The whore was always awful. From January through March the twitter hashtag #whorenomination dominated the national conversation. 1 out of 10 women were nominated. Social media was flooded with selfies of women with thongs tucked up the cracks of impressive behinds, ex-lover’s accounts of crack and meth and heroin use, pictures of children in dirty clothes in dirty apartments, teeth rotting from diets of soda and frozen pizzas, fat and stupid and made so by the women we were identifying, and screenshots of facebook statuses that showcased vile characters, bragging about partners cheated on, crimes committed, bitches made jealous, sprinkled with racist slurs.
The Rite had replaced March Madness as the masculine office pool obsession. The online voting was addictive, scrolling through picture after picture of human trash, string bikinis and confederate flags, piles of dollar bills spread out on hotel beds. More often than not the women nominated would leave furious comments on their nomination profiles, “I’m a good mama and you fuckers don’t know me!,” and then the comments would really pile on. Accounts from men whose dicks she had sucked, neighbors who had seen her kids run outside in the street without shoes every afternoon, sometimes smoking weed, pictures of her with a crack pipe on the coffee table, sex tapes, home addresses, phone numbers for corporate headquarters for the country to call in to get her fired.
The country voted and narrowed the pool down to twenty, and when the third week of April rolled around those women had lost whatever jobs and drug connections they had been holding down. They had all the time in the world and none of the money, so they always took the 5,000 dollars the network offered them to fly to Los Angeles and compete to be forgiven. Monday 5 were given, Tuesday 5 were forgiven, Wednesday 5 were forgiven, Thursday 3 were forgiven, Friday the remaining 2 begged to be forgiven in a 5 hour live broadcast. They were visited by past forgiven whores, who cried about the devil’s path they had been on and praised The Rite for setting them straight. We’d see segments of the children of the forgiven whores in their clean apartments, quietly doing homework, saying how pretty mommy was with so much less makeup and how men didn’t come by at all hours now. Except there might by in these segments one man, someone she met in church, regarded as saintly by the country for being able to live with the forgiven whore’s past.
On the Friday broadcast every person from the whores’ childhoods got to say their piece. The grandmothers who generously took them in until it was found out they were skipping school to be with older boyfriends, uncles who remembered them as sweet at 4 before they got wild at 12, the art teachers who believed their collages had had potential, even the neighborhood liquor store owner got to talk about how she had changed, fallen, slipping every year into a more animal-like state, partying and fighting and yelling and taking selfies as if there would never be a Day of Judgment, as if chickens don’t come home to roost.
Through the week, as they were confronted by Dr. Drew, Wendy Williams, Queen Latifah, Maury, Matt Lauer, Iyanla Vanzant, then Rene Brown, Sheryl Sanders, Ellen, Oprah, interviewed with concerned expressions, straight talked at in well lit living room sets, the whores would break down and the country would vote them off. They would go on to become staples of People magazine covers as they showed their struggles to become good mothers, keep their legs closed, stoke the kindling fires of their new found spirituality.
But the resistance was what drew the viewers in. Getting voted off Monday meant you were boring. The whores that were voted off Thursday were beloved for the fights they had put up and the spectacular tears when they broke. But Friday- the country doubted itself on Friday. Because on Friday one of the whores would be forgiven and the remaining whore would have to walk outside the studio by herself, with no security, and then it was a waiting game to see how long before someone killed her. Sometimes mobs of people, sometimes by Saturday morning, sometimes we waited as long as the following Tuesday. Many were hit by cars, one was hung from a tree, one had her head bashed in with a cinder block, one had been dragged behind a car for miles on a gravel road.
This year the final two were Shannon and Amy Maria. Shannon was 24, Amy Maria 27. Shannon had dishwater blonde hair and a lisp from a broken front tooth. She said terribly racist things to Iyanla and she had a son being raised by a lesbian couple who would need a home care worker all of his life. This was because Shannon had not truly believed she would continue to wake up each day while she was pregnant and when she would she would be so distraught to be alive that she immediately got loaded any way she could think of, and paid for those drugs with money collected any way she could think of. When Shannon was shown pictures of Brady, now 7, and heard the lesbian couple tell how he hoarded food and picked his skin and screamed at men and dogs and his teachers, Shannon was overcome with that she had done. She told Oprah, “I don’t want to live anymore, I can’t live with myself.”
Oprah said, “What about the other young women out there making the choices you made?”
Then Shannon was filled with spirit and purpose and vowed she’d find those women and be the voice of terrible experience, bringing them out of the darkness that had so long consumed her.