By Jeff Walsh, Oasis Editor
Let's face it. We all know people who define themselves by their relationships. One moment they are joyful, love-struck and married, and the next moment worthless, single and bitter. They represent the extremes, but to some degree we all do this.
Brad Gooch, the successful (not to mention attractive) writer of books such as The Golden Age of Promiscuity and the biography of poet Frank O'Hara, was at a party at a friend's house in New York, and ran into an agent from Los Angeles and the agent's boyfriend.
"His boyfriend came up to me and said 'So? You're Brad Gooch. I always wanted to talk to you, because I read a book of yours and I saw your picture in a magazine,'" Gooch recalled in a recent interview with Oasis.
The agent's boyfriend inquired if Gooch had a boyfriend, and Gooch replied he didn't.
"And he said, 'Well, then I guess it's all worth nothing,"' Gooch recalled. "I kind of blurted out, 'Well, what about the boyfriend within?' And he said, 'Well, people say things like that, but I never believe them.' And he walked away."
But the incident made Gooch examine what he meant by the statement about his "boyfriend within."
"He was voicing the subtext a lot of people have," Gooch said. "You look at someone and they're not with someone and you think, 'what's wrong with them?' and you look at yourself and you're not with someone and think 'what's wrong with me?'"
Gooch's encounter led him to write "Finding The Boyfriend Within," a new memoir/spiritual/self-help book which contains exercises and insight into nurturing your inner boyfriend, which will better prepare you for finding a "outer" boyfriend or just enhancing your existing relationships.
Gooch also recounted the moment that led to his first date with the boyfriend within, which occurred several weeks after the incident at the party. He came home one Sunday night and found his apartment in disarray. The New York Times was spread across his unmade bed. A cereal bowl from the morning was propped between the pillows on the bed. Gooch turned out the lights, and got in bed. But he couldn't sleep.
"I thought, 'well, what if someone was coming over, what would I do?' And I thought, I would clean up, first of all," Gooch said. "Then, I thought, 'well, why would you go through all this trouble for someone you hardly know, if you wouldn't do it for yourself?' So, I got up, made the bed, made hot milk with nutmeg because it was winter, lit candles, played music and fell asleep. That's what I later came to think of as my first date with the boyfriend within."
Gooch then started having regular dates with his boyfriend within, escalating the boyfriend within above the concept level found in other self-help books.
"It's a relationship and something you do," he said. "You need to make time to do that with yourself, in the same way you make time to be with other people, make dates."
And although Gooch took a seemingly gay approach to his boyfriend within by sleeping with him first, he did eventually take him out for dinner.
"It was the same insight, which was, if I was going out on a date with someone, I would make dinner and it would be kind of complex. Or I would go to a restaurant," he said. "But if I were having dinner by myself, I would sit in front of CNN and have a salad from the Korean deli down the street. Similarly, why would I do this for myself and not for someone else?"
Gooch felt he was on to something with nurturing his boyfriend within.
"In different ways, I was getting at the sense of that when we're looking for boyfriends we're looking for some validation from outside," he said. "Somebody to be there and give us permission to feel that our lives are significant and complete."
When he finally started floating the idea to friends, they mostly unsympathetic and sarcastic despite helping inspire Gooch to write it.
"One of the impulses for writing it was sitting around with friends at dinner, and everyone's sitting around whining all the time saying 'why don't I have a boyfriend?'" Gooch said. "I looked around and there were all kind-of professional, successful guys and at a certain point, I thought, 'what's wrong with this? They can't want a boyfriend, they must want something else.'"
Gooch persevered through their sarcasm and started developing the awareness exercises that now make up most of the book's content.
"I sat down one day and started writing down questions that were important to me, and then took a second pen and wrote down the answers, which is the form in which we mull things over in our head all the time," he said. "But somehow the pen slows down the process and gave more significance to the answers."
For example, in one exercise, you have to list the positive qualities of your inner boyfriend, and then also list the qualities you are most interested in developing yourself. Throughout the entire book, Gooch provides his own answers to the questions, showing his personal path toward finding his boyfriend within.
"I think the memoir aspect got me off the hook of being a self-help guru, in a way," he said. "It's like, 'this happened to me.' These exercises worked for me. It's a map to me, but anyone who does it will benefit."
Gooch noted that despite the book's title, it has been favorably received by women who read it, as well. He also thinks young gay readers will benefit from reading the book. He said so many young people base their happiness on being gay, coming out and finding a boyfriend, but "that all depends on another person giving you permission to be happy."
"If you're young, learn how to chill out by yourself," Gooch said. "The earlier you begin, the better life you will have doing that. It's just about having fun, really. It's crazy to give your power away to some person."
The path Gooch to writing this book was decidedly spiritual. It started when he was doing research for his book "Travels in Spiritual America," which he is still working on.
"This book sort of interrupted that book," he said. "In that, I was going to different ashrams and traveling to monasteries, convents, churches and meditation workshops across America as a kind-of reporter. Doing that, it started seeping into my own life a little bit. At the same time, I noticed there weren't many gay people there, even though we know gay people have a strong spiritual life, too."
Coupling that with self-help books from Deepak Chopra and Tony Robbins, Gooch found that he needed to translate many of these books to represent his life as a gay man.
Between the two focuses for his spiritual book, Gooch also grew personally to get to a place where writing "Finding The Boyfriend Within" could happen.
"The other part was getting to some condition in life where these "What's it all about, Alfie?" questions were more pressing to me and dating and relationship seemed weird. All of those things deepened my sense of life," he said.
But Gooch is also adamant that his book is not a guide to finding a relationship, aside from a deeper relationship with yourself.
"It's not just a bachelor book or a lonely hearts book," he said. "Even if you're dating or in a relationship, this relationship with the inner boyfriend becomes important, even more important."