Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Divorce & Its Aftermath

As everyone knows, divorce is hard on everybody, but most especially the children. Well, it turns out it is hard on non-human offspring, too: during Green Bean's most recent molt, it was with great chagrin that I recognized signs of what all bird owners dread – stress bars.

For those who are not bird owners, you may not know that, when stressed, birds grow feathers with abnormal coloration – small, dark stripes. They can be caused by a change in diet, loneliness, lack of sleep, or just plain old emotional distress.

When I think back over the past few months, I can think of several reasons why my little lovebird might have been stressed. For starters, the atmosphere in our Brooklyn apartment before the move, as you can probably imagine, was quite tense; I, for one, stopped having regular hours, and would roam around during the night, undoubtedly disturbing his sleep. We weren't making the effort to feed him fruits and vegetables to give him a balanced diet; we barely fed ourselves. There were lots of slammed doors and plenty of yelling, though thank goodness that he wasn't in the room the day I bit his father! Still, he probably sensed the tension between his parents and felt bad about it.

Then, of course, came the break: the day La Moustache put him in the passenger seat of our car, belted his cage in, tucked his blanket lovingly around him to make him feel safe but left a little peep hole so he could see me for comfort, and disappeared forever from his life. I can't help but feel a little sad when I think about that moment, because despite his lack of character La Moustache truly did love him, as much as he is capable of love. And no, I am never in a thousand years going to consent to the shared custody arrangement that Moustache at one point proposed. (The fact that my little gay bird was in love with his father and is now in love with his mother lends a bit of an Oedipal twist to the divorce narrative.)

After the move, it was surely an adjustment for him to go from having free reign of a 900 square foot apartment to spending almost all his time in a 12 by 12 foot room, confined there due to the proliferation of animals in the rest of the house who are eager to consume him. Back when we were fostering kittens, there was one day when I let them into my bedroom, and one of them ended up leaping from the curtain onto his cage with all of his claws extended and a gleam in his eye. It was the only time I've ever seen Green Bean look startled, and a few extra stress bars might have grown in that day. Of course, I'm sure he missed La Moustache as well, and given how excited he gets each time he sees my sister's boyfriend and how he hops onto his collar and begins to preen his five o'clock shadow, it could still be the case. I don't mean to sound like a stereotypical bird fanatic, but I think that many people underestimate the intelligence of parrots.

By now, I hope he no longer feels stressed. Most days he gets lots of time with me, and seems to have fully transferred his affections. As a single parent, I make more of an effort with him in many ways than I did in the past, and sometimes when I look at my grocery bill I realize that it is a bit ludicrous how much food on it is destined for such a tiny mouth (bananas, frozen peas, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, and steelcut oats are a few recent items on the list). Another change is that now, each night, I leave Green Bean's door open. He rarely ventures out at night, but as soon as I begin to stir in the morning, this allows him to fly over and join me for some morning cuddles and a few bites of whatever book I happen to be currently reading. Every so often he does join me at night, and sleeps cuddled up inside my nightshirt or on my neck. I imagine that his quality of life has also vastly improved thanks to his Christmas present, an extraordinarily phallic heated perch that he now spends almost all his cage time warming his toes on. (I guess I have to stop pretending not to be a fanatical bird person at this juncture.)

Just like a divorced couple with children, La Moustache is providing me with some funds for bird support. He probably doesn't think about it that way, but I do, partly because it helps me to be less angry about the fact that he never offered to give me any money for expenses for Bean. Once every three months or so, I get a nice deposit of around $150 from Google, which is compensation for the advertisements that appear on Moustache's blog. I'm still a bit unclear why he set it up that way, but he's informed me that I will continue to receive these funds for the foreseeable future. So, even though it kills me a little bit to say it, feel free to visit his blog as often as you'd like!

If you don't feel like it, that's okay too. After all, it is (objectively speaking, of course) really boring and badly written.

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