Q. I have several gay friends. Many of my other friends are aware of this and it is not usually a problem, but a few inquire about the sexual preference of every person I mention in the course of normal conversation.

I find this very rude -- it is none of their business and is usually irrelevant to the conversation. I realize people are curious about homosexuality, but surely the sexuality of specific persons is too private a matter for third-party discussion. I would never think of asking the sexual preferences of their friends.

If I answer the question of "Is he gay?" with "It's none of your business," it is taken as "Yes." I prefer not to leave them with one conclusion or the other. How should I respond to these tiresome and annoying inquiries?

A. The fact that society has sunk to the point of considering it routine conversation to inquire about people's sexual preferences is no excuse for either violating one's friends' privacy or making a rude remark such as "None of your business."

Surely the obvious answer here is a very cold "Why, I have no idea -- I wouldn't dream of asking about anything so extremely private."

This is also the correct answer when one is asked why one's friends don't get married, divorced or pregnant and how much they paid for their houses and clothes.