I'll admit to a certain vanity on my part; I don't care how well-adjusted one is to getting older, one cannot deny what one sees every day in the morning's mirror. Up until my early 40s, I'd always been pleasantly pleased by what I'd see there. There'd be a line or two and my chin went white at about 32, so I understood the effects of aging in a gentle way. Then I got hit by two things that forever changed my face: long-term effects of certain HIV medications that induce lipoatrophy*, and a chronic pain condition that is otherwise entirely unrelated to HIV, but which furrows my brow and irritates my face when the pain, never really under control short of full sedation takes over. Unless I'm extraordinarily relaxed or in a (somewhat) altered state on consciousness, that's what I see because that, frankly, is what's there. *The Lipo first attacked my "oysters" (the bits of flesh in the hollows of one's temples, which I've named after those bits of flesh commonly found on the backs of poultry. Next came the fat in my cheeks, leaving me with a gaunt look, then finally around my chin, which now looks bony. Additionally, my eyebrows seem to have taken over the center of my face, and nearly cover my eyes completely now that there's no more fat under them to hold them up and away. I had the chance (and, under certain circumstances, still do) to have my face "filled" with products that minimize or eliminate these Lipo issues. It's a temporary but very successful antidote to the changes found in the faces of long-term survivors of HIV, especially those of us who went through years of toxic early versions of certain retrovirals. At the time, I chose not to, for two reasons which I believe to be true to my nature (if not my vanity). The first is that it's somehow always overdone, even by the most skilled dermatologists (who, at any rate, would not be at my disposal) and it looks weirdly, incredibly fake; the second is that I rather prefer to look HIV+ rather than not. After 26 years, I've earned the right to wear my scars proudly: but then, every morning, there's that damn mirror again. "Handsome" to me, when I was growing up, meant Rock Hudson or Cary Grant. It meant that fascinating look of the professor on Gilligan's Island or the incredible Guy Williams (a crush so early I named my Teddy Bear after his character in Lost In Space). It meant everything but what I see when I look in the mirror now. This is not a thread meant to induce flattery or platitudes regarding my appearance. I seriously mean it as a serious conversation about what defines the beauty of a man who is described as "handsome". It's an overwhelming adjective choice in my gallery section (thank you to all who have done so: sincerely and from my very heart's center). I also hear it so continuously at work as to render the word almost devoid of meaning (I work in a gay bar): just last night I received a $140 tip from an extremely attractive English tourist for a $40 charge, and although otherwise highly complimentary regarding my service, manner, intellect and ease at socialization, was most impressed by how "handsome" he found me (note: no sexual services were offered or suggested, on any level whatsoever), I'm not second-guessing anyone, but I seriously don't get it. What the fuck is "handsome", anyway?