Do you remember the kindergarten friend who taught you how to get all the way across the monkey bars? Or the friend you had in middle school who stuck by you through the tumultuous headgear years? What about a high school chum who supplied prom’s necessary fun flask? Friends are our support system growing up, and in college they’re our partners. They are the ying to our yang; the Goose to our Maverick. They’re more than just our psychologists, our HALO team members and our text-message gurus — they’re the wingmen (and wingwomen) who sacrifice their night for our right… to paaaartay!

Historically, the wingman is a pilot who flies just behind the lead plane. He/she assists the aerial combat by adding fire power, situational awareness and protection against threats. In layman’s terms, they’ve got the lead plane’s back, yo. The term has evolved socially to recognize the friend who increases your chances of landing smoothly. This means that when approaching the enemy group, you take out the uglier conquest so your friend can tap the more appealing booty. It means accompanying your friend to a party simply so she can scope out her latest love interest and it means road-tripping from L.A. to Santa Barbara so your friend can bone the girl he’s always loved, even though you’ll end up masturbating in the bathroom… again. It’s taking one for the team, and it’s what keeps the air circulating through Isla Vista’s mold-infested lungs.

Sure you can meet a shorty, hit on a shorty and get a shorty’s number all on your own, but what happens when shorty invites you to a party — do you show up alone? No. As most socially adept people know, arriving at a new prospect’s party with zero posse members in tow screams “I’m desperate!” “I’m clingy!” or “I’m creepy!” Without your trusty wingman, you’re forced to decide: fly solo, or delay takeoff?

In order to avoid having to make a decision (life goal), it’s important to treat your wingman the way you’d want to be treated. Translation: Return the favor! If your roommate always accompanies you to the Sig Ep house so you can count the six packs, offer to take her to the SAE house so she can count beer guts. You never know, you might just happen upon a whole slew of new prospects. One of my resourceful friends regularly offers to fill the wingman role, which makes sense, since she usually captures a studly opponent. What a warrior! When I rode backseat to my friend’s ride downtown, I accidentally found quite the catch: Wealthy, intelligent, wealthy… who cares about a few wrinkles when they offer you a limo ride back to Isla Vista?

Despite the obvious sexual tension marking most male/female friendships, boys and girls can be great wingpartners, too. “Victoria” and “Andrew” changed lives when they moved into their respective three-bedroom houses. Their friendship (with a side of lovin’) brought together 12 beautiful bodies, usually in pairs of two, like a pornographic version of Noah’s ark.

Not all wingmanning activities are a walk in the park, unfortunately. Picture it: You arrive at a party, fully prepared in your combat gear and beer goggles. Your lead pilot directs you to the females in the corner and lands next to the lip-luscious blonde in the short dress. You are immediately attacked by her partner’s fish and chips aroma, and in an effort to suppress the gag reflex, you engage the creature in conversation. Once she learns of your frat bro status she regales you with facts about alcoholism… you need a drink. You could abandon your post and find a cuter STD, but you won’t refuse a challenge. If U Can Study Buzzed, you can certainly reach a level of intoxication where cooked halibut smells like daisies and where her “Jesus Loves Me” sweater is almost sexy. Just like Goose, you’ll face any foe. And you’ll do it in aviators.

It’s about time to take off for the weekend… please keep hands and arms inside the aircraft. And remember: Barf bags and condoms are in the compartment in front of you.