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Irish ‘Cake Faces’ girls plaster on makeup

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Alisa Pierini   
Alisa Pierini is my name, from California, studying in Cork and my red hair causes much confusion.

True red hair, even in a city like Cork, never ceases to amaze and bewilder men (and women for that matter). It is, even in a country that is known for the rare, recessive gene, a novelty. And, a source of many levels of curiosity.

This is my second visit to Ireland. During my first trip I attributed the lack of ginger sightings to the extreme cold of that particular January. But now on my second venture here during these late months of summer, I find myself just as rare and just as much an object of wonder, as ever. Tourists stealthily snap photos of me whispering things like, “Such a classic Irish girl,” and men and women alike (but mostly men) ponder at its immense solar glow.

But then, I am in general unusual among my fellow red-heads, possessing a tremendous halo of deep amber curls with brown eyes to match the same tone (though one would never call my hair brown and my eyes red) and, thanks to the classic mix found in so many individuals of Irish American heritage, a bronze skin-tone acquired from a genetic hodge-podge including Mexican and Italian. Which, is unlike the tan-in-a-can one finds on so many of the “Cake Faces” of Cork.

And then perhaps it is that I am NOT like the women of Cork who, I was warned before arriving, value a look known as the “Cake Face.” This, I came to understand as a reference to an unusual amount of make-up applied to the face, appearing to have been caked on. As well as dressing glamorously for a weeknight out (outfits, just for going to a grungy pub included no less than four-inch heels, SHORT-shorts, glitter galore…) I largely laughed and shrugged at this.
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Mollie - The only women Irish men buy drinks for are prostitutes

PHOTOS - Gaelic Girls - Alisa, Hannah, Mollie and Tess from University College Cork slideshow
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Having grown up in California I was sure I had seen this before, if not to a more extreme level. After all, Cork is a city. It is permissible in cities, expected, almost desired for the population to carry a particular look. It is the urban nature. I was sure that California’s propensity for aesthetic obsession had ruined me.

But despite growing up with plastic boobs and bleach-bottle blondes around every corner, I was not ready for the Cork “Cake Face”. They came as a shock. The shock came as a shock. I’m from California! I should be used to these kinds of things! I wondered what this obsession could be, to take oneself (a naturally beautiful thing on its own) and turn it into the face of a powdery, plasticine manikin. I found my answer sitting down in one of my first classes at the University College Cork. A young “Cake Face” asked where I was from (yes, even an afternoon college classroom is setting enough to pile on the make-up). Upon hearing I was from California she gasped with envy, “How glamorous!”

“Not really,” I replied “they just make it look that way.” But that is the way it is, isn’t it?

Expectations of some other exotic world are created for us and we vie after it. All of us looking for something different and out of the way from what is the norm. I came here, looking for tradition and to enjoy a culture that may or may turn out to be what I expected. The “Cake Faces” of Cork look to bring California “glamour” here (albeit in a bottle of orange, self-tan lotion). We are all looking for something. And in the end we find ourselves in a global cultural hodgepodge, straddling the lines between expectation and reality.

Yet, even still, I am surprised to find myself made into, what seems, such a caricature, so set apart, almost more so than in my own California hometown.

But it is a lesson I already had learned in my global encounters and studies of culture; that stereotypes are based on the novel, the “different”, the “exotic”. This ideal seems to have become a reality not only to the people of Irish-America but even to the Irish people themselves, declaring, invariably, with surprise and rapture, “Look at that Irish red hair!!”

Check back on Monday, Oct 10th for the next installment from the Gaelic Girls
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READ MORE:

Visit the Gaelic Girls homepage

Mollie - The only women Irish men buy drinks for are prostitutes

PHOTOS - Gaelic Girls - Alisa, Hannah, Mollie and Tess from University College Cork slideshow

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