Jenny Block’s obsession with unicorns led to her latest book, a self-help manual for love, life and personal fulfillment
Jenny Block believes in unicorns, and she doesn’t care who knows it.
In fact, she wants more people to believe in unicorns. And she makes a compelling case for it in her just-published new book Be That Unicorn: Find Your Music, Live Your Truth and Share Your Shine.
“I have always liked unicorns,” Block, a regular columnist for Dallas Voice, admits. “I feel strangely drawn to them.
Yes, because I’m a girly girl, and they are sparkly and magical. But also because they have long represented what I have long wanted to be — equal part sweet and powerful and alluring and special and fun, all the things that we love the most about the people we love and admire the most.”
Unicorns represent “a silly sort of ‘perfection’ within their own unique weirdness,” Block opines. “That has always resonated with me. I knew I would never be that ‘perfect’ girl, whatever that really means. But I knew that I could be the ‘perfect’ version of me, and that’s what would really make me, well, perfect.”
Her preoccupation impelled Block, already an award-winning writer (she snagged a Lambda Literary Award for her advice memoir Open) to turn her concept into a self-help book. Although she first put pen to paper to write Be That Unicorn about a year ago, “in many ways, I’ve been writing it in my head for years. Suddenly I had the urge to start writing it down. Like, literally, one day, I just had to. Nothing I’ve written has ever come so easily and naturally.
That’s how I know it had to be written, and I had to write it. Not to sound too out there, but it was almost as if I were channeling it from, well, my inner unicorn.”
Which only reinforces what the message is. The book “is about allowing yourself to be you,” says Block. “It’s about standing up for yourself, being true to yourself. It’s also about keeping yourself in check. Everyone has the right and the opportunity to be ‘That Unicorn,’ and we owe it to ourselves and to others to commit to that pursuit. Self-care is all about giving your body, mind and spirit what they need; it’s not about being more special than anyone else. It’s about being yourself — that’s what’s special.”
Which might just make Block “the unicorn whisperer.”
“I like to think of myself as the little unicorn who keeps whispering to herself, ‘I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.’ Not everyone has a little unicorn pre-wired in their heads. This book is for those who don’t. Or for those who do but who need a jumpstart for the little guy. Or for those who have no idea what I’m talking about but who know they want the happiest, fullest, unicorniest life possible. Life is full of good stuff and bad stuff and all the in between stuff, and the only way to get the most out of it all is by being That Unicorn.”
With the book just now available in print and e-book formats at BeThatUnicorn.net and other booksellers, Block is preparing to embark on a promotional tour, starting in Houston on Feb. 27. Before that, she granted us exclusive permission to reprint an excerpt. Enjoy. And hook ’em, ’corns!
— Arnold Wayne Jones
EXCERPT from BE THAT UNICORN by Jenny Block (Mango Publishing 2020)
I’ve always wanted to be that “It Girl.” The one people were drawn to. The one who could garner the attention of everyone at a dinner party. The one who was so captivating that, no matter where she was or who she was talking to, everyone around her just glowed. The “It Girl” has some sort of magic force about her, and just being around her allowed you to become enveloped in it.
I used to think you became an “It Girl” through clothes or beauty or money. Maybe it was her travel or her experiences or her access to the world. The messaging from that world is confusing. “Be rich. Be young. Be beautiful. Then everyone will love you, and you’ll have the world at your feet.” But some of the most banal people I have ever met get top marks in all three of those categories. So it sent me out on a journey pondering, “If that wasn’t what made the girl—or the guy— what was it?”
It wasn’t until I truly listened to the words my father had been saying to me since I was a little girl that I realized what the magic quotient of the It Girl truly was: authenticity.
She feels so comfortable in her skin that she can’t help but let it spring out from her like so many sparkly strands that surround and delight everyone around her.
Because she feels good about herself, she makes others feel the same way. There’s no one easier to adore than someone who reflects back to you the image of yourself that you long to see: the smart, funny, clever, enchanting, kind, calm, inviting version of yourself that knows just what to do and how to do it in every situation.
That girl (or guy) is That Unicorn.
I used to get angry when my dad would tell me to be myself. That plan had gotten me rejected in the most grandiose of ways, including when I went to Camp Louise the summer between eighth and ninth grades. Everyone else had grown up and arrived at camp with luggage packed with Bloomies underwear and magazine pages to hang in their lockers of the latest hunky movie stars. I showed up with my monkey puppet: “Hi! I’m Jenny and this is my monkey, Henry.” It was social suicide at first sight.
But what I didn’t know back then was that those girls were even more insecure than I was. It was that very desperation that pushed them to follow the crowd in every sense, to dress the same and talk the same and drool over the very same heartthrobs. I was too naïve to know any better. I was just being, well, me. That summer was the beginning of me deciding that that whole “be yourself” thing was for the birds. All it got you was a seat at the dork table in the cafeteria and a lot of lonely Saturday nights.
But years of following the crowd did me no good, either. Not in the long run, anyway. Why? Because I wasn’t being me. I was faking it… and not in the “fake it till you make it” kind of way, just in the plain old “fake it ‘cause you don’t know what the heck else to do” kind of way. That’s never good. When I was faking it, I felt fake. When I was my actual self, I felt so much better. Slowly it became clear to me: Being yourself might not always be the easiest, but it is always the best.
So, when I got to college, I decided it was the perfect time to retest my dad’s “be yourself and they will come” theory. And, go figure, it worked. People liked to be around me, because I knew who I was, and I was happy and comfortable in my own skin. From then on, that was my path. Sure, I had and continue to have plenty of days plagued by insecurity. But most days are pretty prancy. I became That Unicorn by not trying to be any girl other than me.
That Unicorn is the best you. That Unicorn is a glittery, rainbow-maned metaphor for one’s joyful self… the kind of person we are all drawn to. That Unicorn is you. My mom has always said that people are drawn to me because I make everyone feel good about themselves. Throughout my life, people have echoed that sentiment. It’s the thing I love about myself the most: I’m the big sister, the BFF, the mom, the cheerleader, the coach… “the little unicorn that could” who everyone deserves.