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Couples often stop by our urban church to assess its suitability for their weddings. While we welcome all visitors warmly, it is always odd to learn that, with few exceptions, their interest is only in the building, not the congregation, our worship services or our ministries.

It feels as if a stranger has come to the door to see whether your living room would be a nice setting for their family birthday party. It feels rude. The bridal magazines seem to encourage this sort of shopping around. What do you think?

Gentle Reader -- That bridal magazines are about shopping, not spirituality, which is the responsibility of the church. So if churches are willing to rent out their premises to those with no interest in them other than as attractive real estate, they should not object to what amounts to free advertising.

You may have missed this, but Miss Manners is saying that she agrees with you that the practice is offensive. However, the way to stop it is for the clergy to insist that only weddings of congregants or those interested in becoming congregants be performed at the church. That this requires sacrificing the rental fee is the unfortunate cost of upholding principles.

Snappy responses

Dear Miss Manners -- I was wondering if I might trouble you for a polite response to overly detailed information offered to the question "How are you?" Example: "How are you?" "Much better now that I got lucky last night."

I seem to attract this kind of response to what I thought were general, non-intrusive questions, even from casual acquaintances: "How did you meet your girlfriend?" "Well, we started off having casual sex, but we decided we needed to stop. ..."; "How was your weekend?" "The counselor finally got my mother to admit she'd been abusing me all these years. ..."

While I am grateful to be considered such a good listener and compassionate person to be offered such intimate glimpses into others' lives, I am not always available for such extended explanations. I fear that I would encourage this behavior with a non-response. Is there a kind, gentle way to communicate, "You seem to have mistaken me for someone who is your best friend"?

Gentle Reader -- There is a school of thought that classifies such remarks as "cries for help," the psychological equivalent of shouts by people in physical danger, requiring a decent person to jump to the rescue.

Miss Manners does not attend this school. While she agrees that you must respond politely to such remarks, a polite person does not allow others to embarrass themselves as these people seem bent on doing, probably with no embarrassment whatsoever.

This is accomplished by a "don't worry, I wasn't paying attention" reaction. In response to sexual bragging, you could say, "I'm so sorry to hear that"; to family complaints, "I trust your mother is well"; and so on.

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