Dora Guo

I buy a pair of Levi’s on Times Square.

Levi’s 501® in Light Stonewash — Original Fit, Classic Buttoned Fly, Iconic Leather Patch at Back Waist. The Times Square location is actually an accident. I’m short and not that skinny, so no other Levi’s store around Midtown carries my size.

That whole New York trip is a rush. It’s the first time in my life I have both money and time to spend at the same time. I waste $200 at Intimissimi™, buying lingerie that no one will ever see, because a hastily-googled listsicle told me that Sarah Jessica Parker is into the brand and that’s the closest I’ll ever get to being a character on Sex and the City. Now I’m hustling through Times Square with a branded Levi’s® paper bag in my head, Spotify® delivering Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor straight to my eardrums. Her songwriters rhyme “New York” with “dork.” It feels sensual.

I don’t do drugs because I get high off capitalism.

I haven’t stepped foot in my neighborhood church since I was eight. Partially because the priest’s Wikipedia page has a “Controversial Statements” section that features 11 bullet points — mostly because I’m afraid that God exists. But this summer, I’m burnt-out and recoiling in existential horror and have to leave home again, so I decide to pay the Saint Mitrophan of Voronezh a visit.

I’m terrified at the perspective of encountering the notorious Russian Church Grandmothers, so I crank it up to 11 with the modesty stuff. I put on a black, monastic long-sleeved turtleneck gown. I cover my head with a flowered headscarf. My makeup is delicate for the first time in years. It doesn’t matter. When I step into the church, it’s empty, save for a middle schooler serving as a security guard. He has a blonde undercut that fell out of fashion a couple of years ago and is consumed by Subway Surfers™ on his iPhone®.

The church feels neither holy nor creepy. I have no idea what I’m doing. But I’m committed to saving my face, so I approach a random icon that I hope is St Mitrophan. I say The Lord’s Prayer (the Catholic version, because I couldn’t be bothered to remember Old Slavic) and light a candle the way my grandmother taught me when I was a kid.

I get a cross at the church store. I had one, got it when I was baptized, but I chewed it off its golden chain when I was in second grade. In Russian, we call it a body cross because you’re supposed to wear it on your body. I wear mine over my clothing so that everyone can see that I’m Russian (duh) and thus into Christ the Savior, the Reputable Lord for Reputable Lords.

I tell people that I’m Eastern Orthodox. I’m actually a devout Pathetic. My only God is Marketing, and I pray to Him every morning as I wash my face with Noxzema® Original Deep Cleansing Cream. There’s no historical reason for me to have any sort of brand loyalty towards Noxzema. I only developed it because I’ve seen enough Tumblr nostalgia posts. There’s something deeply heart-warming about a basic product that used to be everywhere but then fell out of fashion. Like an old-time movie star, who can’t be brought back to celebrity even after getting acquired by Unilever.

In my religion, fleeting trends are heresies and Instagram influencers are false prophets. I like the things, even if they hold no value by themselves. CK One and Starbucks. Dr. Martens and McDonald’s. Levi’s jeans and local church crosses.

My Levi’s don’t even fit that well. I keep gaining and losing the same ten pounds, shapeshifting back and forth from a Blue Jean Baby with a nice ass to a Poor Miner’s Farewell who pokes additional holes in the belt with a dull kitchen knife. (I don’t take the belt out, because I’m very persistent and very dumb.) But I like them, as I like my cross, as I like my primitive skin care routine and “Fight Club (dir. David Fincher) (1999).’’ Devil’s in the details, so I prefer to keep mine traditional.

Daria Kozeko | daria.kozeko@yale.edu .