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.