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Life With Benny: White Party here I come!

I never really had much of a desire to go to the annual White Party in Palm Springs. Known by many as the ‘holiest of all gay parties,’ with producer Jeffrey Sanker called "the high priest of gay parties" by some, it all seemed a bit much for me.

Twenty-two years ago, Sanker decided to throw a big gay party in the desert that over the years has been built into the party to base all other parties on. Gays give up Easter to go to the White Party!

Most of our local sports leagues and organizations cancel their games and events each year for White Party weekend, and many gay bars and nightspots outside of Palm Springs see a drop in revenue over those four days. Even the stars come out to play.

Certainly, I've never had a problem with the event, there was just never much appeal.

Palm Springs is a town I visit regularly, but I would stay away during White Party weekend. The sea of men, late hours, and non-stop energy, all just seemed too much. But this year, as I near 32 years old, I've been given an opportunity to attend the weekend event with a VIP access pass and decided to accept the offer.

I have dozens of friends who have attended White Party before, some calling themselves "seasoned veterans" who have been attending since the early days, and like anyone who has been a part of an event or movement since its beginnings, many of them reminisce about the “good old days” of the White Party.

But there is only so much I can hear and believe from others -- I need to experience things myself -- and then I’ll become the one who is hawking out advice to the next crop of “White Party Virgins.”

I wanted to be prepared. I am not always the best planner when it comes to my own personal social life, so I needed to gather some of the basics: how many pairs of white booty shorts do I need? Do I have to wear white? Should I even pack many clothes?

Deciding to do this research before settling into bed one night, I logged on to the official White Party website.

This was at about 11 pm one evening, when all was quiet in my house and I was winding down, listening to “Madeleine Peyroux Radio” on Pandora. Once my browser reached the White Party site, however, I was immediately greeted with a blaring remix coming from my laptop speakers. I stumbled around to find the “Turn Music Off” button on the web page, which I finally found in the top right corner.

Before looking at the agenda and logistics of the weekend, which is what I set out to do, I found myself perusing the many photo galleries of past events, entranced at the dance floors and pool-sides packed with topless men. Then I began wondering if these were even real people. They were all so perfectly manicured with skin that looked like it came off of a baby’s bottom.

Don’t they have moles? Freckles? Wrinkles? Minor imperfections? How did they make them disappear? And those abs! Do these boys not eat? Do they not have jobs and are independently wealthy, with several hours each day to work out (and tan)? Or is it genetic?

All of this got me feeling very self-conscious and thinking, should I even go? If I do go, should I just hole myself up in my hotel room?

It was back in January when I first learned I'd be going and I told myself that I'd begin “prepping” the following week to get a “rockin’” body by White Party weekend.

“I have three months,” I told myself, with the promise of time on my side.

At first it was OK. Each week, I’d tell myself, "This will be the week that I work-out six days straight, cut sweets out of my diet, and eat lots of protein, fruits and vegetables, and vitamins."

But time was always on my side, so I made excuses each week, like "I’ll wait til next week, I’m busy right now," or "Let’s wait til Feb. 1, then I’ll just start off the new month fresh," and a barrage of other excuses.

Sure, I’ve done some good things. I’ve started taking Pilates classes twice a week and have seriously cut back on the number of cookies and cupcakes I eat each week (I have a killer sweet tooth). But now that I’m just days away from my first White Party, looking in the mirror at my farmer’s tan and imperfect body, I think to myself, “so what?”

I’m young, I’m healthy, I’m attractive, by no means am I overweight or out of shape, and I have a pretty good head on my shoulders. The severe body image expectations we impose on each other as gay men have made me and so many others think less of ourselves for far too long.

This past Monday I declared on Facebook that I'd "given up" and was going to go about this week eating like I always do, refusing to starve myself with the hopes of shedding an extra pound or two in advance of the big weekend.

I have friends who each year around this time eat little to nothing, over-exercise, and wear themselves out so they can look a bit lighter for the event (and the cycle is usually repeated before pride celebrations, Halloween, and other “less clothing is more” type events). This is not healthy, and most of them end up coming back looking like torn-up, bloated wrecks who saw a ghost, after taking in so much alcohol and sleeping little to no hours over the four day weekend.

Healthy living is important, but it should be something we do year-round and for ourselves, not something we do as a binge-activity to prep for the next big party.

I know I am lucky to have the opportunity to attend such an event, and I am going to go with a smile, a good attitude, and an open mind. I'm looking forward to meeting people from around the world who are known to attend, and just have a good time.

I might not be comfortable showing off my farmer’s tan, but my regular bike riding has given me “legs for days” which I intend to show off. We’ve all got something unique and fabulous about ourselves - be it our abs, our smile, personality, sense of humor, or legs. Work what you have and own it!

As I mentally prepare myself to be surrounded by 30,000 gay men and friends, celebrities, performers, and loud music, I can’t help but wonder what is store for me this weekend.

If you have any tips, comments, or advice for my virgin experience, post a comment below or e-mail me at ben@sdgln.com.

Palm Springs, here I come!

More information about the 22nd annual White Party Palm Springs is available HERE.

Left photo: A group of men at Rich's preview their "White Party" attire. Credit: Rich's San Diego.