We were watching football in Vic’s basement. Vic said he didn’t like Rob Ryan’s hair. He said a guy Rob Ryan’s age looks silly with that sorta hairstyle.
Rob Ryan’s hair was long – shoulder length – and grey and silver and full and lush. Rob’s in his fifties. He’s been a longtime coach in the league.
I told Vic I knew what he thought about Rob Ryan’s hair. I told him I didn’t understand why Rob Ryan’s hair bothered him so much. Vic was a youth of the 60’s and 70’s. Long hair on a man was nothing shocking for his generation.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Vic said. “It’s just an observation.”
“It bothers you enough that I’ve heard this shit about Rob Ryan’s hair a dozen times,” I said.
Vic defended, “No you haven’t.”
I knew Vic didn’t know or care if I’d heard it before. He needed to believe I didn’t know so it made sense to shit on Rob Ryan’s hair season after season. So, year after year, Vic either conveniently forgot or pretended he had.
“I’ve heard it enough times, when he came on TV I started counting down from five to see when you were gonna shit on his hair. You made it to three.”
It wasn’t a matter of jealously. At 68, Vic could grow a full head of hair if he wanted. But he didn’t want to. Or he didn’t have the balls.
And Vic didn’t like that I wasn’t playing ball so he decided to turn the tables and force my hand.
“So what do you think of his hair?” Vic asked direly.
“I don’t care.”
“Don’t give me that nonsense,” Vic said. “You gotta be able to imagine if he’d look better with it or without it. You can imagine that, can’t you?”
“I guess so,” I said.
A time-out was called. The game went to commercial.
“So which is it?”
“If you’re gonna force me to choose, I’ll say I like it.”
I could tell Vic was disappointed. He nudged their two dogs off his lap.
“Why?” Vic asked. “You’re just trying to be obstinate. You like being controversial.”
“Cause he obviously doesn’t give a shit what guys like you think about his hair,” I said.
“Well, I don’t like it,” Vic said. “I just don’t like it.”
“Well, I like it. Reminds me of Farrah Fawcett,” I said.
Vic took a sip of his Pepsi, then told me I was acting like a jerk.
“Don’t worry, Vic. I don’t think he’s going Bruce Jenner on you,” I said. “Rob’s still got the goatee.”
Vic looked at me sideways from across the room.
“I mean, Caitlyn Jenner. Not Bruce,” I said.
“Don’t start that stuff,” Vic said.
I gave Vic a while to think about that before asking, “Do you really even give a shit about any of the things you care about, Vic? Or is it all just pretend?”
“Of course I do. That’s why we’re having this discussion, because I care.”
“You care about a grown man’s hairstyle? Somebody you don’t even know?”
“Yes,” Vic said. “It gives me a feeling. A feeling I don’t like.”
“Envy and jealousy are feelings too, Vic. And they don’t feel good either. But they’re things to get rid of.”
Vic wasn’t listening. He was engrossed in a commercial for the new Dodge Ram, though he had no need for one.
“Do you ever consider whether a thing you care about is worth caring about?” I asked.
Vic stared intently at the commercial. There was piano music and an old, weathered barn and a guy in jeans and a cowboy hat tossing bales of hay in his big Ram truck.
Without turning, Vic answered. “No. I don’t think. I either care about it or I don’t. It just comes natural, so I don’t need to overanalyze it.”
“But should you, Vic? Do you ever stop to think if you should care about something?”
“But I do care about something. I care about a lot of things.”
I imagined we were getting bogged down in the semantics of ‘something’ relative to syntax. Or something like that. Plus, the commercial turned to Pizza Hut, the league’s latest official pizza sponsor. Vic’s dogs wanted back up on is lap. He told them to go upstairs. I got the feeling Vic was done with any more introspection for the day.