The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Some people are irritated by the weirdest things.

John Kelly knows there's no good reason to dislike mourning doves, but dislike them he does. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)

I hate mourning doves. No, that’s not quite right. I wouldn’t call it hatred. The bulbous birds just irritate me. I see them stupidly waddling about under the bird feeder and suddenly I’m consumed with feelings of … well, let’s call it unreasonable antipathy.

It’s odd. I mean, why would someone get upset by a bird?

Or by a camera? I collect old film cameras. A few were kind of pricey, but most are pretty ordinary, the kind of cameras people bought in the 1960s and ’70s for snapshots. But what I don’t have — what brings forth the bile whenever I see one — is an Argus C3.

Whenever I see an Argus C3 — a cheap, boxy, American-made, 35mm camera — I want to drive over it with an 18-wheeler. And I don’t even have a commercial driver’s license.

File under: Antipathy, unreasonable.

When the pandemic was in full swing, I tried to tamp down all negative feelings. A lot of people had it a lot worse than I. Why waste precious moments consumed by feelings of … well, not rage, but a certain kind of annoyance. Life’s too short, right?

Still, God forbid I ever see a mourning dove carrying an Argus C3.

I mentioned these weird feelings to My Lovely Wife.

“Oh, you mean pet peeves,” she said.

Well, not exactly. Pet peeves usually have some underlying reason. If your pet peeve is wet towels left on the bedroom floor, that’s probably because the towel won’t dry properly and it could ruin the carpet or the hardwood.

Pet peeves do have something in common with unreasonable antipathies, and that’s the level of degree. You wouldn’t say, “You know what my pet peeve is? Heart disease.” Pet peeves aren’t really very serious and neither are the antipathies I’ve mentioned.

It would be more of a problem if I were unreasonably antipathetic toward, say, obeying traffic laws.

Unreasonable antipathies are almost visceral, chemical. They remind me of the way some dogs react to other dogs. To their humans, there’s no apparent reason two dogs should snarl and strain at their leashes when they pass one another on their walks. The dogs just rub each other the wrong way.

It’s similar to the way some people just can’t stand the sight of James Corden.

Mine are unreasonable antipathies, but are they inexplicable ones? Was my mother frightened by a flock of mourning doves while I was in utero? Or pursued by a pack of really down-market paparazzi wielding Argus C3s?

Or do I see in the mourning dove (chubby, fearful) and the camera (common, cheap) some despised aspects of myself? Am I projecting a hidden self-loathing?

I decided to consult a professional. I probably should have called a therapist. Instead I called an ornithologist: Bruce Beehler, a research associate in the division of birds at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Any birds toward which you feel unreasonable antipathy, Bruce?

As a matter of fact, he said, a few years ago he didn’t like mourning doves.

“These mourning doves would do their hoo hoo mating call around 5:30 every morning starting in April, right next to our bedroom,” he said. “It was brutal. They’d wake me up at 5:30.”


“I purchased a white noise machine that makes a hissing sound to block it out,” he said.

Problem solved.

“There’s not a lot of birds I don't like,” Bruce said. “There are some I’m not interested in seeing. For most people who love birds, the rarer they are, the more interesting they are.”

Bruce said he doesn’t have much love for the grackles, starlings and blackbirds that vacuum up all the seed he puts out in the winter.

As for the bird he likes least, he said: “I guess I’m going to have to go with the feral pigeon. If you looked at a picture and didn’t know what it was, you’d think it’s not unattractive. But they’re pretty damn messy and an exotic invasive species.”

Bruce reserves his strongest antipathy — probably more reasonable than unreasonable, actually — for people who toss cigarette butts on the ground.

“Birds will pick those up and eat them,” he said.

That’s a shame. Unless they’re mourning doves. Dumb, stupid birds.


What about you? Do you have unreasonable antipathies? Do you get exercised over the most ridiculous things? Do you share your house with someone who does? Send details — with “Unreasonable Antipathy” in the subject line — to me at