Few people consciously give in to old age or changing economic circumstances, but there are some fairly obvious signs when air begins to leak from the tires. As with any analysis based on personal observations, there is the potential for bias, so please don’t dismiss the concept because you disagree with the odd illustration.

You know you’re giving up when the Hyundai Sonata replaces the 9/11 Porsche as the car of your dreams, when the ketchup stain on your alumni sweatshirt no longer bothers you, when it’s more fun to watch tennis than to play, when a Big Mac, fries and large Coke is more satisfying than your last sexual experience, when conversation with your dog has more relevance than dialog with your wife, when getting up constitutes strenuous exercise.

You know you’re giving up when Playboy magazine is nothing but a coffee table coaster, when an exotic vacation is a bus tour of Appalachian outlet malls, when the Reader’s Digest represents intellectual stimulation, when raking leaves is the preferred means of getting close to nature.

You know you’re giving up when you agree with Trent Lott, when you look for fine jewelry at Costco, when you’d rather watch Rosie O’Donnell than the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, when you really believe Joe McCarthy was a great American, when you believe huge tax cuts and increased federal spending is a blueprint for economic recovery, when you believe you are better off with John Ashcroft running the Justice Department.

You know you’re giving up when you are convinced your fake Christmas tree looks better than the real thing, that food cooked on a gas grill tastes just as good as that cooked on real charcoal, that soybean milk tastes as good as cow’s milk, that sex with a condom is every bit as satisfying as sex without.

You know you have given up when Cheryl Tiegs is your designer of choice, when you convince yourself that an El Producto Queen is a fine cigar, that there really is no difference between steaks from Morton’s and steaks from the Sizzler, that the Cubs and Red Sox will play each other in the World Series, that Bob Haldeman was a great American, that the oil industry has no influence on the Bush administration.

You know you have given up when you rationalize not voting, when you accept unordered alfalfa sprouts on your salad, when you root for Notre Dame and the New York Yankees, when you look to Rush Limbaugh for clarification of pressing social and political issues, when you believe the majority of Mississippians accept integration, and that X-rated films are disgusting, sacrilegious and of no redeeming value.

You know you have given up when you support abolishing Rowe v. Wade, putting people in jail for smoking marijuana, eliminating affirmative action in higher education, believing Clarence Thomas is a distinguished Supreme Court Justice, and that Hootie Johnson believes in gender equality.

You’ve given up if you regard Alan Iverson as a nice guy even if you live in Philadelphia, that Phoenix in August is nifty because of low humidity, that Britney Spears is a wholesome all-American girl, that labor unions care for their rank and file members, that Ozzie Osborne is drug-free.

You really know you’ve given up when the day’s defining moment is a successful bowel movement, when Modern Maturity is the primary source of fashion information, when the New York Times section of choice is no longer the week-in-review but the obituaries.

The best way to avoid springing these leaks is to drink vodka, smoke cigars, lust after beautiful women, grill over charcoal, drive sexy cars, read exciting books, go to the movies, travel, avoid organized religion, elect progressive candidates, shop where the with-it young people shop, and never, if possible, look in the mirror.