Planning, preparation can make the holidays much more jolly for all

LGBTs often deal with stress, depression during the holiday season due to family issues

Candy Marcum

Candy Marcum

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Many people have such high expectations for the holidays that they get depressed when those expectations aren’t met. And in the LGBT community, dealing with family issues is often painful.

Counselor Candy Marcum said that holiday depression is the gap between how you think your life should work and how it is working.

“If you think Christmas should be family and love and laughter and you’re having trouble paying the rent and your family rejects you, then work to lessen the gap,” Marcum said.
She suggested changing the idea of how the holiday should be.

Marcum said that many people come out to family during the holidays because that’s when families get together.

And coming out in person is usually better than over the phone.

But, Marcum said, making a big announcement at the dinner table might not be the best way to do it.
Counselor Randy Martin said that anyone intending to come out to family over the holiday needs to plan and prepare beforehand.

“Find someone to bounce it off of,” such as a friend or sibling, he said. “Like a dry run.”

But when to spring the news? Each family is different, Martin said.

In some families, it’s best to talk about big news in pairs.

In others, groups are fine.

If a family has an expectation of how holiday dinner should be, interrupting it with this sort of news might not be the best idea. But in some families it could be the perfect setting, Martin suggested said.

Going home for the holidays and introducing a new partner is another stressful situation. Even the fully accepting family may react awkwardly to the new situation.

Randy-Martin-photo

Randy Martin

Marcum suggests staying in a nearby hotel might be the answer to avoiding family conflict. That avoids the embarrassing question of sleeping arrangements.

Or talk to family ahead of time. Staying with a sibling or other relative might work also.

Martin agreed that a hotel stay could be a perfect alternative for a couple during a holiday visit: “Maybe Grandpa smokes and one of you can’t tolerate it, or your family gets up much earlier than you do,” he said.

He added that any number of situations could make it simpler all the way around not to stay with one’s parents.

Marcum said another uncomfortable situation is visiting family after a breakup. While you might have moved on, everyone else could be feeling the loss for the first time, she said.

“Now you’ve got a new one [partner],” Marcum said. “That’s awkward at best.”

Martin agreed. “The family already has a pattern down. Do what you can to let everyone else catch up,” he said.

Loneliness is another common problem many people in the LGBT community face during the holidays.

Happy childhood memories of the holidays can bring on a bout of depression when those expectations will not be met because of family rejection, Marcum said.

Others are alone for the holidays simply because of distance, cost of travel or having to work.

Martin suggested doing some extra preparation for the holidays, especially if that time of year tends to be difficult. While many people spend quite a bit of time going to parties and shopping for everyone else, he suggested spending time making plans for yourself.

“Loneliness is real,” Martin said. “We’re hard-wired to be connected. Make plans.”

And he said make back-up plans in case other plans fall through. Think of whom to contact if you’re alone — maybe someone to go with to a movie.
Marcum agreed, adding, “Be good to yourself.”

“Make a plan that pleases you,” she said. “Whatever gives you joy.”

She suggested going to church, volunteering in a soup kitchen or having friends or neighbors over.

“Buy yourself something,” she suggested. “Wrap it up and put it under the tree.”

She said that when sadness around the holiday is a result bad family relations, keep the door open.

“Take the high road with your family,” Marcum said. “Continue to reach out.”

That includes inviting them to visit, and calling or sending cards and emails to keep in touch.

Martin’s general advice is to stay connected. He said that if exercise is part of your regular routine, make time to get in a workout. He said to not let all the parties and shopping and pressure from the holiday become overwhelming.

And Marcum gives a word of warning about drinking during the holiday “Watch your alcohol intake,” she said. “Alcohol is a depressant.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

HOLIGAYS ON ICE

Remembering-Christmas-scan

Remembering Christmas by Tom Medicino, Frank Anthony Polito and Michael Salvatore (Kensington, 2011). $15, 250 pp.

