In modern times, when people no longer think about horses with horns that have magical restorative properties, the concept of a unicorn takes on new meaning. Your unicorn is someone in your life who represents the tension between desire and impossibility; a love that never manifests itself in a traditional sense of the term, but is derived from absence as opposed to presence.
Everything about this person screams “almost” — you “almost” dated; you “almost” fell in love; you “almost” changed your life to be near them; you “almost” drifted through life without engaging with them at all. Like the mythical unicorn, you can never concretely have this person, you can often only grasp at their essence.
Unicorns are rare: you only have one. You likely encountered this person during your formative years, when Robert Frost poems still meant something to you. Below are some key points that can help you in identifying your unicorn. But above all of these points, trust your gut: the identity of your unicorn in most cases will reveal itself to you almost immediately, as long as you are honest with yourself. Sometimes, this discovery can be a little frightening.
1. Unobvious physical attraction. There’s a siren song in this beauty — something that drills down to your core. This could be a quirk (physical or mental) that can be polarizing or unconventional to others, but something that ultimately just sh-ts serotonin into your brain. Remember, not everybody thinks a horn in the center of your forehead is cute. And that’s just fine.
2. The worst timing ever. Timing and social connectivity are the bane of developing a traditional relationship with your unicorn. Very often, it works like this: you’re single when they’re committed, or they’re single when you’re busy struggling with your self-identify, or you’re too busy daydreaming about the mundane reality of a long-distance relationship while they’re shooting you starry-eyed laser beams across the room in your media ethics class. If you could select any time for your unicorn to appear, it certainly wouldn’t be at these moments of pure inconvenience.
3. Reciprocation and climax. This is absolutely fundamental to identifying your unicorn. If the feeling between you and this person isn’t mutual, then they are not your unicorn. Congratulations, you have identified an unrequited love/crush/lust/fuck buddy (pick the most appropriate option) that you’re not 100% over. In some mythologies, unicorns seek out and select you; it’s a relationship that’s shared as opposed to being one-sided. In addition, there’s almost always a climax: sometimes it’s a pure sexual act, other times it’s a conversation about how these feelings have protruded through your flesh for an extended period of time.
Here’s what happened to me.
I unknowingly met my unicorn during my freshman year of college. Back then, she was just the cute girl with perfectly gauged ears and Bane T-shirts who I failed to acknowledge because of my shyness. But I noticed her pop up in places over the next four years: eating bagels at the student center, drinking Miller Lite at the only interesting bar on campus, working side-by-side with me on the college newspaper. Then, at the last possible moment, we were realized.
She appeared at a house party days before our final set of college exams. We had never been at a party together. It was the first time we shared real words beyond classroom banter. We never even properly greeted each other — it was like we jumped back into the middle of a conversation that had started four years before, when we picked each other up on our hearts’ sonar.
We snuck off into a spare room and kissed for what felt like a dynasty. I could feel a chapter about this moment beings etched into my brain. And then, two weeks later, we graduated. I left for D.C., she was bound for Pittsburgh, and our lives changed forever, as we became actual adults. As short-lived as it was, the concept of an “us” was over and done. We never dated. We definitely tried to fight the distance and do so. But we didn’t, and that’s just fine.
Most people treat the departure of their unicorn like an ex who stole their favorite Cat Power vinyl and broke up with them on their birthday — the unicorn is pushed into the darkest, deepest caves of their memory never to be recovered again because of the powerful and painful longing associated with their unicorn. Whatever you do with your unicorn, don’t do this. Keep this person close.
Identifying your unicorn can be the codex to decrypting your complex inner workings. When everything in life feels like it belongs in a blighted landfill, your unicorn can help clean it up and empower you to grow in a way that’s beyond mere friendship, you are bound with your unicorn through your pulse.
Your unicorn is a catalyst for all the best things about you; they have the Game Genie codes to help you conquer your own life on an intrepid scale. Mine gave me the strength to overcome pushing reset on my life in two different cities, begin developing a healthy relationship with my body and let me know that it’s okay to follow my heart even when the sum of the facts around me don’t make any sense. And that’s just off the top of my head. Remember trust falls? Remember what nonsense they were? The stabilization your unicorn can provide is like a trust fall that camps out in your soul forever.
Life is hard. Know your unicorn.