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by Abigail Van Buren

Birthday Celebration Reveals Marriage Headed for Trouble

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 17-year-old high school senior. I got my driver's license around the same time as all my friends -- with the exception of my best friend, "Robin." Robin lives about 20 miles from my house, and anywhere I go she's always asking for rides. The problem is that I pay for my own gas and car insurance, and I only have a part-time job, along with baby-sitting.

Robin's mom told me she planned on giving me some gas money, but she only gave me $5. How can I keep from alienating my friend when I tell her I can't afford to keep going out of my way to get her unless she contributes more? -- BROKE IN NEW YORK

DEAR BROKE: A picture is worth a thousand words. Because you feel Robin may be too sensitive to be told in plain English, prepare a chart for her illustrating the distance from your house to hers and back, the mileage you get per gallon and the ever-increasing cost of gas. Illustrating the problem may help your friend see that what you're telling her isn't a personal rejection but a reality.