Pet birds hate me. This is a problem I’ve had to deal with my entire life. Any time I visit friends who have a pet bird, the bird begins bouncing manically on its perch and narrows its already narrow eyes in raw enmity. It then lashes around its cage in a rage and screeches a song filled with venom.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with Polly,” my bird friend will say, looking with concern as their typically placid pet goes berserk and tries to break free from its cell so it can peck my eyes out.
This has happened enough times over the course of my life that I’ve been forced to face the difficult truth that caged birds have some beef with me. And I have a theory on why they despise me.
I don’t see this behavior when I encounter birds in the wild, who never pay any attention to me. (Well, there once was a seagull who dive-bombed my ice cream cone and got its beak stuck in it. When it finally managed to pull out of it, I was left with a beak-shaped divot in my ice cream, and a new appreciation for the can-do attitude of waterfowl.)
I’ve long speculated that caged birds resent me because they can immediately sense my joie de vivre, independence, and devil-may-care lifestyle. No one can stick me in a cage and force me to mimic their words. “Polly want a cracker?” I think not! I’ll get my own damned cracker anytime I please, thank you very much.
They may be cosseted by their owners and fed the finest seeds and mealworms, but one look at me and they forget their pampered surroundings and yearn to return to their wild roots. I represent everything they’ve given up for a soft, stable, luxurious perch in a gilded cage.
I was a free bird for most of my life. But then two years ago, suddenly and without warning, my wings got clipped in the most glorious way. I followed the shiny object of my dreams into her suburban home, and I didn’t even flinch when I heard the door close behind me.
For all these months, I’ve been contentedly swinging on my perch, enjoying the easy delights of domesticity and not giving a moment’s thought to my former life of hopping from branch to branch indiscriminately.
But then, last weekend, we were visited by a recently single acquaintance. She waltzed into the house without a care in the world, crashing through our life as if it didn’t have well-defined boundaries carefully designed to prevent this type of chaos.
As she casually stomped on our happy routines and shoved handfuls of my sunflower seeds into her greedy mouth, I felt my features ruffling.
As she cast a greedy eye at the woman I have chosen to nest with, I became proprietary and started rattling my cage.
As she coldly dismissed my growing outrage at the lack of respect she was showing for our relationship and our home, I began to squawk loudly.
Trapped by the constructs of laws and good manners, I didn’t attack her. But, God, how I wanted to.
When she finally left — hopefully, forever — I settled back on my perch, newly apprehensive that some wild thing could so easily disrupt my gilded home life.
And that’s when I realized that pet birds were never jealous of me. Rather, they felt threatened by me. I was a feral interloper who jeopardized their happy little homes.
They didn’t want my life. Instead, they wanted me out of their lives, because they had no desire to return to the wild life. And they were going to peck out anyone’s eyes who threatened to knock them off their perch.