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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Your suggestion on how to handle inquisitive people when they ask a personal question is, of course, right on. ("If you will forgive me for not answering, I will forgive you for asking," said with a smile, of course.) However, I feel as rude as the person who asked the question when I use that response.

I finally devised a lighthearted game -- and it always works. For example, here's how I answer the following questions:

Q: How much do you weigh?

A: A little more than I wish I did.

Q: How much did you pay for your house (dress, shoes, etc.)?

A: More than I intended to (or less than I thought I would).

Q: How much is your income (pension, salary, etc.)?

A: Well, so far it's kept me out of the poorhouse (off welfare, whatever).

Abby, of course they would still prefer an answer, but I use such responses in a friendly, playful manner with a smile as often as I'm asked.

Eventually, they stop asking such personal questions and, following a brief miffed silence, we go on as before. (Or at least I do.) If they are my friends, it turns out OK for me and them. Meanwhile, I've retained my privacy without having gotten huffy or rude. -- N.C.B. IN VISTA, CALIF.

DEAR N.C.B.: Thanks for some clever responses to people who ask questions that are none of their business.

DEAR ABBY: I agreed to be a bridesmaid for a friend of mine. She and her boyfriend have been living together for several months.

The wedding is two months away. She just admitted that she is bored and they don't communicate. She said he is rarely interested in sex; they fight; she bosses him around; yet she continues to plan her wedding.

They just bought a house in her name because of his past bankruptcy. I suggested postponing the wedding and getting some counseling. She agreed that she thinks that's what they should do, but then she rationalizes that "no relationship is perfect, and counseling is too expensive." Our friends think she is making a big mistake in going through with the wedding.

As a bridesmaid, I think I should support her, but I really don't. I feel she is taking advantage of all of us, and it's made me question our friendship. Should I continue as if everything is fine, or confront her and withdraw as a bridesmaid?

Please rush your answer. -- TROUBLED BRIDESMAID

DEAR TROUBLED: Your friend may think counseling is expensive, but investing in a marriage that has so little chance of enduring would be far more expensive.

If I were you, I would do everything in my power to convince her to get professional help before the couple marries. The clergyperson who would officiate at the wedding should gladly counsel her and the groom.

DEAR ABBY: "Ohio Photographer" should handle the situation with his friends this way: Draw up an official-looking bill. List his cost for materials (the rolls of film), the standard fee for labor and the cost of subcontracted work (namely the processing fee). Then subtract the cost of subcontracted work as costs assumed by customer. Subtotal the bill, add local sales tax, then total it. Then at the bottom, write "Amount due ... $0.00. My gift to the two of you and my blessings for a long and fruitful marriage."

If that doesn't stop them from looking this gift horse in the mouth, nothing will. Friends who expect more from you than you are willing to give are not friends -- they are liabilities. -- KEVIN R., BAD KREUZNACH, GERMANY

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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