I remember when Gary died. I remember that last, lingering shot of him. I remember that golden, back-lit beauty of a man lying on a cold, gray slab in the morgue. And I was hysterical. I felt like my own friend had died. And in a way, he was my friend. Just like everyone on thirtysomething had become so known to me. And that was the thing. There I was, sitting in my college dorm room, barely twenty, not able to relate to the angst the characters on the show went through on a daily basis. But I was crying over the loss of Gary and the way my "friends" clung to each other in their grief.
Last week I watched the first season of thirtysomething... as a thirty-something (with my big toe dipped in the forty-something pool). Almost twenty years later, I'm dredlocked and carry on me a hint of black militancy — not exactly part of the yuppie, baby booming demographic the show was plugged into. But I feel an even deeper personal connection to the show's characters. The questions, the self-doubt, the endless analyzing, and the intimate ways they reach out to one another and let each other into their psyche. My soulmate is Melissa. I can relate to her insecure, artist soul. And the way Michael shot down every guy Melissa liked. My best friend could be Michael's stand-in when he sums up his feelings for my latest crush simply by saying, "Umm, I'm not a fan of that dude." Another one bites the dust. I root for Melissa as much as I root for myself.
The first season of thirtysomething is out today on DVD. (And I have to admit, watching it makes me wax nostalgic for the Betamax tape.) My hope is that the fortysomething years will smooth out some of the personal dilemmas of the past decade. I'll let you know.