DEAR ABBY: I recently turned 40, and because I don't get along with my husband "Ted's" family, I chose to celebrate out of town with my parents and siblings. At the end of my five-day trip, Ted picked me up at the airport and barely greeted me. He waited three days to give me my birthday gift.

When he finally handed me the box, Ted didn't even wait for me to open it. He went off to take a shower. I waited for him to finish, then opened the gift in front of him. Inside was a pair of diamond earrings.

I have never wanted diamond earrings, and I have told him so many times. I had asked Ted for cash so I could buy a new sewing machine. Why diamond earrings? That night we had a major quarrel, and now I'll never be able to enjoy them. What do I do with them now?

"" TICKED OFF IN RHODE ISLAND

DEAR TICKED OFF: First, you apologize for being ungracious about the gift your husband gave you for your birthday. Then sit down and try to analyze why you and his family don't get along and why your marriage is in serious trouble &

because it is.

After that, ask your doctor to refer you to a licensed marriage counselor and try to bridge the communication gap that has developed between you and your spouse. At this point, what to do with the diamond earrings is the least of your worries.

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.

DEAR ABBY: I have an etiquette question. If you aren't supposed to wear white after Labor Day, when can you begin wearing white again?

"" DEBBIE IN JONESBORO, ARK.

DEAR DEBBIE: You can wear white whenever the spirit moves you. According to "Emily Post's Etiquette," 17th Edition: "The old rule about wearing white only between Memorial Day and Labor Day is a thing of the past. Today the question of wearing white applies to the WEIGHT of the fabrics, not COLOR. (Italics are mine.)

"Lightweight fabrics in white and pastels are worn in the warm/hot months and heavier fabrics known as 'winter whites' are worn in the cool and cold months. Since the country includes varied climate zones, the times for switching between summer and winter whites will depend on the weather where you are."

Dear Abby is written by , also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.