Catalina Macaw or African Grey?

Would I rather be a plucked, neurotic African Grey or a rainbow colored, shiny feathered Catalina Macaw? In other words, given the choice, would I rather be smart or would I choose to be beautiful?

First a disclaimer. I know that its possible to be both smart and beautiful. I will also be generalizing, stereotyping, applying anthropomorphic attributes and just plain guessing in what follows.  However, as I sat on a deck chair with our gorgeous Catalina Mylie on my lap, looking at our plain and plucked African Grey, Mia, who  had climbed off my arm onto a picnic table, I couldn’t help but notice the difference between the two.

Mylie had accompanied me uninvited to the party. Minutes early, I walked into the aviary that is day time home to our companion birds, and reached my arm out to Mia who looked bedraggled and as if she needed a friend. Before I could say, “Prom Queen,” Mylie rushed down a branch and quickly up my arm to my shoulder. She was in such haste, she practically jumped over Mia who was gingerly picking her way to me, being careful not to disturb the slightest speck of dust that might be underfoot.

“Hello,” Mylie said in her baby talk voice. Then leaned her head in my direction, gave me an air kiss, and explained as if I was the one who didn’t cerebrate well and needed cliff notes to actions Kiss. Kiss. Had she been on stage in front of an audience of adoring fans, she could not be more pleased with herself.  See, I not only know what I’ve done, I know the words to describe it.  In fact, sometimes I think that Mylie spends a great deal of her time in an imaginary world where she is queen, goddess and Ms. Avian World all in one. She rules by dynasty, by divine right and by doing what it takes to beat out the other contestants.

In fairness to Mylie, when she cut in front of Mia she probably didn’t even notice Mia was there. The only bird that Mylie recognizes is the one staring back at her from a looking glass when she is lucky enough to be in the vicinity of  mirror.  To Mylie’s way of thinking, others don’t count. Or to describe what she actually thinks in Mylie’s own words, What others?

Would I choose to be Mylie if I had to pick which of our birds I would be? Being oblivious is not so bad and it sure makes life uncomplicated. For one thing, I normally am cautious about making assumptions. If I over hear some of my friends making plans, I pretend ignorance. Just to be safe. And to spare embarrassing any one (i.e. me).

When you’re as beautiful as Mylie, you assume that you’re wanted. Why bother asking since you already know that anyone and everyone wants to include you. Your many colored feathers means that you always are dressed for success and if others don’t know it... well, you don’t realize they don’t know it, so do you care?

[frame_left][/frame_left]Mia, on the other hand, learned my telephone number in three tries, can admonish me to “focus” when that is exactly the instruction I require, and only speaks when she has something worthwhile to say. No “kiss kiss” from her. In fact, I still haven’t figured out how to stroke her neck feathers. She wants me to do this, at least I think she does because she turns her neck towards me as if to suggest it would feel great if I would give her a scratch. However, no matter what technique I try (dig deep, light touch, two finger pull), she tries to bite me right after I start. She could tell me what she wants-her vocabulary is that extensive- but then it wouldn’t count. Its as if she is a Mensa member sworn to only socialize with other geniuses.


Or perhaps she wants to be sure that I really want to give her attention. She looks at me as if questioning: Are you stroking my neck because you give all of the parrots a turn or are you doing it because you really, really want to stroke my neck? If you’re giving me attention because you feel obligated, then don’t bother. I’m okay taking care of myself. See how I’ve plucked out all of my chest feathers? That’s just little old me, taking care of myself so no one else has to do it.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore Mia. Its just that when I return to the sanctuary, Mia gives me a look as if to say, You’ve been gone for 24 minutes and 36 seconds. I hope what you accomplished was worth my putting up with your being MIA for all of this time.

Mylie, on the other hand, hasn’t noticed my absence. She may not even recognize me. Oh, it’s one of my adoring fans, she probably thinks to herself because when I approach, she doesn’t greet me by name like the other parrots do. Kiss Kiss she says to no one in particular.

Which is exactly how I feel when I’m around Mylie. She channels every cheerleader with perfect hair and every popular girl with a slim, toned body that went to my high school.  They could be the nicest people-probably were- but they sent out some weird self image altering waves that-through no fault of their own- made them so memorable when I saw them, that I forgot who I was.

Which is at the core of the difference between Mylie and Mia:

Mylie is uncomplicated, predictable and yes, I have to admit, she’s easy.  Since she isn’t very talented at language, I can say pretty much anything to her and what she hears is “You’re so very beautiful!”

Mia, on the other hand, gets very, very nervous and suspicious if I give her a compliment of any sort. She scrutinizes my face as I have a tell tale tic or grimace that gives me away if I lie. Which is why I would never consider playing poker with Mia unless I wore dark glasses and wrapped my face with a long opaque scarf. I’d never attempt it with Mylie either. Knowing her, she’d have beginner’s luck and a bottomless cache of chips supplied by the hordes of male macaws cheering her on in the hopes of winning a Kiss Kiss from her.

The question remains who would I choose to be, if given the choice. Mia most resembles me and therefore would be the safe choice. However, it might be fun to be Mylie for a short time, at least. But “for a short time” is not one of the options. Nervous or nervy? Smart or simple? Grey or gorgeous?

My answer is that I would choose to be happy.

So which bird do you think I would select?