the Phi Beta Kappa scholar of secular society I had become.

I was going to marry someone who was not even a little religious.


She loves it so much, “especially,” she says, “when it gets so worn it’s about to rip.”Once the shock of the show’s fashion subsides, it is easy to relax into its pleats.

I watched the news to make sure I wasn’t pronouncing words with a Yiddish or Israeli accent (so much so that I overcorrected; it wasn’t until I registered for wedding gifts that I learned that the word “spatula” was not pronounced “spatuler”).


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