I was making fun the other day of my old buddy The Bookseller for his deficiencies in the art of being a 'wingman' - a term borrowed, of course, from aerial combat: the selfless partner who will provide 'cover' while you home in on a 'kill' (or, in the bar context, try to chat up a woman). The Bookseller is spectacularly bad: the sort of guy who'd get in a panic and accidentally EJECT, leaving his out-of-control plane to go spiralling into yours just as you are about to engage your target. But to be honest, I am not that much better. A really good wingman needs the killer instinct himself; he needs to be able to unselfconsciously crank the charm up to the max, to overwhelm women with his attention, to make them believe that he's interested in them, even if he's in fact just 'playing the game'. (In general, of course, a wingman is expected to decoy other enemy fighters out of the way - the obstructive best friends who hamper the development of a satisfying dogfight. However, there are occasions when there's a need to 'double team' a single target - until she's starting to become exhausted [though at the same time, of course, flattered] by the more elaborate evasions this requires of her, at which point you gracefully retire from the fray, leaving your comrade to claim the victory.) I seem to lack the necessary duplicity; or perhaps just the attention span.
I was suffering a slight pang of 'wingman's remorse' the next day over the incident a couple of weeks ago where my tequila-impaired buddy was so embarrassing himself in front of this rather striking, tall, blonde girl. My recollection of it probably wasn't that much sharper than his, but I did have a nagging feeling that I should have done more to save him.
I remember a similar stirring of guilt at New Year when I abandoned The Choirboy with his new, rather challenging Chinese 'girlfriend', to go off in search of more congenial surroundings; more specifically, I went off in search of a French girl I know (well, actually, it's only been an e-mail and SMS acquaintanceship: I've never yet managed to meet her in person; but, since she is French, I always picture her as gorgeous...) who had told me she was going to be in a certain bar that night. Things seemed to be going well between The Choirboy and his lady (and this was an established relationship, of a sort - not a cold pick-up), and I really didn't think he needed my help; but still, the fact that I had run out on him to go chasing quarry of my own made me feel a little ashamed. The first rule is: "Never leave your wingman."
The next day I sent him the apologetic message: "I hope you didn't crash and burn while I was off showboating with that Eurofighter."
On that occasion, I got away with my breach of etiquette (or disregard of standing orders?) because he had indeed got on fine without me. Probably I would just have been in the way (and I like to think that I had correctly assessed the situation before I bugged out).
Of course, when out cruising for targets, it is probably a mistake to team up with a partner who is conspicuously younger and better-looking than you. Any ladies I am attracted to invariably seem to be more attracted to The Choirboy. One in particular is always asking after him, always suggesting that I bring him along on group activities. It does get rather dispiriting. A few weeks ago she asked me to invite him to a dinner party. My rueful text message to my buddy read:
"X organizing dinner next weekend. My job to invite YOU. Always the wingman, never 'top gun'!"