An interview with Brent Rose, self described actor, burrito-eater, filmmaker and writer for Wired, Outside Magazine, Gizmodo, Deadspin, Men’s Journal and Men’s Health Magazine.
Little Bird loves to hear from guys in the real world. Sometimes it can be hard for experts in a field to remember what the situation looks like to non-experts. We are constantly optimizing our services to be as awesome and helpful as possible. Brent Rose is a regular contributor for a variety of guy-tailored blogs, so he has a unique vantage point to see consumer trends in the man-universe. Brent is a rare gem in his ability to cut through pretense and ego, and answer questions with the kind of unfiltered honesty that would make most bros run for the hills. His insights were invaluable and really got us thinking...
Little Bird: So Brent, how would you start your engagement ring search?
Brent: I have no idea. Like most guys I would probably start with the internet - because that is where you look for everything these days. I would Google “diamond ring” or “engagement ring” or even search for “how to pick the right ring”.
I might look at places like Zales, the Diamond Center or Jared to try and get an idea of the baseline market. If I did ask any friends, I would try to talk to guy friends that make the same sort of salary as I do and are already engaged or married. If you ask rich friends, you’re opening the door to soul-crushing despair.
Little Bird: Good point. Within every group of friends some are reasonable about budget, and some just spend… unbelievable amounts. So how would you go about calculating your engagement ring budget? Do you think this is how most guys these days come up with a number?
Brent: I don’t know a lot of guys who can afford to spend 2 months salary. Which is hard to face because you are in love, but realistically, you can’t drop 8k on a ring. You have to pay rent. Guys may start with 2 months salary but they usually scale it down.
Little Bird: Yeah, the two months salary deal was from a really different era. It seems like life is just SO much more expensive today. As a guy, what are your top priorities when looking for a ring?
Brent: Well the first phase is usually the budget phase. Then comes the depression phase when you start seeing some of the diamonds that are out there. Closely followed by the panic and anorexia phase [maybe I can't afford food this month]. And then the realistic budgeting and financial planning phase. Next you’d probably go through her jewelry and look at her taste - does she like simple and low profile or BLAM? You are trying to find a design that matches her personality. For some girls a decadent ring might be totally wrong style-wise.
The problem then is that guys don’t know the search terms because most guys have never had to think about them. Even if they had a picture of a ring in their mind, they have no idea what to call the thing they are looking for. It would be great to be able to talk to her, but they don’t want to ruin the surprise. The vast expanse of options is overwhelming.
And then there’s sizing. Even if she has other rings, you never know the right size for her ring finger because women generally don’t wear rings on that finger. You can try to be sneaky, but it almost never works.
(Side Note: Brent is absolutely right about this. Being sneaky about determining a ring size almost never works. Stay tuned for the upcoming blog “Macgyvering her ring size.” with all sorts of 007-worthy ring sizing tricks that actually work.)
Little Bird: What about ethical origins of diamonds and metals? Is that important to you?
Brent: Most guys know to think about ethical origin - but they can’t tell how to actually avoid bad diamonds. Some of the industry terms get really confusing.
Little Bird: You are absolutely right. The definition of “conflict free” the Kimberley Process is very different from what you and I would consider to be “ethical origin.” Luckily for me, our Little Bird Co-Founder, Danielle, is a super-expert on this subject, so I can just ask her.
Little Bird: How much time do you think the average guy is willing to spend learning about diamond grading and the industry?
Brent: It would be great if someone could explain diamonds in simple human terms. If I had to guess... hmm, very little. I mean some people go totally OCD, but most people are willing to go as far as whatever gets a ring that their girl will like. Most guys will try to do some preliminary research, but it gets overwhelming really fast. Someone once mentioned Etsy, but when you start searching around you realize how little you know and you start to doubt your own taste.
Little Bird: You’re the expert on guy shopping, what do you think is another one of the nuanced purchases that guys make? How do they get help? What works?
Brent: I guess the best comparison is a new car. For some people a ring can be just as much. There are a lot of variables when you are buying a car, but you can get a lot of objective information from the internet or magazines. That being said, you are buying a car for yourself and a ring is a gift so you can’t just pick whatever you would like to wear. This is a guessing game with a lot riding on it.
There is this element of judgment with rings. You picture a bunch of girls squealing over a ring because you have seen it on every TV show and in movies. It seems so cliché, but then you see it over and over again in the real world! It shouldn’t matter at all but you worry that it is going to matter to her. You don’t want the ring to be an object of ridicule. There is a lot of stigma for cubic zirconia or other non-gems, so it can be a stressful calculation. You want to get her something that is worthy of her, and of your love.
(Side Note: There is certainly a stigma around cubic zirconia because it is considered a badly done fake, HOWEVER some alternative gemstones - like sapphire - are awesome and should definitely be considered. Check out our post on
How to Get a Celebrity Worthy Engagement Ring at a Fraction of the Cost on Ringspotters for more information on alternative gemstones.)
Little Bird: When guys are uncertain about any part of the engagement ring process, who do they go to for help or advice? Married buddies? Parents or relatives? Her friends? Internet? Is this something that guys talk about amongst themselves?
Brent: Maybe one of her friends that you trusted to keep a secret. Maybe. Ideally one of my own female friends that knows both of us. When you ask a friend you have to trust they would give you an honest response and not spare your feelings. Guys don’t know who to talk with to ask questions, in case something changes or someone gives it away...
Little Bird: Of your guy friends that are married, do you know what their ring shopping experience was like? Have they said anything that sticks in your mind?
Brent: Truth is, guys don’t talk in too much detail. Some have inherited rings, which is not an option for everyone. I know some couples shop together... but that kind of wrecks the surprise. Actually, I think guys don’t talk about this much at all... which is probably why there is so much confusion. Guys want to appear smart and in control and not scared.
If you are worried about rent, you have no idea how you are going to pull this off. It is incredibly stressful. Buying a ring is such a major thing in life and it becomes representative and emblematic of the greater turmoil around asking someone to marry you.
Little Bird: I have to admit, I am a little surprised because I have thought of ring shopping as being so much more fun!
Brent: No. Most guys don’t see this as fun. Guys that are worried about money are not having such a good time.
Guys are really afraid they are getting ripped off. An expert in your corner would give you major peace of mind. You are about to drop onto one knee and you are already freaking out - this is one less thing to worry about.
Check out some of Brent’s remarkable and almost uncanny acting talent, or his Friday booze column for Gizmodo, Happy Hour, OR his pretty awesome twitter feed, all of which are hilarious and fascinating.
Guys: we want to hear from you too! If you have a totally different answer, or a totally similar answer, or a funny story about any of these issues, please get in touch with us. We are dedicated to making this process more fun and less stressful for you.