The wingman is a venerable and sacred position between men. When one guy is trying to impress a woman, it's the wingman's job to facilitate the process. The wingman keeps the conversation lively and light.

The wingman has to make sure he's attractive enough so the woman doesn't think the man's friends are all losers, while at the same time making sure that the woman doesn't start moving in the wingman's direction by mistake.

So, for example, a decent wingman might try his best to keep his friend's attention focused on chatty and, hopefully, sparkling conversation, rather that on turning into a goofy klutz who has an obvious crush on the woman he wants to date. The wingman will keep his friend talking about all sorts of topics, trying hard to make sure they are light enough so the friend will keep smiling.

This will let the woman know that the friend can carry on a conversation, and if the conversation is light and funny enough, will keep the friend smiling. Most men look so much more friendly when they smile.

When the woman comes to talk to the pair, the wingman's job is to let the two of them go at it for a while, then jump in with some pithy comment when the conversation lags a bit, as it almost always does.

Personally, I usually accompany such interjections with some vaguely queeny hand gestures that lighten up the conversation, while at the same time signaling to the woman that I am off-limits.

Interestingly, I actually perfected my own wingman skills by hanging around gay men and drag queens. It really is the best training ground, if you must know the truth.

Another part of the wingman's role is to make sure the evening ends at the appropriate moment. This is a discretionary call, and the decision here often separates the truly great wingman from the rest. On my last stint as a wingman, for example, I was aided greatly by my fortuitous choice of the meatloaf for dinner. No, seriously, Cordon Bleu meatloaf.

Well, I had no chance of getting through the huge slab of meatloaf I was served, and it gave me an obvious out when I felt we'd been there long enough. And wouldn't you know? My full stomach wound up being my excuse for my friend and myself to leave at just the right time.

But the wingman's final, and most important, duty -- the one he at once hopes for and dreads -- is to take a bullet for the team, so to speak. This can take several forms. If the woman has a friend of her own, for example -- someone to stand in the way -- the wingman's job is to take her out of the picture, no matter who she is. Or, if the wingman's friend winds up with a shot at an evening with the woman of his dreams, the wingman's job is to take out his cell phone, pretend there was some family emergency or something, and leave. Walking home, if necessary.

So, in a nutshell, that's the Code of the Wingman.