Last night, we all got to find out who has been writing the words behind the anonymous advice column Dear Sugar at The Rumpus.
I love sugar, the sweet stuff that makes so many things palatable, so many things sing with yumminess. And I love Sugar, the advice columnist who gave it to us sweet and gave it to us true, who told us “how you get unstuck” and to “write like a motherfucker.” Every advice column spoke to me–Junot Díaz told us once that “there is universality in the particular,” and that defined Sugar’s advice columns, which were more like essays, addressing something specific, but telling us so much more.
So many of us knew, or had an inkling of who Sugar was in real life. And I love how all of us kept it quiet, because we love Sugar so much. We wanted to honor Sugar.
My friend Nova Ren Suma knew who she was, and so did I. Nova told me her suspicions over a year ago, and so I decided to do some research (a fortuneteller once told me I would make an excellent FBI agent–and when I was a small child, I wanted to be a Charlie’s Angel so much that I’d rifle through my parents’ bedroom each time they left the house. I found a few embarrassing things in my parents bedroom, and I also figured out where my father kept the Snickers stash).
By this point, I’d befriended Cheryl Strayed on Facebook, and didn’t care whether or not she was Sugar. Because Cheryl Strayed was rad–she was warm and supportive and amazing and smart. She had become my friend.
But I still wanted to know who Sugar was–and also, the Investigator Instinct runs strong in me.
I read Strayed’s Torch. The diction and voice were so Sugar. It was unmistakable. It made me realize how distinct our voices are in the universe, that we are each like fingerprints. It had to be her. But I was still a touch uncertain.
And then–this was around the time she wrote the Write Like a Motherfucker column–I googled the words “write like a motherfucker”…and up popped an interview between M.J. Rose and Cheryl Strayed–an interview that detailed a life very close to Sugar’s, and one in which Strayed used the phrase, “write like a motherfucker.” Aha. I hurriedly messaged Nova, and said as emphatically as one can type without typing in ALL CAPS that Cheryl had to be Sugar. Had to.
really f’ing kind of excited about it, and then we made a vow: we would tell NO ONE. And so we kept it secret. People asked us, and we would each slyly nod and say we had an idea but no thank you, we wouldn’t tell.
In recent weeks leading up to the unveiling, other friends of mine also whispered that they knew who Sugar might be. It’s funny; we never revealed our guesses, only that we knew. Because we all love Sugar.
It’s hard to remain anonymous, and it’s hard to come out of the closet from anonymity, on so many levels. I used to have an anonymous blog, one in which I chronicled my recovery from stroke as it pertained to my life and writing. At one point, I told a reader who I was, and she expressed disappointment–that she liked it better when she didn’t know who I was. I was shocked that someone wouldn’t welcome me into her reality, but she did not. This is how things are, sometimes. (I also made many many friends to whom I revealed my identity, too–so it’s nowhere near a loss).
Sugar came out of anonymity. And I fully support her.
I’m so happy Cheryl Strayed and Sugar are entering a new chapter.
And I’m going to repeat what I tweeted last night after the unveiling:
You should buy Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild. This is how you thank Sugar, who has so long supported us. http://www.cherylstrayed.com/pre_order_wild_108676.htm