There were a lot of lessons to be learned in the 1980’s. You don’t fall for the banana in the tailpipe, you don’t put baby in the corner, and you don’t mess with the bull, young man, or you might get the horns. And you never, never leave your wing man.
The traditional military definition of a wing man is a pilot flying at the right wing or slightly behind another aircraft, watching his rear and blind spots. Single men on the prowl co-opted the term to describe a friend lending support in approaching a female. The wing man’s job is to talk up the primary hunter and to provide distraction for any other women in the group.
In both of these definitions the wing man is slightly subservient, more of a sidekick or role player. I’ve never thought of it that way. To me your wing man is an equal partner, both watching your back but also trusting you with theirs. Pushing you to try harder and achieve more, but also a voice of caution and restraint. More Jake and Elwood then Cameron and Ferris.
This past week one of my original wing men was on a fishing trip in Canada with one of his daughters and drove a fair distance out of his way on the return trip to Fort Bragg to spend an afternoon and evening with my family on our vacation in New Jersey. We haven’t seen each other more than a half dozen times in the past decade, but this is still a guy that I know would drop anything, at any time, if I needed him to. I’d do the same for him.
His daughter seemed well suited to the role also. There are several large rides on the pier that Kayla enjoyed experiencing, but probably couldn’t have been persuaded to go on by either her mom or I. The Skyscraper is a wind mill type thing that spins 170 feet into the air at speeds up to 80 mph. The Skycoaster raised the kids 109 feet up and then dropped them, ultimately leading to a swing out over the ocean at 70 mph. I’ve been on similar rides before and can tell you that most people don’t go without a buddy.
The best wing men are the ones you don’t have too look far to find. It’s how I always viewed my parents and it’s how I hope my wife and children will always view me. I’ll promise to never feed them after midnight, to never call them Shirley, and most important, to always have their six.