If you're single and more or less looking, there's the total stranger, who isn't everyone's cup of tea, and then there's the adorable person you know and are too shy to approach. Or you could really use some 411 on whether that person is also officially single. (This kind of thing is a gnarly problem for every sex, gender, and orientation.)
But there's also your BFF's co-worker, your dogsitter's roommate, or the cousin of that lady you knit with. They fall somewhere in between and might be The One!
We're too old to pass notes, too embarrassed to ask someone to ask for us, so of course we turn to technology. In this case, it's Hinge, a lovely piece of software introduced at this year's SXSW that anonymously listens to your whispered prayers, creepily investigates the friends of your friends (by sponging off Facebook), and gives you the option of letting someone who potentially likes you know you potentially like them back without nearly as much fear of rejection -- because you already sort of know who it is and that he or she likes you, too. And you know someone in common, which makes it a bit less online-random and more like a real-world intro, according to the press blurbs linked on Hinge's site.
Currently, the app is available for iPhone only and not in every city, not unlike people we might want to date. (D.C.? NYC? Let's get moved there, and then maybe fall in love.)
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It's early days -- users are in the low thousands, and total matches are lower. But Hinge is another tool for the toolbox, and one of these things, maybe Coffee Meets Bagel, is going to hit the tipping point any day now.
We've also heard that it's fun just to load up Hinge and answer questions about your friends (the government can't do all that work itself) and that there's another app, Unface.Me (inspired by Gossip Girl), via which you can have anonymous relationships with your real friends. That last one sounds as though it would be super-romantic and present absolutely no uncomfortable issues whatsoever.