The mercury had already climbed to 120°F—not uncommon for a midsummer Friday afternoon—by the time my friend Moises and I arrived at INNdulge , one of Palm Springs myriad clothing-optional resorts clustered around the Warm Sands neighborhood on the south side of town.
I was a little apprehensive about how this weekend would unfold. Despite having spent many, many weekends vacationing in Palm Springs, not once have I ever stayed in any of these exclusively gay male retreats.
Just to be clear, I am not sexually conservative by any means nor do I suffer from some sort of body dysmorphia. I simply find the idea of casually parading naked in front of other people in an everyday setting to be rather unnerving. This probably also explains why I also don’t enjoy going to bathhouses, which I think is what I half-expected this place to be, an extended-stay bathhouse with nudity topping the amenities list.
Moises and I wheeled our luggage into the lobby, a spacious, modern room that felt quintessentially Palm Springs with its marble floor, exposed steel ceiling beams, and the large windows that bridged them. We were immediately greeted by a very nice (very clothed) gentleman who checked us in and offered us a tour of the property.
He directed us into the resort’s well-manicured courtyard. Immediately we passed the front bar area where, each morning, the staff serves up breakfast (included with our stay) and, each evening, happy hour cocktails (also included.)
The pool lay a few steps beyond this, its blue, shimmery water beckoning me to join the handful of other hotel guests already wading in to escape the heat. Deck chairs lined the pool’s perimeter. They sat empty in the blistering midday sun, except for a pair occupied by two gentlemen, both in their early 50s, both reading the local newspaper, and both completely nude. Fortunately, neither caught me staring—I wasn’t leering at them sexually—but because I couldn’t help wondering how thoroughly they had applied their sunscreen, and how dire the consequences would be should they find out later they missed a spot “down there.”
The more we saw, the more I suspected that this resort was not the Sodom-of-the-Desert I had imagined it would be. In fact, it seemed pretty darn tame.
We were led to our room at the far end of the courtyard. Our generous quarters had been thoughtfully decorated with dark wood and teal furnishings. Our room also included a functional kitchen complete with stovetop, full-sized fridge, plus all the dishes, cookware, and utensils necessary for preparing and serving a family meal. In fact, the only items in the room that might have suggested you were staying in a “gay resort” were the large wall painting of a nude male figure and the condom kit left on the bedside stand.
After a couple hours languishing in the room, Moises and I first decided we should venture out at least for cocktails. We were certain that a number of the other guests would show up nude, but we felt we’d ease into things by wearing our bathing suits, which I had changed into while standing in front of the room’s large picture window, blinds completely open. Already, a small group in varying states of undress had gathered, congenially conversing about the real estate market. We politely listened for a few moments, but now feeling completely overdressed, we skittered drinks in hand back across the courtyard to the confines of our room.
Our real time to shine came at nightfall, however, when we felt emboldened enough under the cover of dark to shed our swimsuits and skinny dip in full view of the entire hotel. It wasn’t long before the two of us joined the other guests (an eclectic group of people from all over the country as it turned out) to discuss mid-century modern architecture, the best estate sales in town, or the inevitable demise of democracy under Trump, all with our dicks out.
Had we done something wildly subversive? No. I mean, let’s face it, we hadn’t even done something remotely edgy. But, we felt liberated just the same.
The next morning, when it came time for breakfast, we debated grabbing our bagels in the buff, but decided that cream cheese really called for shorts at least.