Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Wingmen, take flight

I will not be your wingman.

If you think it's a good idea to place me in that position, you're self-destructive. Five minutes after meeting me, it's obvious that I'd rather enjoy some good-natured chaos than a chat about interests. As a necessary corollary, I'd rather throw the night into disarray than see one of my friends enjoy some lovin'.

Not only will I not help you -- I will intentionally sabotage you for my own enjoyment.

It's not selfishness. I’ll help you move and pick up bar tabs without complaining. But I'm easily bored. Carrying someone else's dead weight so a friend can get laid: that is not interesting. I can't do it, no matter how much I might want to help you, no matter how lonely or horny you are.

My best moment came a few years ago when a benign but conservative roommate was talking to a nice schoolteacher our age. Their chat was taking too long, and I was stuck speaking to the schoolteacher's friend.

"He told you that he's a right-wing Republican, right?" I said loudly.

The schoolteacher immediately lost interest. I was amused. My friend was not. By my rules, that means that I won.

The Washington Post would not agree.

Joining the Times's race to the bottom is The Washington Post, which today published an article with thousands of words about some crazy new "phenomenon" where single guys position themselves as a "wingman."

This article is a classic in a genre perfected by the Times's style writers. The writer can't sound too enthusiastic because that will make the publication read like "Sassy." Instead, we get overwriting in a voice that falls between snark and sociology. The writers attempt to read cultural significance into worthless moments. When written by talented people, this is New Journalism. When written by judgmental, spazzy hacks, it's Fucking Bullshit Journalism.

The genre of Fucking Bullshit Journalism had its War and Peace in a New York Times Styles section article about dudes who jerk each other off in lockerrooms, and its Madame Bovary in that paper's article about rich men who asexually skinnydip together at an exclusive WASP social club.

Today, a Post reporter named Laura Sessions Stepp published this genre's Great Expecations.

Stepp begins by mocking a relatively normal-sounding college guy. Here's how she sets the scene:
The young suitor is neatly dressed all in black, his long-sleeved shirt tucked into pressed cotton trousers. In this casual crowd of colorful polo shirts and frayed jeans, he might as well be wearing a sign that says, "Trying too hard." As he presses his end of the conversation, the beauty nods slightly but her eyes roam the room. He ignores her friend, whose pout grows ever more pronounced. If anyone ever needed a wingman, this guy is it.
Hey, Stepp -- you're an asshole. The guy's in college. Cut him some slack. I don't know what you were doing in college. It apparently didn't involve getting laid or learning how to write. You spent a lot of time with uninterested wingmen and coloring books, and I'm sorry for that. But most 21- or 22-year-old guys -- even the ones getting a lot of action -- don't quite have their act together, and don't need a tool like you ripping on them.

Already, I can tell that your article might as well be wearing a headline that says, "Trying too hard."

Stepp gives a pop-culture history of wingmen. It includes "Top Gun," Coors, and Toby Keith. Next, there is a befuddled, I Am Charlotte Simmons-style explanation of college decadence:
Exams are over, graduation is approaching and each of them has several young women on his year-end wish list. (Some senior women, by the way, keep similar lists.) Once they start work in the real world, clubbing will become an occasional thing as opposed to a four-night-a-week addiction. They may actually have to ask women out on dates, take them to dinner. Wingman skills will still be needed, but not as often. Bummer.
At college, a good wingman has been as important as a popped-collar shirt. This is a generation that, in large part, dismisses the idea of courtship. Many move fast through relationships: face-booking, instant-messaging, text-messaging.
"Bummer."? You Bill and Ted-loving, uncreative freak.

Also, the fact that you think popped-collar shirts are "important" "[a]t college" makes you a moron. A minor fad at best.

Then something interesting happens, even though it's accidental. Like Stepp, the boys she's following have plenty of bad ideas:
Jentz picks up: "Sometimes you're a lawyer. You may only have taken one law class, but what the heck? It adds flavor, gets people excited."

Moniello says his hometown wingman -- good wingman relationships never die -- is as adept as they come. "If I go to the bathroom, he'll make me look like Jesus. . . . The girl I'm after will say something like 'I hear he's a player' and he'll convince her I'm really in love with her."
True, all women consider lawyers highly desireable, but I've never heard about how going to the bathroom makes people look like Jesus. If true, it would not be a good thing. None of my chick friends have expressed a desire to meet, date and hump the Christ.

(Relatedly, I recently argued that no human being could survive being humped by an angel -- that an angel would by definition be so overpowering that coitus with it would destroy the human body. But I digress.)

Next comes an overlong narrative that seems to treat wingmen as a cognizable interest group, with accompanying stories about romantic follies, mistaken identities, and modest hijinks that sound unremarkable to anyone who lived in a freshman dorm.

Stepp then seems to fear that her article will be interpreted as misogynistic. (It's not, it's just retarded.) For cover, she writes about how some girls have wingwomen, and that "girls can give as good as they get."

Then, more rudderless blow-by-blow descriptions of college kids hanging out. Stepp works in some final condescension.
With only minutes to go to last call, Jentz trolls the place with a near-empty beer pitcher in his hand, shirttail out, single and increasingly melancholy. Waclawiczek, shirt tucked in, gelled hair in place, has stationed himself near the door. Moniello, designated wingman, continues to scout the crowd on behalf of his buddies and himself, drawing lots of hugs and kisses but little else.

Even the ablest of wingmen can't guarantee a win.
I'll take her several steps further, and posit that the idea of effective wingmen are worthless.

Here's what's puzzling: There have been multiple nights when I've acted like the anti-wingman, yet between 2 and 4 a.m., I look up to see that Flop is Frenching a girl. Usually that girl is several steps superior to what one would consider his realistic target group.

Not only can someone like Flop entice women without a wingman, but he does so with me crashing around, doing my best to function as a liability. (To be accurate, it's not just me -- pretty much all of our friends fit that description.) And if the Flops of the world can pull it off, I'm sure cool guys who use hair gel and wear shirts with buttons can manage just fine.

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