It happens every year. First you start seeing Christmas decorations. Then you notice yourself mouthing the words to carols while shopping. You start to get nostalgic, missing family and remembering this gift and that holiday dinner through rose-colored glasses. It’s ho-ho-horrible, a homesickness for something you never really had — who ever had a perfect holiday, anyhow?

In Remembering Christmas, three authors use three gay-themed novellas to show the only things perfect are the ghosts of Christmases past.

It’s funny how we remember special things we got for Christmas at the same time we remember things we didn’t get. In “Away, in a Manger” by Tom Medicino, middle-aged James is empty-handed and empty-hearted. Life as a gay man in New York was good once. There was always another party, another summer on Fire Island, another trip with Ernst, James’ lover and mentor.

But Ernst is now an old man with fusty habits, the summer house is a tired tradition that needs to be retired and James wants … something. Then, while on his way to spend Christmas with his family, car trouble strands him in a tiny town where his future is hiding, covered in snow.

Remember wishing for that one special thing to show up beneath the tree? No matter how old you are, it’s hard not to have a specific gift in mind when you see piles of gifts, and in “A Christmas to Remember” by Frank Anthony Polito, all Jack Paterno wants is a boyfriend — specifically, Kirk, his pal from high school. There’s much history between them, many mutual friends and boyhood memories in common, but even though Jack is pretty sure Kirk’s gay, Kirk isn’t so sure himself.

Sometimes, lost love feels keener at Christmastime. When Neil broke up with Theo just before the holidays, Theo decided that he might as well do what he said he’d never do, and go home for Christmas. But in “Missed Connections” by Michael Salvatore, a chance encounter with an old love becomes an odd gift.

Though my mother told me not to judge a book by its cover, I have to admit that I did. This book looked like it was going to be a fun read.
I should’ve listened to mom.

Remembering Christmas is fatally dark-mooded. It pouts and mutters, feels sorry for itself, gets morosely introspective and wallows in pity page after page after page. There are occasional bursts of good tidings of great joy, but the melancholy and angst overpowers them. I think I could have handled that in one story, but the similar theme of all three tales made me want to drown my sorrows in spiked egg nog.

If you’re single, hating it and want some paper commiseration, then this book will be good company this season. But if you’re looking for a holiday book that makes you feel all Christmas-y, this one is a perfect disaster.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Laugh riot

Ellen cracks us up, on stage or page

……………

4 out of 5 stars
SERIOUSLY… I’M KIDDING
by Ellen DeGeneres
(Grand Central Publishing, 2011). $27; 241 pp.

…………….

Sometimes it’s hard not to laugh. When your 4-year-old says something hilariously profound, you bite your lip, knowing that you’d be in trouble if you bust a gut.  If your beloved does something silly but well-meaning, you twist your lips to avoid the outburst you know is coming. When your great-aunt shows up at holiday dinner dressed like that, you know there’d better not be even one “Ha!” to escape your lips.

Yep, sometimes it’s hard not to laugh — but you’ll want to when you read this book. “As it turns out, writing a book is hard,” Ellen DeGeneres says.

This is her third book, each one sharing the ellipses-in-the-title feature. She didn’t think writing it would be difficult because, after all, she has a lot to say every day for at least an hour. There’s a lot of talking on a talk show, you know.

There’s a lot of listening, too, and daydreaming is not allowed. DeGeneres listens to many famous people — one of her favorites is her wife, Portia de Rossi, who is “beautiful and one of the nicest people [she has] ever met.” No, she tells nosy people, they aren’t planning on having a family because “there is far too much glass” in their house. Besides, first you have to give birth.

“I won’t go into specifics,” says DeGeneres, “but ouch and no thank you.”

In case you’re thinking that this book is all fluff, you’ll also find useful advice in its pages. DeGeneres gives readers hints on being a supermodel and how to know what clothes will come back in fashion. She writes about polls and why people shouldn’t put too much faith in them. She offers several ways to gamble in Las Vegas, gives kudos to funny women who’ve paved the way for people like her.

