Wingmen: Serving up some "man love"

The Washington Post revives a stale trend, in a pseudo-sociological report on wingmen.

Published June 2, 2006 1:21PM (EDT)

Lucky for us, the Washington Post hasn't exhausted all of its resources reporting on Haditha or the nuclear standoff in Iran. Otherwise, we might not have had this incisive and timely sociological exposé on the wingman. If you've failed to endure a single teen movie released in, say, the last decade, author Laura Sessions Stepp offers a frank definition of the term. "You know the wingman. He's the guy who accompanies his buddy to a bar to help him pick up babes," she writes. "He does whatever it takes to give his friend some time alone with the girl of choice: telling flattering lies about him, enticing away the sidekick girlfriend, running interference at the approach of a rival male." The wingman is an altruistic creature, really, "'taking one for the team' by baby-sitting a plain Jane while his pal grinds it out with a hottie on the dance floor."

I wouldn't have batted an eye to see this in Maxim (kindly, the magazine does offer up a helpful online training manual for wingmen), but the Washington Post? It's a Style feature, sure, but does that excuse a stale, uncritical four-page exegesis of the collegiate mating ritual? (Or, to be fair, the mating ritual of perennially 13-year-old college students.) Stepp is well past her college years, and perhaps, in all fairness, thought she had a real news flash on her hands.

She details the exploits of three buddies -- students at George Washington University -- who have been "wingmanning for each other" since freshman year. They describe it as "a mutual back-and-forth man love." Part of this "man love" includes lying to women about their buddy's achievements; for instance, 22-year-old Tony Moniello has posed as a published author. "Hey, you only have a couple minutes to make an impression," Moniello told the Post. "So if you have to save a baby seal from an oil spill in Alaska, you have to save a baby seal." Hmm, but his charm only swells as the article continues. Moniello explains that his wingman back home was capable of making him "look like Jesus." And if a girl had the completely unfounded impression that he was a dog, his buddy could "convince her I'm really in love with her." But don't misinterpret his actions: "It's calculated but not cold."

The article hasn't gone over well in the blogging world. Some -- who clearly recovered quicker than I from the bouts of vomiting the article induced -- ripped it to shreds. Wonkette writes: "We started the Post piece on 'wingmen' just as fratty, pointless, and 20 years out-of-date as its subject about three times. We kept stopping about 6 or 7 grafs in, usually to retch or look for a less disgusting article -- like one about, say, Klan-sponsored anti-immigration rallies." Ouch.

If equality of the sexes means equal access to all the goodies (like all of those petty things feminists have fought for: the right to vote, equal access to work, salary parity, etc.), it also means equal opportunities for idiocy. So, in the spirit of fairness, why not a four-page article on women's manipulation and objectification of men? If we're gonna study the unflattering, animalistic side of human courting, why not the whole spectrum? The article might have actually made itself useful by taking a more critical look at this stale trend, which -- let's face it -- is only a trend because it now has a name. At the end of the article, we're left with our dear protagonist, glumly prowling a bar by his lonesome at last call; he has missed his target.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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