I recently experienced the well-intended disaster of several friends deciding it was their duty to hook me up. I’m fairly certain two lovely women were quite offended by the end of the whole ordeal, and I’m still not quite sure what was said to either of them. A week later, a friend asked me for advice on how to get a date. Judging by my own luck, there must be many more qualified candidates he could have chosen, but it got me to thinking about what it takes to be a good wingwoman.
Do: Give your friend a good pep talk to build her confidence. Encourage her to be comfortable in her own skin, and not weighed down by what society says she should be. Ex: “You’re a fabulous, intelligent woman!” The more specific, the better.
Do NOT: Lie to your friend about her prospects with someone in an attempt to make her feel better. Ex: “That girl can’t be straight, I didn’t hear her say anything about a boyfriend.”
Do: Help your friend show their interest in a natural and comfortable way, whether this means subtly “outing” them in a way that they’re enthusiastic about or just opening up the conversation to be queer-friendly and inclusive.
Do NOT: Out your friend without her consent or inquire about her interest’s sexual attraction in an awkwardly forward or unnatural manner. Don’t put someone on the spot or make them feel like their privacy hasn’t been respected.
Do: Get the conversation rolling. Assist your friend and make her look good. Let her unique qualities shine through without making her the “token” in a group.
Do NOT: Stay in the spotlight. Don’t do all the talking. There’s a reason why “My friend over there thinks you’re attractive” is used as a pick-up line.
Do: Talk to others to give your friend space to talk one-on-one with the woman she’s interested in. You don’t want to look like a hovering, jealous girlfriend OR catch the interest of the girl your friend is interested in.
Do NOT: Pull aside the guy or girl dancing with the woman and tell them they could probably get a threesome. I repeat. Do NOT do this. Unless you know there’s something going on between the other two and you know your friend would appreciate this gesture. Otherwise, you could put your friend in a really bad situation.
Do: Have a good time! Be a social butterfly. People are attracted to those who know how to enjoy themselves. Enjoy speaking with others and let your confidence and teamwork shine through.
Do NOT: Stress! Don’t worry about who you’re talking to or if you stand out or not. Don’t get stuck on one person, or let your friend get stuck on one person. If someone is interested, they’ll always come back. Getting your friend to flirt casually with others only makes her seem more appealing and desirable to others. Don’t stick to the people who look like you or gravitate exclusively to those who your “gaydar” picks up. Branch out.
Do: Look for love in unusual places. Use your skills outside of bars, clubs, and pride parades. Your friend may be more likely to find someone she clicks with at the dog park, while elbowing to the front of an outdoor music festival, or perusing Audre Lorde’s poetry in the library.
Do NOT: Make a habit of trying to pick people up everywhere you go, at the expense of seeing people as people. Avoid playing wingwoman in inappropriate places: work and funerals, to name a few.
Do: Know each others’ secret code or body language. It can be a subtle hand signal that means “get out of here” or “get me out of here”. A head tilt to say “let’s go talk to her” or a wink to say “things are going well.” This helps things go smoothly and is a good defense against bad situations.
Do NOT: Be too obvious about it. Also avoid being too secretive and excluding other friends when you go out. You don’t want them to feel like they’re not a part of the “cool kids’ club”. We’re too mature, too queer, too unique, and too appreciative of difference to repeat 6th grade politics.
Do: Be prepared to butt in when your friend isn’t feeling someone, or if your friend is too overbearing with someone who’s not interested. Feel the vibe out and make sure no one feels uncomfortable or violated.
Do NOT: Let alcohol or cultural differences be an excuse for anyone’s poor behavior. Especially if you hear any comments like “I’ve always wanted to date Black girls,” “Speak Spanish to me.” Respect is respect.
Do: Show your appreciation! If you’ve got a great wingwoman, offer to trade roles for a night. If she’s in a relationship or doesn’t want to be hooked up, offer to buy her a drink, take her out, or stay in and watch her favorite movie next week.
Do NOT: Hold being a wingwoman for someone over their head and demand they return the favor, unless that was part of the agreement. Your friend’s happiness should make you happy. Don’t complain about being single if things work out for her or be glad when she breaks up.
Do: Ignore the fact that you’re the only queer person, or only person of color, or only person using a wheelchair, or only person with a Yellow Power Ranger tattoo in the room. Be you, beautiful you.
Do NOT: Take my last piece of advice to an extreme if you or your friend are in danger. Safety comes first. It’s a sad truth that not all places and people may be ready to handle your confidence. Stay you, beautiful you, but don’t put yourself in harm’s way. And then you can consider what could make that venue a safe, inclusive space.