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

Master of HIS domain

Ben Starr, the recently out Dallas cheftestant on Fox’s ‘MasterChef,’ camps it up on Gordon Ramsay’s cooking competition series

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

…………………….

MASTERCHEF
Airs Tuesdays on Fox (Ch. 4) at 8 p.m.

…………………….

When Lewisville-based travel writer Ben Starr auditioned for Fox’s MasterChef, he doubted they’d be interested in his style of home cooking. But not only did he make the cut, he’s been one of the more memorable cheftestants — just this week, he had the judge’s favorite dish.

The series is only halfway through, but for Starr, it’s already made a huge difference in his life: It forced him to come out to his parents just last month. We talked to him about the experience and his favorite meals.

…………………….

You’ve been struggling since you wowed the judges at your audition. The audition kinda set me up to expect that I would do well in the competition, but we spun pretty quickly into an emphasis on gourmet cuisine, which is not my thing at all. My street tacos were a little bit spiffy, and I am extremely well traveled, but I tend to eat peasant food even when I travel. I was seeing all these people around me making restaurant quality cuisine and trying to compete on their level. Nice to make a good ol’ catfish in a skillet.

What was the hardest challenge for you? The biggest challenge has definitely been psychological. I’m competitive by nature and I want to feel like I’m competition, but I was surrounded by chefs that were a little more connected to the Food Network that I am. They’d use words like umami [a Japanese word for a savory flavor] and I had to go look it up. There was a common lexicon among the contestants about what these famous chefs I’ve never heard of are doing in their restaurants. I felt like an idiot stumbling around in the dark. That started to leak into my cooking and I began to question, “Is this sophisticated enough? Is this even sophisticated?” The episode this week was a turning point. I felt like for the first time I’m back in my own element.

You certainly have made an impression with your outfits. I don’t wear those hats at home, though I do wear an apron, just for practicality. But [the show] has started this storytelling legacy — people expect me to wear them when they come over. My mom made me the pumpkin hat and apron. Actually, she made me five or six pairs to wear. That’s why you always see a different one on me each episode. I was going through them.

Was wearing them part of a conscious effort to stand during the auditions? I am fairly myself, though I had to set myself apart that wasn’t just about food. I needed to be someone [the judges] remember when they go home at night. That’s why I talked about my rural upbringing, because I thought it would generate a memory.

Had you watched the show before? Did you know what to expect? I don’t watch much TV, but this is not my first time being on TV, which is ironic because I abhor reality television —it brings out the worst in our culture. But I did Rachael Ray’s So You Think You Can Cook in 2007. The audience there was much more caring and nurturing than the machine on MasterChef, but I was a little bit prepared for the frank judgment.

I did not watch the first season of MasterChef, but my friend Karen Rutherford said, “I’ll never speak to you again if you don’t audition [for season 2].” So I watched them all on Hulu. I just sweated my way through them. I knew how intense and stressful it is to cook on TV, and saw how brutal Joe Bastianich and Gordon Ramsay were with the contestants. I thought: Screw this. Then a few weeks passed and the terror faded [and I went through the lengthy audition process]. It was a lot of work — the most difficult full-time job I’ve ever had that doesn’t pay.

What’s your favorite kind of cuisine? While my DNA wants to say Mexican food — I had it in the womb six times a week — I am most intrigued by Thai food. It is so complex, yet so much of it is cooked on the street in a tiny little cart. From the richest to the poorest, everybody eats on the street.

How about a favorite meal? One of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had was in Egypt on New Year’s Eve in 2001. I spent it on Mount Sinai and hiked eight miles back down to the car for the drive back to our resort. [The driver] fell asleep at the wheel and we plummeted into a canyon. Eventually a camel train of Bedouins came by the bottom of this canyon. They took us onto the camels and rode four or five miles to their camp. All the women came out, killed a goat and started cooking while the men tried to pull our car out of the canyon.

It was a humble meal — just a goat stew and some flat bread — but the flavors were really intense and felt they came right out of the desert. I could not even communicate with these people who live in abject poverty, but still they were willing to kill one of their last goats and throw a big feast for us because it’s in their nature to be hospitable. I realized it was important to me to use food to nurture people in my life — I could never be a chef and be in the back. I need to be with the people. My partner is one of the main reasons I cook — we’ve been together eight years and I want to marry him one day.

Did you plan to be “the gay guy” on the show? When I was on [Rachael Ray] it was not addressed and I didn’t talk about it openly. At that point my family didn’t know I was gay — in fact, I didn’t come out to my parents until about five weeks ago. They were totally shell-shocked — they didn’t have a clue.

