I don't think anyone said anythign was wrong with Gentoo, but on a laptop, Arch can be a bit easier to use (www.archlinux.org)
While people try to compare Gentoo and Arch, really, the only comparasion is the speed.
You could still compile your own custom kernel in Arch (as you can with any distro), but as the above guys said, try to use a lighter-weight windowmanager. Fluxbox/Windowmaker/XFCE (which is a DE), FVWM, etc... google around for them, and search this forum (the arch wiki has some good info on them too..)
That seems like a good solid guide you should follow. I would read all that adn the gentoo documentation.