Nothing screamed University of Alabama football quite like Courtney and her Alpha Delta Chi sorority sisters—lily-white, satin faces streaked with crimson war-paint below doe-like eyes—screaming to a national television audience in their low-cut t-shirts: “Roll Tide!”

  Courtney grew up in a suburb outside Tuscaloosa, the prettiest among a bevy of pretty blue-eyed blondes, and attended an affluent—somewhat segregated—private high school outside the city that seemed to breed girls like her. But Courtney always saw herself as different from the vacuous beauty queens, who only talked about boys and always smelled of vanilla. She read the Faulkner novels her honors senior English teacher Mr. Vance—a handsome young Yankee from New England-somewhere—assigned to her class, but she was leery of asking him after class why she received a C+ on her analysis of As I Lay Dying. She wasn’t naïve. She knew a single twenty-nine-year-old man who constantly told the class about the novel he was writing, and the imminent success it would wield upon publication—he never failed to name drop his New York City agent—was trying to impress impressionable girls. Unlike some of her classmates, Courtney didn’t take his bait and was unsurprised when she heard from her mother, during her freshman year at UA, that Mr. Vance was fired and charged with statutory rape.

   A Southern girl whose family traced back to Alabama before the Civil War—whose matriarchs still cried watching Gone with the Wind every New Year’s Eve—Courtney grew up with two older brothers, Ricky and Wade, veritable football stars, who attended public school and made it plain to the guys in their high school that looking at their pretty sister with a salacious grin would end up in an old-fashioned beat-down. This was a directive from their father, Wade Sr., who was a backup linebacker for the Crimson Tide when he attended in the 70s and now worked in upper management for a company that sold diesel trucks that his father-in-law owned. Courtney’s grandfather loved The Tide and remembered her father sacking Auburn’s quarterback during garbage time during an Iron Bowl.  

  Like her mother, Heather, Courtney grew up competing in beauty pageants and never really cared for them. Courtney was taught to smile, diet, apply perfect make-up and fit into Size-2 gowns—something to which many of her sorority sisters could relate. And while Courtney sometimes stumbled over the words to articulate her goals—eloquence was never her strength—she knew with a bone-rattling certainty that she didn’t want to be the chauvinistic trophy of a small-minded myopic Southern man who hung a Dixie flag in his basement, looking to show her off at dinner parties and barbecues.

  While in her senior year at the University of Alabama, Courtney broke ranks with her sorority and dated a 30-something guitarist in a Southern Rock cover band, and she fell in love for the first time. She went to his every show and invested herself in Leon’s kids—entrenching herself in an acrimonious divorce with his ex, the mother of his children who was viciously jealous of Courtney. While the relationship never worked out—she eventually caught Leon receiving favors from a girl backstage and understood his ex-wife on another level—Courtney saw herself as different afterward, somehow older.

  She graduated with a B.S. degree in Business Administration and moved to Birmingham, staying with her brother Ricky, who was using Wade Sr.’s money to launch some ethereal start-up dating site.

  Courtney, personable and attractive with a college degree in business, took a job with her brother until his start-up went under, then took work in human resources for a major telecommunications company. When the regional branch needs a pretty face or sweet Southern drawl to sell an account, they’ll turn to Courtney, the beauty queen whose opinions and brain will never get in the way.

   But there are many nights that Courtney spends slapping away the misogynistic hands of assholes at the office or in local clubs when Courtney goes back to her apartment, where she lives with her cat Tuo, and she remembers Leon playing Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” to her beside a campfire in some deep, dark place off a dirt road in Nowhere, Alabama. And she knows there’s something better than boys wrecked on draft beer. She knows her limitations as an employee and her power as a woman.

Courtney understands that no man will ever see her for her mind first—being a veritable Barbie doll—but she’s not interested in the feminist fight. She’s all right smiling behind her desk, doing what she’s paid to do, and lending a sympathetic ear when a co-worker needs someone to listen.

  And on those Saturday afternoons in October, when UA is playing an SEC rival, Courtney is still not afraid to ball her fists and squeeze her eyes shut while screaming: “Roll Tide!”


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