CALL ME SUGAR
I’m writing this from my desk that I got from a warehouse about to close down, a desk that sits in my room which includes a bed and a door and two thank-the-gods-windows, a room that I’ve lived in since January of this year, which was a few weeks after I decided to end seven months of touring and living on your couches and paying to sleep in your closets and begging the universe to tell me which way to go and going, going, until at last one time I went and felt homesick for the place I was going from and decided to go back. I’m writing this from Milwaukee, one of two cities in Wisconsin that call me home. If you are reading this, you are connected to the internet. Congratulations. We have made it to the future.
I need to answer a question and ask a favor and I need to do it in the following form. Indulge me.
Q: HOW’D YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME SUGAR RANSOM?
A: I thought about it for a really long time. The original idea was for a split E.P., the first to be called ‘Turbinado Run’ and the latter sister ‘Sugar Ransom’ and the project as a whole ‘Run, Sugar.’ I was working under a different name at the time (Meadow Parish) and the project I was working on had a lot to do with running away/escapism i.e. My Life Thus Far. I eventually ditched the project along with the old name when I was near the end of some major life transformations; moving back home (Florida) and really coming to grips with finding my voice and having a reason to stay alive. I changed my name to Sugar Ransom as a reminder of everything I’d learned in life up to that point, to represent the sweetness of the redemption I had fought for and have continued to fight for, and so that I could feel that the project I was tossing/rebirthing wasn’t going to waste. This ‘stage’ name is representative of my power as a free woman, of my identity as a poet and musician, and as a reminder to Do No Harm but Take No Shit.
sugar |ˈ sh oŏgər|
1 a sweet crystalline substance obtained from various plants, esp. sugar cane and sugar beet, consisting essentially of sucrose, and used as a sweetener in food and drink.
• a lump or teaspoonful of this, used to sweeten tea or coffee : I’ll have mine black with two sugars.
• informal used as a term of endearment or an affectionate form of address : what’s wrong, sugar?
verb [ trans. ]
sweeten, sprinkle, or coat with sugar : she absentmindedly sugared her tea | [as adj. ] ( sugared) sugared almonds.
• figurative make more agreeable or palatable : the novel was preachy but sugared heavily with jokes.
sugar the pill see pill 1 .
ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French sukere, from Italian zucchero, probably via medieval Latin from Arabic sukkar.
a sum of money or other payment demanded or paid for the release of a prisoner.
• the holding or freeing of a prisoner in return for payment of such money : the capture and ransom of the king.
verb [ trans. ]
obtain the release of (a prisoner) by making a payment demanded : the lord was captured in war and had to be ransomed.
• hold (a prisoner) and demand payment for their release : mercenaries burned the village and ransomed the inhabitants.
• release (a prisoner) after receiving payment.
hold someone/something at (or for) ransom hold someone prisoner and demand payment for their release. • demand concessions from a person or organization by threatening damaging action.
a king’s ransom a huge amount of money; a fortune.
ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French ransoun (noun), ransouner (verb), from Latin redemptio(n-) ‘ransoming, releasing’ (see redemption ). Early use also occurred in theological contexts expressing [deliverance] and [atonement.]
Ransom |ˈransəm| |ˈransəm| |ˈrænsəm|
Ransom, John Crowe (1888–1974), U.S. poet and critic. With The New Criticism (1941) he started a school of criticism that rejected the Victorian emphasis on literature as a moral force and advocated a close analysis of textual structure in isolation from the social background of the text.
If you’ve known me for a long time then you’ve seen this name-change phenomenon a few times along the way. I skipped First Grade and was moved to Second. Naturally petite, suddenly a year or two younger than every one of my peers, shy and, you know, a fucking nerd who naturally had to be ridiculed, I found that suddenly my name to everyone, teacher included, was Mousie.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” echoed the words of Eleanor Roosevelt through the mouth of my father, consoling his tiny distraught oldest daughter. “Make It Your Own.” he continued.
I did it. I introduced myself as Mousie to everyone in every school and every grade I went to after that and it lasted until I hit puberty (which, to my chagrin, only took one summer) and cut off all of my hair. Freshman Year, 13 years old, I suddenly looked very much like a woman trying to remain a boy, and without missing a beat everyone in my class started calling me Gilbert (my ‘real’ last name), even though most of them had been calling me Mousie for at least three years. I went with it.
