Jen George is a Midwestern kid who grew up and followed her heart to the ocean. Her first novella, Bufflye, appeared serially in Silver Pen’s Youth Imagination online literary magazine in 2013. Jennifer currently resides with her husband and two children on the coast of Maine and studies in the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program.
TOMMY PAGE by Jen George
Tommy popped up on the Billboard Hot 100 with his first single, “I’ll Be Your Everything,” in 1990. It was love at first listen. I bugged the DJs at my local AM radio station until they picked up the song. I dreamed about Tommy, discussed him with my friends, and sang along to his albums at the top of my lungs. I scoured magazines like Teen Bop for photos of him. When I was twelve, I wrote the poor guy a hilariously awful poem that was cleverly crafted to contain the titles of all of his songs. In 2001, I joined the message board on his website and sat there biting my nails and hoping the dial-up internet would work enough for me to participate in his AMA (ask me anything) session on AOL. I seriously adored the guy.
Eventually, Tommy stepped behind the scenes of the music industry. He spent a bit less time on stage and a lot more time making music happen for others.
(Thank you, Tommy, for bringing us Michael Buble, Josh Groban, and Green Day!) He moved on. I moved on, too, meeting and marrying the real love of my life and starting a family.
This is not the time to fangirl. This is the time to show respect for those who are hurting. Not everyone is comfortable telling the public at large that they are considering suicide. If a person has a large following, a well-intended but intrusive outpouring of love might cause more problems than it solves. Wanting space to heal is not weakness; it is a personal preference. We have HIPAA laws for a reason. Celebrities are no different in their desire for privacy. They are, however, at a disadvantage as they attempt to maintain it during personal crises.
Not too long ago, Sinead O’Connor made headlines everywhere after she disappeared during a bout of deep depression. People talked about her everywhere. #Prayforsinead showed up all over Twitter. People began to joke about it. Her private details, including her illness, became a topic of imaginative, idle conversations. Police eventually found her safe in a place she had chosen to be. Was the media and social media circus helpful to the woman who pours out her creativity for the masses and speaks on behalf of the oppressed? Not likely.
Naturally, I am sad that Tommy Page has passed away. While I may reminisce on the smooth-voiced
singer’s impact on my young life, I will not stalk Tommy’s husband on Facebook or Twitter. I will not hunt for his Instagram account. I will not try to find pictures of his children. I will also refrain from conjecturing about the events that led up to this tragic moment. I will not pretend I knew Tommy personally and make up exaggerated, nostalgic stories about our first meeting (which, incidentally, never happened).
I am grateful for souls such as the bravely transparent Jared Padalecki, the Supernatural star who assumed the risk of public vulnerability in order to tell others struggling from depression that they are not alone. I admire Padalecki’s courage and honesty. Millions of people wake up daily in the U.S. wondering why they bother getting out of bed. So many at this very moment are contemplating whether or not to make this day their very last. There is a chance that people like Jared Padalecki will be able to encourage some of those people to get help and give life another shot.
What is my response to Tommy Page’s tragic death? I am practicing self-care. I’m showing love and support to others who struggle with depression and other mental health issues in hopes that they will find a happy ending. And of course, I popped From the Heart into my CD player and sang every word to every song. Maybe someday I’ll even write a better poem about him.