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This chapter explores the ways in which cleverness provided one white working-class girl with an escape from some of the pressures of growing up female: a way of masking the pain of ‘failing’ at adolescent explorations of love and sexuality and an alternative to the perceived weakness of traditional femininity—while bringing its own set of pressures and projections. It examines a working-class family’s proud expectations of a clever girl’s apparent potential to fulfil others’ fantasies. What happens when a clever girl grows up to be an ordinary woman who doesn’t manifest the specific and exceptional ‘success’ that others projected on to her future? Snapshots of the relationship between the author and her mother provide an insight into the ways in which the escape from working-class life afforded by cleverness can be a complex interaction of growth and guilt, happiness and loss.
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