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We Had This Endangered Bird To Dinner, But I Was A Beak-Brain. Here's What I Learned.

Ducks and Chucks,

This duck has a confession to make, because if I've learned anything, it's this: When I seriously duck up and make a beak-brained mistake, I need to take responsibility for it.

Thing is, I'm OBSESSED WITH BEAKS. Small beaks, large beaks, slightly curvy pointed beaks, yellow beaks, red beaks.... If it's a beak, I'm all for it. Unfortunately, I fuss so much about beaks that I get myself into hot pondwater.

So, the bird pictured above is Toucan Torres—a friend of Peacock Riley, my radiant partner. [Torres was presumably modeling for the amazingly talented Tim Flach at the time, because that's who painted this wonderful artwork—Star.] When Riles bumped into Torres for the first time in two years, Riley was at the supermarket, their cart filled with chocolate-covered snails and BBQ-flavored snake chips. Riles was quackers delighted to see Torres again and invited him over for dinner. We ordered in Chinese takeout from our local bird takeout mall.

When Torres arrived, THIS DUCK COULD NOT STOP STARING AT HIS BEAK. This is partly because I've never seen a toucan before—but that does not make it okay to stare, duckdammit. I mean, it makes a duck down-in-the-beak to say that toucans are an endangered species, which means they tend to be oppressed in the bird world. Toucans are unfairly stereotyped as being "brash," self-centered, and cheesy. And, as I now know, are unfairly ogled.

Torres is great. He's thoughtful, refined, and a tremendously generous conversationalist.

So, picture it: Yours truly is sitting next to Torres on our peacock-green couch—the one that Riley avoids because, being a peacock who loves to stand out, they sort of disappear when they're on it. Torres was telling an entertaining story about getting stuck in an elevator in London at the Royal Albert Hall, during a performance of Shakespeare's turkey tragedy, Much Ado About Stuffing.

While Torres tells this story, Riley's rapt, chortling away on the armchair in the corner. But me? Oh, this beak-brain is apparently staring at Torres' beak—so much so, in fact, that the poor guy turns and looks right at me.

"Oh dear!" I cry, mortified, realizing I'm gawping. "I'm so sorry! It's just... your beak is magnificent! Toucan beaks are just massive, aren't they? Makes my quacker look like a toe-nail-clipper attachment. Really, it's both a nose and a sunrise!"

At this, Riley gives a squawk of terror, and Torres' eyes bulge. He cries, "Oh my, that's personal!" And naturally, he sounds hurt due to my utter beak-headedness.

"Duck!" Riley growl-whispers. "You and Riley need to get some champagne right this minute." And Riley doesn't seem all excited like they usually do when they're about to drink some refreshing Veuve Cliquot and crack open the chocolate-covered snails.

Two stuffed animals: Duck in his baseball cap, and Peacock Riley in their orange, fall-themed top hat with the little fabric leaves..
Duck and Peacock Riley

Turns out Riles was getting me into the kitchen to educate me around the following important points:

• We shouldn't call out other people's/birds' differences, especially when they come from marginalized groups, because this others them, which can feel pretty ducking distressing. Check out this awesome post on the subject, called, The Downside to Being a Unicorn—it's by Robbie Samuels, a relationship-based business strategy coach who explains this really well, and is also super-unicorn inclusive. Never heard him mention a duck, but who's counting?

• Drawing attention to the biggest beak in the room might seem like a compliment, but could also be pretty ducking triggering for the bird concerned and will likely make them feel totally objectified.

• If we don't mention every bird's beak, we shouldn't mention some birds' beaks—especially when the bird in question is from a marginalized group. Everyone deserves equality.

Riley reminded me that comments about size can be especially triggering because of how our society judges and marginalizes people of size. In this moving and powerful post at Comics Youth, for instance, the author Lucy Butler writes that after losing weight, "Each time I meet someone I haven’t seen for a while, I feel that version of me in the back of my mind thinking, 'Was I not beautiful, too?'"

Needless to say, I was so ashamed about how I'd commented on Torres' beak, that my own honker almost fell off. So off this duck went and apologized to Torres—in a simple way like Riley suggested, so as not to dwell on the stuff that had hurt him in the first place.

Torres was very nice about it all and suggested a game of chess. I ducking hate chess, but that wasn't the point. I lost the game because I suck at it—and WHAT IN FLIPPER'S NAME ARE PAWNS ACTUALLY FOR?—but for a chess game, it was pretty ducking okay.

Anyway, Torres and I are now firm friends, plus I know which way a knight moves on a chessboard, and I will never again stare at and/or comment on anybody's body.

Loves ya.

Over and out,


—By Star Williams and Duck T.

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