The anatomy of a laptop: my life in stickers

If there is one fact of human nature university has taught me, it’s that you can tell a lot about the fibre of one’s character by their laptop stickers.

Throughout my undergraduate career,  I have been delighted on the rare days a “no-devices” course lets loose for a little in-class research. Kids will lean over and heft their MacBooks onto the desk. And suddenly, I’ll be offered a glimpse into their soul.

Photo by Reed Pearson

Most of the time, these metaphysical unveilings will confirm what I suspected: yes, she is in a sorority; of course, she’s vegan and loves “Gossip Girl;” naturally, she dreams of Chanel and daisies and has more issues than Vogue.

But every now and then, I’ll be struck by the unexpected. Oh, word, she’s a Harry Potter fan? A “How To Get Away With Murder” aficionada? A Harry Styles stan? Now, you’re talking my language. This is someone I can be friends with after the semester ends.

Phase One
My initial batch of Redbubble stickers finished their course last year. They were a special bunch. My “No Hetero” sticker got laughs from the gays and the straights alike. Represented, too, was my love for FKA Twigs, salmon sushi, Melanie Martinez and Nicki Minaj’s life-ending quip of “Miley, what’s good?”

This tweet was immortalized:

Also depicted was an adorable bisexual pride rainbow. It both cleared up and fostered confusion for those who encountered it. Bisexuality came second only to the Neighbourhood’s logo (in terms of befuddlement).

Phase Two
The sophomore class of stickers were truly for the aesthetic. In pastel pinks, purples and blues, I proclaimed my love for “Ugh!” and “She’s American,” the Black Lives Matter movement, Halsey, bisexuality and Jenny Holzer’s advice to raise boys and girls the same way.

This summer brought a healthy heaping of laptop problems, though. No ancient deity could prevent the inevitable. Now, my old, faithful MacBook Air rests somewhere in the Apple burial plot of my parents’ house.

Phase Three
My current laptop has remained nude for most of the semester. But I decided to ride valiantly into this shiny New Year and fresh spring semester with a little bit of swag. Here is what I ended up with.

1) Praise the Lorde

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As a black, lesbian writer, poet and activist, Audre Lorde is a historical figure that still feels very relevant to me.

She isn’t so completely lodged in the past: her friends and contemporaries are still alive and well today. But she would have been 84 this year.

And yet, Audre Lorde’s spirit is ever present. We share so many intersections of identity and we share an interest in using our communication skills to make the world a better place. She is kind of like a patron saint for me.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Pulse Nightclub shooting and how the tragedy spurred me to come out. I quoted her when I did, saying, “Your silence will not protect you.” It felt fitting.

On a bit of a lighter note: during an ill-fated video call, a certain individual (who shall remain nameless) thought it was a sticker of Barack Obama.


I can see where they’d get that idea.

2) London Calling

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I hope it’s pretty self-explanatory why I felt compelled to stick a London skyline on. If you’re having any trouble figuring out my motivation, then I advise you to click through a few of my older posts.

3) Praise the Lorde, again

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As I’ve mentioned on a handful of occasions, I think Lorde is the bee’s knees. “Pure Heroine” has shaped me as a person, has set the soundtrack for my transition to adulthood and has defined more than a few friendships. And, while I don’t want to be That Person, I do want to say I’ve been rooting for Lorde since “The Love Club” EP.

What sets me apart from being That Person, I think, is that I’m not salty about Lorde’s popularity. I have no selfish interest in hoarding her for myself. I am actually incredibly proud of her for gaining the recognition she deserves (hello, Grammy’s 2018!) and for getting the chance to share her essence with so many more people.

This is a lyric from “Perfect Places.” I like the type-face, this song is a bop and I think it perfectly sums up what it’s like to attend Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Communications.

4) I like you a-latte

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I am addicted to caffeine. I prefer my substances sweet, frothy, dairy-free and Instagram-able, at best.

5) Love is Love

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Finally, two of the threads of commonality among my laptop stickers have converged. Every class of stickers has a couple that are queer and at least one nod to The 1975.

“Loving Someone” is an interesting case. What started out as merely as a tune ended up being the anthem for all of the The 1975’s LGBT stans. And of course, I live for it.

The line that set this wave in motion was Matty Healy calling out compulsory heterosexuality. He sings, “The telly isn’t telling me anything / I need, but it needs to keep selling me — / besides celebrities lacking in integrity, / holding up the status quo instead of showing the kids / that they matter… / ‘It’s better if we keep them perplexed. / It’s better if we make them want the opposite sex.'”

I don’t know if I can claim The 1975 as gay icons (at least queer icons for the way Healy plays with gender presentation). But I can claim the boys as very good, consistent allies.

6) Kill ’em with compassion

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What words can do Kehlani justice? She’s a fearless, brown, bi-con who truly lives up to her characterization as “sweet, sexy, savage.” But more than her constructed persona, she just seems like such a giving, generous, big-hearted human being.

She’s another artist whose most recent album left me edge-less (and yes, hello Grammy’s 2018, again!). I am so proud of all Kehlani has overcome, within recent years and throughout her life.

7) When the night calls

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One of my favourite rappers, by far, is Travi$ Scott (whose nickname is La Flame). I love his sensitivity, his urban-meets-tailored sense of style, his punk-rock ethos and his dystopian audio mixing.

A part of me is still in disbelief that seeing Travi$ Scott (and The 1975, for that matter) for a second time at SU ended up being better than the first time around (when I paid headliner money for my ticket, but anyway).

8) A rose by any other name

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Apart from being quite partial to romantic imagery, I picked these roses because they allude to Halsey. They are a lift, so to speak, of her left shoulder tattoo.

Photo by Natalie O’Moore for Modzik Magazine
Photo by Natalie O’Moore for Modzik Magazine

I can safely say I love Halsey for the same reasons as Kehlani (see No. 6).

9) A beautiful day in The Neighbourhood

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Jesse Rutherford is the only white boy I trust to make hip-hop. Maybe G-Eazy and Macklemore, but the list stops there and it’s not my fault (do better, guys!).

If I couldn’t take “Pure Heroine” with me to the deserted island (See No. 3), then I’d be perfectly OK with taking The Neighbourhood’s  “I Love You.” instead. That record also set the tone for leaving high school and going to university.

A side note: I remember when they posted this photo on Instagram back in the day. I just feel like it’s such a good depiction of brotherhood and camaraderie. Fingers crossed I’ll get to catch them on the new tour that’s bound to pop off.

10) The Gay Agenda

Ah, yes. I did save the best for last.

Before I got definitively suckered into buying 10 stickers because then they’d ring up 50 percent off, this bad boy caught my eye.

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Note: I do realize that the Human Rights Campaign coined this slogan for their merch

I think this is also self-explanatory. Why look toward  promoting nationalism and reinforcing the hegemonic domination of marginalized groups by their oppressors when you can throw a bit of glitter, flannel, Carly Rae Jepsen, some good jawlines, Virginia Woolf letters’ to Vita Sackville-West, rainbow cakes off Pinterest, clean undercuts, violets, “The L Word” reruns and acceptance of the Other on America instead?

My new laptop aesthetic, coming along just fine

With this third batch of stickers, I like to think I have reached peak woke, peak hipster, peak stan and peak gay. Please let me know if I’m wrong.



By Caroline Colvin

Black retro-obsessed non-binary baddie ♡ pleasure & wellness advocate ♡ aesthetic archivist ♡

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