I’m thirteen years old, Orthodox, and studying at a Chabad Yeshiva at the edge of the Tucson Mountains. Despite the heat, I wear a black hat and suit; surrounding me are mean-spirited cacti, majestic mares, and little else. I already know how everything turns out: Family. Life. The afterlife. I’ll be married shortly after my eighteenth birthday. My wife will be far more pious than me. She’ll cover her knees and elbows and still pull off sexy with ease. We’ll have 6 to 8 children – all boys – with long loopy sideburns and IQ’s of 130. They’ll have an enthusiasm for Torah study, which will give their mother and me tremendous nachas.
I’m eighteen years old, secular, and stationed at the foot of a mountain in the Negev desert. Despite the cold, I wear nothing but my combat vest and olive-green fatigues; surrounding me are harmless cardboard targets, spent bullet-casings, and little else. I already know how everything turns out: Family. Life. The afterlife. I’ll be married shortly after my twenty-fourth birthday. My wife will be far smarter than me. She’ll wear a tank top and faded, skinny jeans and still pull off modesty with ease. We’ll have 3 to 4 children – all boys – with boundless energy and muscular frames. They’ll each insist on serving in a combat unit, which will give their mother and me tremendous kavod.
I’m twenty-four years old, agnostic, and zip-lining down a mountain in Chiang Mai. Despite the danger, I’ve discarded my helmet because, “YOLO, bitches!” Surrounding me are ancient temples, drunken tourists, and little else. I’m pretty sure I know how things turn out, maybe: Family. Life. Is there an afterlife? I’ll be in a serious relationship shortly after I turn thirty, maybe thirty-five. My girlfriend will be well traveled. She’ll dress to the nines so that heads turn when she enters a room. We’ll have two dogs – male, female, whatever – that whine at the foot of our bed. Having them instead of children, well, it’ll make life just a little bit easier, I guess.
I’m twenty-six years old, confused, and living in New York City. No mountains here. And my mother, she keeps asking me, “Izzy, when are you going to meet a nice Jewish girl already?”
Surrounded by hollowed out hipsters, and discarded coffee cups, I think of little else.