Maybe mom should have guessed since she made you all those hats. Ha! Maybe.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 8, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Gadget update: Calyp app

I’m getting ready to convert my lame-o cell phone into an iPhone for Verizon, so it occurs to me I can use more apps than the few piling up on my limited-use 8-gig iPod Touch. I want stuff that’s useful, like those apps that perform instant price-checks or get your GPS quickly or get you laid while in the Alps. (OK, maybe that’s just wishful thinking.) And I’m thinkin’ about Calyp.

Considering how addicted most people already are to “liking” people and events on Facebook and retweeting the interests of their friends and followers, the new app Calyp has an intriguing premise. The idea is to sign up at Calyp.com or download the free app from the Apple store. If I understand it right, you then select your interests and hobbies (say, indie music or eating out). The site then pairs up its clients with your interests; if you like the item the client suggests — say, 20 percent off a dinner at your favorite restaurant — you simply share that will others in your social media network. You earn points for the number of hits and click-throughs you get as a result. Points accrue toward credit on a Visa debit card you can use anywhere.

Does it make you a bit of a shill? Mebbe. But if you really like the stuff, it’s a way to share your likes with others. It’s like Groupon, only you benefit from sharing it. (Just like Groupon does, come to think of it, only you don’t have to buy anything — others do.) And hey, if I can defer some of the cost of that new iPhone, all the better.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Researcher coming to Dallas to interview gay couples about effects of marriage amendment

America's Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage by Daniel PinelloProfessor Dan Pinello of John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York is studying the effects of anti-gay laws on same-sex couples in Super-DOMA states. Those are states such as Texas that have ratified amendments to state constitutions banning recognition of all forms of relationship rights.

Pinello is the author of America’s Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage (2006) and Gay Rights and American Law (2003).

He has already conducted more than 100 interviews in Georgia, Michigan and Ohio to determine the grassroots impact of these laws.

He will be in Dallas interviewing lesbian and gay couples in the DFW area for his new book. He’s investigating the grassroots effects of the 2005 Texas Marriage Amendment and wants to meet with a wide variety of same-sex pairs in committed relationships.

Pinello will be in North Texas Jan. 8-16. Interviews will take no more than 60 minutes. For further information, please contact him at dpinello@jjay.cuny.edu.

—  David Taffet

GIVEAWAY: 4 pairs of tickets to see Big Freedia bounce it out at The Loft on Saturday

In Friday’s Dallas Voice, you can read about my little chat with gay sissy bounce star Big Freedia on what the hip-hop subgenre means to the LGBT community. But for now, you can win a pair of tickets to Saturday night’s show at The Loft. Courtesy of the venue, we have four pairs of tickets to give away to the show which will also feature Rusty Lazer, DJ Sober and Dayta.

E-mail us here with “Gimme that bounce” in the subject line, and your full name for your chance to snag tickets. Winners will be announced at noon Friday. Good luck.

Here’s a clip of Big Freedia performing his song, “Azz Everywhere.” It might also make for some good practice.

—  Rich Lopez

FREE TICKETS: Wanna see Jeffree Star at The Loft on Wednesday? OK, then e-mail us

The Loft peeps were generous to offer us four pairs of tickets to give away to Jeffree Star. He comes back to town this week with supporting acts Dev and the It Boys.

The MySpace star could be the next big thing. Producer Akon signed him to his label calling him the the next Lady Gaga. This might be your chance to see him before you can’t get a ticket at American Airlines. Hey, just saying.

E-mail us here with “I Wanna Be a Star” in the subject line and we’ll pick four winners on Wednesday. Good luck!

—  Rich Lopez

FREE STUFF: 4 pairs of tickets to Semi Precious Weapons’ show this Thursday at the Loft


If you didn’t get enough of garage glam rockers Semi Precious Weapons when they opened for Lady Gaga this summer, here’s your chance to see them up close and personal. Taking a reprieve from the Monster Ball, they’ve hit the road on their own before getting back to their Gaga gig (we think – we keep hearing they are on, they are off, back on again – oy).

But we know this for sure: Semi Precious Weapons will return to town with openers Breedlove to play The Loft this Thursday. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. And we got tickets. Thanks to The Loft, we have four pairs to give away. All you have to do is e-mail us to snag a pair. E-mail notices@dallasvoice.com with their song title “Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Looked So Beautiful” in the subject line. Please include your first and last name and phone number. Winners will be picked at random.

Good luck! And I should see you there.

—  Rich Lopez