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Dear Abby: Co-ed can't escape shadow of longtime high school rival

DEAR ABBY: "Maya" and I competed throughout high school. We shared common interests - even friends, who would blow me off to hang out with her.

DEAR ABBY: "Maya" and I competed throughout high school. We shared common interests - even friends, who would blow me off to hang out with her.

We were involved in speech and debate and were nominated for the girls' state team. I was deemed "too qualified," so Maya got the nomination. She ran against me for speech president, and I won by a huge margin. Then the coach decided she wanted us to be "co-presidents" and announced to everyone that the vote was tied. I was one-upped constantly.

Later, to my chagrin, I discovered we'd be going to the same college. I was told I'd probably never see her because of the large campus. Well, last semester she joined two activities I'm involved in. We rushed for a prestigious pre-law organization. She was accepted; I wasn't.

As it turns out, we both want to go to the same law school and become corporate attorneys.

Maya is pretty, popular and charming. I am plain and by no means popular. I can't stand to lose one more thing to her. After all these coincidences, we'll probably end up in the same law firm. What can I do to stop feeling so awful about myself as Maya continues to take away all the things I care about most?

- Tired of Second Place

DEAR TIRED: Your high-school speech coach's obvious favoritism for Maya was terrible, and for that I am sorry. But you have allowed your feelings of being constantly one-upped to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Stop concentrating on Maya and start devoting all of your attention to yourself and your goals. Although good looks and charm are powerful assets, so are being brilliant, self-assured and accomplished in one's field. Let the future take care of itself, and you may be pleasantly surprised to find out that she's not in it. Or if she is, that she's no longer the focus of your obsession and you are BOTH successful.

DEAR ABBY: My 18-year-old son, "Kyle," lives with his mother in a nearby town. I have always tried to be a good father, but despite countless phone calls, visits and vacations together, we never really bonded.

Kyle is a smart, nice kid, but he has no hobbies, no friends, no girlfriends or interests that I have ever seen. He rarely leaves the house except for school. I haven't been able to get him to engage in a sport or activity with me or show any type of "normal" kid behavior.

He spent part of last summer with me, and when I asked him questions about his life and wanted to take him for a doctor's exam (he's never had one!), he begged his mom to come "rescue" him, which she did. She refuses to discuss this and says Kyle's just shy.

I feel I must do something, but what? Maybe if my ex reads this she'll listen to someone else. Abby, don't you see a possible problem here?

- Daddy in the Dark in Texas

DEAR DADDY IN THE DARK: I certainly do. And had you intervened while your son was still a minor, there might have been some way to have had him medically and psychologically evaluated. But he's an adult now. And unless he is willing to admit there is a problem and seek help for it, there isn't a darn thing you can do at this late date. If there are other male family members Kyle trusts, you might try recruiting their assistance.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby - Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054- 0447. (Postage is included in the price.)