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The other day I was engaged in conversation with some female friends of mine.

This is in itself not remarkable; as most of my friends can attest, I do tend to engage in conversation.

But, as we were talking, we suddenly ended up on the subject of ‘the wingman.’  And I was hit by an unexpected request—to explain exactly what it is that ‘the wingman’ does.


The concept of a ‘wingman’ might not seem to be the most politically correct one.  It gives to the dating scene a bizarre, military overtone that indicates that all steps taken lead up to a single, obvious objective.  There are also ways in which it overlaps with pickup culture, a place I don’t want to spend more time in than I have to.

But, there was the question.  What does a wingman do? What is the difference between a good and a bad wingman?

So setting aside connotations and complications, and looking at the term right now, let’s give this question an answer IN THE FORM OF A BRIEF GUIDE.


[also the title of a lesser-known book series by Diane Duane]

Let’s start with basics.

What is a wingman?
Despite the overtly patriarchal terminology, a wingman can actually be a gender-neutral term.  It is not often utilized as such (and so an argument can be made over actual usage vs. actual meaning, etc.).   A wingman is any reasonably intelligent entity who will accompany you through the process of getting to know another person, whether romantically or platonically.


What is the purpose of the wingman?

To put it in the broadest possible sense, the purpose of the wingman is to manufacture synchronicity.   Or, in English, to make convenient things happen.

Breaking Circles:

Human beings are social creatures.  We form social or conversation circles by habit—you can observe this at any party, at any gathering.  Breaking into these circles is a simple thing—nowhere near as hard as you think—but the wingman’s purpose, in part, is to facilitate that.

The wingman does the heavy lifting of initiating social contact and then quietly bows out, letting their comrade swoop into the opening, whether subtly or obviously.  You may have had this moment in one context or another—asking a friend to “go talk to that person for me so I can come talk to them too.”   This is traditionally one of the purposes of the wingman because, to just about any person on the planet, there is nothing more terrifying than the person you are crushing on.

In other words…

Manufacturing Coincidences:

The wingman’s job is also to make things happen.  If there is an obstacle, the wingman will help overcome it, in a way that is highly contrived but ends up seeming completely accidental.  [#sprezzatura]

This is where the line between wingman and good friend can get blurry; the differentiating element is the shared objective: facilitating some social goal.  For example, if you happen to be really good at playing the harpsichord, good wingmen might take it upon themselves to find a location wherein your harpsichord skills can really shine.

The wingman’s purpose can be likened to stage lighting; to make you look good from whatever angle, at whatever time.  To make sure the audience knows when you’ve entered, and that you’re the star.

Except that the wingman has a final, crucial role that is far more active than a spotlight.

Get Your Lazy A** Out There:

Did you spot that perfect 10? The drop-dead gorgeous human being that makes your knees knock? The most fascinating person you’ve ever seen?

Feel that temptation to flee under the nearest carpet? The jelly in your spinal chord?

The wingman’s job now is to CRUSH THAT and get you back in the game.  To provide the push to go talk to the cute person in the corner.  To remind you that you are actually a sexy beast with a wingman close behind to save you from any awkward situations.

And that, [I hope] is a brief, but accurate explanation of the ‘wingman’ concept.

This isn’t intended to be a guide in a prescriptive sense.  This isn’t what you should do…this is probably just what you already do.

I hope this answers your questions…and if you have further questions, well, there’s a comments section for a reason!



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