Gilbert held on the longest. Sure, there were a few others, there were a few variations (crusty riot grrl name: Gilbert Dirt. Gillie. Bert. Gil. there was a brief period that I tried to get everyone to call me Sam but then ended up friends with two other Sam’s and that faded quickly back to Gilbert.) I went through runaway/Huckleberry Finn phases, I was institutionalized, I went to school for classical music (dropout!) and eventually ended up back in Milwaukee, where I would be called Gilbert by most people until I was about eighteen years old, and people started refusing to call me by my nickname.
“What? That’s weird. I’m not gonna call you that. What’s your REAL name? You’re a girl.”
“Um, Sarah. But really, all my friends call me Gilbert.”
“No, Sarah. Your name is Sarah.”
“Great. (fuck you)”
And so people were calling me Sarah, and it started to catch on, and then everyone was calling me by my first name, as though directly disrespecting my wishes insinuated some sort of ‘closeness’ to me or expressed some philosophical ‘truth’ because changing your name is some sort of LIE, right? (recap: Gilbert is part of my actual fucking name. And if it weren’t? Still my name, my choice.)
The earliest stage name I had was designed in part because I was still underage and needed a way to sneak into bars to play shows and use a fake I.D. with a different name and not get kicked out of my own shows. Meadow Parish never caught on. Ever. Everyone insisted on calling me Sarah, except a few kind people who still believe in personal liberty. I eventually released some records and turned twenty one and got divorced and quit some bands and still, no one was connecting my Name to my Face and everyone just wanted to give me Advice, which was usually something about using my real name ‘to stay genuine.’
As earlier stated, I changed the name to Sugar Ransom when I moved away to Florida. It would be easier to remember, I thought, and it’s already a regularly used term of endearment. ‘Sugar’ helps me to feel like a person is already more comfortable with me so that I can feel comfortable with them, and it also provides an accessible filter through which I can pretend that any condescending or patronizing comments might be making their ways to my ears are in fact meant in all seriousness, and then I don’t have to get mad or be a jerk or remind anyone of their Mother’s disappointment or whatever. The name also resonates really fucking hard with my sense of self, and is just as much a part of my identity as the name on my birth certificate. It helps the boy/Woman in me grow up to be the Huckleberry Finn/femme fatale that ze wants to be. A stage name helps me separate My Voice from My Ego, so that My Voice can step on the stage and, without worrying about what the rest of me thinks, give the truest version of every word of every song that I sing (this is art, ok? ART. I’m just trying to make art. I need this.)
This has caught on a lot better than before, or maybe I just know more kind people that are willing to let me be all of myself. I am grateful for that. But I’m writing this partly out of exhaustion; since I released this project two years ago, I’ve had some substantial amount of difficulty getting people to CALL ME BY MY STAGE NAME. Off stage, as in if we are having a personal conversation at a non-musical event and you have actually known me for a very long time- cool. But I would still appreciate Sugar, really. This is my decision. On stage? You’d be surprised, or at least I am, at how many people who were my ‘friends’ have refused to call me Sugar Ransom. My Stage Name. On A Stage. I’ve talked to them about it, and some of them have been real sweet and made an effort to change. On the other hand, some others have actually laughed in my face and flatly refused to call me Sugar at my own fucking show. Or will say ‘Sugar-Ransom-Sarah’ as though they can’t, though they are performers, muster up the strength to stop their lips from ‘exposing’ me for ‘who I really am’. Some have even refused to credit me as Sugar Ransom on recorded projects I worked closely with them on, citing again an adhesion to the genuine.
If you want to try to undermine me, if you want to draw attention away from The Art and The Songs and instead toward unnecessarily confusing a lot of people in an audience about What My Real Name Is (seriously who cares?), FINE. But you aren’t doing it because you are my friend, and you aren’t doing it to be genuine. Friends help each other have cool, cohesive art projects with Titles and Stage Names. Friends support each others’ genuine life journeys and the meaning behind those art projects and with the struggle to find identity in a fast-paced, media driven world.
Sugar Ransom means that I Am Alive. That my power comes from my wounds. That I am free and even though that freedom carried it’s price I can still Be Here and Here can be sweet and that really, really, with a spoonful of sugar, the medicine will go down.
If you want to be my friend, be my friend.
For the last time, Please.
call me Sugar.