But will you find laughs? Yes … but.

Seriously… I’m Kidding is like having a 241-page monologue in your lap. DeGeneres’ wicked wit beams bright from almost each page. But there are times when she dives below silliness. An entire page devoted to sound effects? Four pages of drawings for your child to color? Jokes like these and a few go-nowhere “short stories” may leave readers scratching their heads.

But if you’re a fan of DeGeneres’ talk show or standup, you’ll find a treasure-trove of classic humor that you won’t want to be without. For you, Seriously… I’m Kidding will be a hard book to miss. And we’re not kidding.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Tasting notes: Valentine edition

Need ideas for how to spend a romantic dinner with your sweetie? We got ’em

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Lots of restaurants are getting in the mood for romance, so you and your sweetie can choose from among these options — and many more:

La Duni — The Oak Lawn and McKinney avenue locations offer a four-course dinner for $50/person that includes a champagne toast. Don’t forget to pre-order a lovey-dovey cupcake. LaDuni.com.

The Mansion on Turtle Creek — A three-course meal, including dessert, runs you $125 on Feb. 14. Make it more romantic by booking a room for the weekend rate. 214-443-4747.

Nana — The Hilton Anatole is doing the same as The Mansion, offering a $99 four-course meal plus the option to book a guest room for as low as $79. 214-761-7470.

The Landmark — The restaurant inside the Warwick Melrose is really keeping it romantic, with a set price per couple. For $150, you can each put together the ideal four-course meal, served Feb. 12 and 14. Call 214-224-3152.

The Grape — The romantic bistro features a la carte choices Friday through Sunday, then a three-course tasting menu for $65/person. 214-828-1981.

Bijoux — Full disclosure: I spent Valentine’s Day here last year, and for good reason: The food is superb, and it really stands up as event dining. For $85/person, chef Scott Gottlich will whip up an exquisite four-course meal that includes lobster bisque, duo of veal and a filet, among other delectables. 214-350-6100.

The Second Floor — Over at Gottlich’s other restaurant, adorable chef J Chastain has something unusual in mind for a holiday dinner: You put it together. Rather than the traditional prix fixe menu, from Feb. 12–14 you can select from a range of popular and romantic items, from $9 to $34, for the ideal custom meal. Call 927-450-2978.

Salum — Chef Abraham Salum has a jazzy menu planned for Feb 14, that includes jazz music from singer Nadia Washington and a complimentary glass of champagne. The three-course meal costs $65. SalumRestaurant.com.

Sprinkles — Those demons at Sprinkles have taunted me again with new flavors, available for Valentine’s. You can choose from a red hot velvet (with spicy cinnamon aroma) or raspberry chocolate chip. Both are available through Feb. 14 in the Preston Center location.

On the heels of Valentine’s is a food and wine showcase to warm the blood. Bonne Sante features chefs including Scott Gottlich, Abraham Salum, Tony Bombaci (Nana), Dean Fearing (Fearing’s), Bruno Davilion (The Mansion) and Blaine Staniford (Grace), as well as several wineries. Individual tickets run $200 and benefit the National Kidney Foundation. It takes place at the Westin Galleria on Feb. 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. 214-3512-2393.

Central 214 is instituting a “pick your plate” option, starting Feb. 15. For a flat price of $30, customers can choose one salad or soup, one entrée and one dessert from Blythe Beck’s menu. 214-443-9339.

We blogged recently about John Tesar’s new restaurant in the Cedars, Cedars Social, which officially opened this week. Well, he’s got more on his plate, including The Commissary, which will open in April in the space last occupied by Dali in One Arts Plaza. It will feature burgers, wine on tap and late night meals.

Fin Sushi, from the people responsible for Sushi Axiom on Henderson, has officially opened in the ilume. BEE, Monica Greene’s new enchiladaria, is open in Oak Cliff.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright