Why the Death of an Adolescent Crush Hits Us So Hard


luke perry dies

Luke Perry died on Monday. He had suffered a major stroke last week and did not recover from it. The news makes me sad for my adolescent self. My sister Cherie and I watched Beverly Hills 90210 religiously when we were in middle school and high school. It was “must-see” TV that began with The Simpsons and ended with Melrose Place. Like other preteens at the time, you were on Team Dylan or Team Brandon. I loved Dylan. He was the broken character with a heart of gold. Cheesy, I know. Fred Andrews on Riverdale is no different. I purposely started watching the show so I could see my adolescent crush play a dad. I even liked the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Whether they are a character on a television series or a person you know, adolescent crushes are tattooed in our memories. We grew up with them and will always remember them, even if/when they break our hearts.

To put this idea in context, think about your first kiss. Do you remember your first kiss? I don’t. I may have written about it in one of my journals (when I used to refer them as diaries), but off the top of my head, I couldn’t even tell you who it was with, let alone if I enjoyed it.  However, ask me about a crush, and I can list them. I even dedicated songs to a few of them on the radio. Every now and then, when a song comes on 98.1 or 103.7, I am 15 again.

The tragedy of Luke Perry’s death is made even sadder by how young he was, just 52. All my peers who have commented on Luke Perry’s death said the same thing, “He was so young.” I have friends who are older than him. His death reminds me of how distant my adolescence is becoming. Everyone ages, and, at some point, everyone dies, but unfortunately, some people die sooner than expected. When it comes to adolescent crushes, it’ll always be a surprise to hear they’ve passed away, no matter how much older than us they were. 

Adolescent crushes remind us of that time in our youth when we first experience romance, that sensation of feeling gawky, awkward, and heart-pounding all at once. I had a love-hate relationship with that sensation because I loved feeling it, but I never knew how to pursue it. In a way, adolescent crushes shaped how we pursued romance: the physical attributes we were attracted to, the personality traits we got along with, etc. They embodied everything we desired in the perfect partner until we realized they actually were not perfect and moved on to someone better (or worse, in some cases).

I will be forever grateful to my crushes, both on screen and in school, for being part of my adolescent life. I would not have been the same without them. Was it worth it? To quote another crush, “Abso-f***lutely!





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