Entertaining Eros

Can the ancient Greek gods, high-maintenance lovers themselves, give us some insight into dating.

It's a mistake to judge Brad Gooch's "Dating the Greek Gods" by its cover. A how-to about picking up frat brothers? Is it Gooch's memoir of dinners with chiseled gym rats? An archeology text on fixing the age of ancient statuary?



"Dating the Greek Gods" is none of these. It's not even a dating book-certainly not in the sense of the mercenary "The Rules." Gooch, an English professor, journalist and sometime fashion model has been preaching the spirituality of dating since 1999, when he broached the subject with "Finding the Boyfriend Within," written during a period of spiritual searching. That book related Gooch's own dissatisfaction with what he termed "the dating cha-cha" and devised a path to healing: learning how seek your higher self and treat yourself right before trying to do the same for others. The book was a huge success among gay men like Gooch. He soon found himself conducting workshops on the subject of looking into oneself to "find comfort and purpose in life."

In "Dating the Greek Gods," Gooch flips the emphasis, from spiritually (or at least, self-help) enlightened dating to dating-enlightened spirituality. Again he has written a personal memoir of his search for a fulfillment, but here "dating" is the method of spiritual exploration. "What does dating mean," asks a minister friend in the book, "if not making ourselves vulnerable with at least the possibility of being transformed?"

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For the purposes of this book, dating also means going it alone, at least at first. When we first meet Gooch he's stopped dating altogether, and none of the dates with the Greek gods are with other people. Instead, he takes himself on dates to spend quality time in the presence of the gods' attributes. Once armed with godly virtues, the implication seems to be, actual relationships will be a snap.

Gooch struck upon the idea of dating as a spiritual conduit when a student approached him after class one evening to talk about coming out as an "epiphany" similar to those found in Greek epic poetry. The appearance of a god to a mortal either in disguise or divine form -- an epiphany -- is a common occurrence in epic Greek poetry.

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