Generation X Has Grown Up

Beverly Hills 90210, is the  Fountain of Youth. No one is supposed to get old in Beverly Hills, let alone die of a stroke. They might die of a drug overdose, but not something ordinary, middle-aged people die of.

However, I was stunned by the news that actor, Luke Perry died after having a stroke at age 52. Tributes and photos have been flooded all over the news and on social media.

While everyone was crying, I was afraid to admit that I haven’t seen him in anything since Beverly Hills 90210 went off the airwaves. Even then I wasn’t a devoted fan, he seemed too unattainable with his pretty-boy looks and swagger.

At a meeting, the next day at work we were all talking about his death. My younger colleagues giggled about him as if they were still in high school.  As they reminisced about the pillows and posters of him that filled their rooms,  all I could think about that he was only 52.  I’m turning 50 this year. A stroke at 52? He is too young. No one my age is supposed to die from a stroke.

Stroke and heart disease are the leading causes of death for men in this age group. However, Luke Perry’s cause of death made me catch my breath.

Would I have been less shocked if it was a drug overdose or suicide?   As a member of Generation X is that I expect my counterparts to die from if they are under the age of 80?

There are about 65 million of us born between 1965 and Generation X isn’t immune to celebrity deaths. We mourned River Phoenix and  Chris Cornell.

However, Luke Perry is the first celebrity that I can recall dying of something that “older”  people die from. The fact that I am now one of these “older” people was hard to fathom.

During college, I watched Luke Perry on Beverly Hills 90210 as bad boy loner, Dylan McKay before the children of Riverdale were even thought of.  Dylan had his own room at The Beverly Hills Hotel. He did not have to deal with curfews, and nosey parents, I didn’t want to date Dylan, I wanted to be Dylan. He could do whatever he wanted, and didn’t have to answer to anyone. Dylan was a hero to those of us in Generation X.

As a result of Luke Perry’s death ,it made me stop and think about my own mortality. He wasn’t so different from myself and other Generation X friends. Luke Perry got married, had kids, got divorced, and moved on through his life seemingly without much drama. His boyish good looks grew into a rugged handsomeness. He could have easily been sitting next to me at a dance recital or sporting event cheering his kids on like every other parent.

Above all, Generation X was never supposed to be middle age. Our parents and the rest of the Baby Boomers were the ones who were going to get old, not us. However, Generation X is closer to 60, than to 30 and it is all going too fast.  The death of Luke Perry reminds us that we are  grown-ups, and Generation X is not invincible.




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