At the 2013 Walking Summit early this month in Washington, DC, I spent a lot of time looking at other people’s shoes.

My interest in footwear-as-fashion borders on nil, but I was curious about locomotion. I saw a lot of sensible, flat-heeled shoes on women, and some efficient Tevas and Hi-Techs on men. But also quite a few painful and pointy dress shoes on both sexes, all inappropriate for walking more than to the nearest Starbucks. I tried not to judge, but, well, what can I say?

Wayne Curtis is a contributing editor to The Atlantic and the author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails.

Although I have always considered myself a fairly unconventional person, I wanted a diamond ring when I became engaged to be married. To please me, my fiancé visited the Diamond District in New York City and (with the help of his mother) picked out a round, 1.5-carat diamond with a yellow gold band. I wear it as I write, 28 years later.


In the early years of my marriage, some of my female students would come up to me after class and compliment me on my ring. I don’t know if it was the diamond they were admiring or the fact that I had managed to get myself married. In time, the compliments diminished. Whether because my ring was less impressive or because marriage seemed less of an accomplishment to the new generation is hard to say.

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