Growing up with a conservative single mother in a one-bedroom apartment, Darren Mallett seldom had enough privacy to explore his sexuality. Even when he did, he was reprimanded by his mother. After standing up to her in his senior year in high school, he was kicked out of the house, moved into his own apartment, and was finally able to come into his own.
My name is Darren Mallett.
I am from East Flatbush, Brooklyn.
My mother and I moved from Brooklyn to Tampa, Florida to escape New York.
We lived in a one bedroom apartment, so I came into my teenage years with my mom in
My mom is from Trinidad and Tobago so I grew up in a – some would say traditional, West
Indian – very strict, like the house had to be clean, very strict lifestyle.
We’d already discussed my attraction to the male body before and that was met with
my mother immediately bringing me to our knees and praying it out.
By the time I’m at 16, I am aware of my attraction, but I’m also like waiting for
Jesus to come back at any moment in the rapture.
And I was scared – every time I looked at a boy and I felt that little tinge, I would
– it was met with an immediate, like, I’m breaking the law of God.
I was studying musical theater at the performance high school that I was at in Tampa, Florida
and we were doing shows here and there.
And I finally got into a non-musical play and I was very excited about it.
The thing about it was I was also rebelling at home.
I went to the library and I took my mom’s debit card and I wanted to get on the Playgirl
website, and so, like, I ordered a month subscription of Playgirl.
Then, like, two weeks later my mom looked at her bill and she’s like, “Darren, what
And then I was like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about” kind of thing.
Because I’m 16, I’m lying to her but non-successfully.
But that kind of like drifted away.
It caused a strain between us and so I – my punishment was I was no longer allowed to
be in the school plays.
I snuck and auditioned anyway for the play and I got cast in a Kurt Vonnagut kind of
I invited my father who lived in Brooklyn to come to Tampa and see his son in this play.
Around time for the play to open, my mom and I have a conversation about – she says something
like, “We’re going away in two weeks for a weekend trip.”
And I was like, “Okay, what are the dates?”
She tells me the dates and I was like, “I can’t go.
Mom, I am in the school play.
And I am going to be in it and my father is coming to see it.”
And I looked at my mom and I said, “Mom, I’m gonna do what I want to do when I want
to do it and how I want to do it.”
And them my mom was like, “Then you can go live with your father in New York.
You have until December 2001 to organize your things and get out of this house.”
For the next few months I would go to school, I will go to rehearsal and I would come back
and go through my phone book and call all my friends and be like, “Hey, I’m in a situation.
Can I stay with you for a few weeks?”
And I remember particularly one phone call which was very, very strange is when I called
my father and I was like, “Here’s the situation.
Can I – is there room for me in Brooklyn?”
And he was like, “I got these two – I got my two babies, I got my two daughters.
There is – we don’t have room.”
I told my dad I was working and I had some money saved up.
And he was like “Okay, I’m going to do my best.”
And what I did is – going back to my mother, I was like, “Okay, I’m on my way to Brooklyn
and I’m going to live with Dad.”
And she like dropped me off somewhere and I ended up finding my way back to a nextdoor
neighbor in the same apartment complex that we were at, and I lived 2 buildings down from
my mom for about 4 months while I figured it out with my dad.
I finally worked some things out with my father so that he was able to help me get my own
apartment in Tampa so that I can stay in Tampa and finish my senior year at school.
The porn thing continued and I used to just like – the moment I turned 18, I would walk
over to, like, this porn shop and, like, buy VCR tapes.
And I was so sheltered that I used to just watch the VCR tapes and not even touch myself
because I never masturbated.
I never did anything and I would just be in this two bedroom apartment alone just watching
porn and just like learning about this through visual images.
There was this one cute little guy from Puerto Rico and I was, like, kind of flirting with
him in high school.
He was kind of – we were in the shows together, we would dance and all of that.
And he came over one night.
I would do a little bit of this and he would do a little bit of that.
And then at one point, he was like, “Let me finish you.”
And I knew what that meant because I was watching all this porn.
And I was like, “No!”
And I stopped the entire thing because I was still really caught up in whatever an ejaculation
or orgasm would be.
It felt too soon.
A few weeks later, it’s prom.
Everyone’s there at my apartment because I’m the guy in senior year who has his own apartment.
So it’s going down, right, but it’s not going down because I haven’t even masturbated.
So we’re in the apartment and I’m, like, doing rules like you guys can’t drink or smoke
So the party ends pretty soon because everyone trying to – it’s prom night.
So I’m here alone and I decide to watch The Best – The Best Man with Taye Diggs and Nia
There’s a scene about in the second act when Taye Diggs is in, like, the bath tub by himself.
And I’ll whip it out and I go for it.
And I came the first time by myself on prom right!
But Taye Diggs was so hot.
For the rest of senior year, like, I would be like in math class or in, like, literature
and and then the thought would occur to me: I can orgasm tonight when I get home!
Eventually senior year comes, we graduate, kiss kiss, hug hug.
I move back to Brooklyn and I kind of like start my twenties and it was really in my
twenties that’s when I – being here in New York – that I had a series of adventures to
where I can really come into my own.
But it was my mom kicking me out – or asking me to leave – inviting my dad to step into
And it was in those times alone, those alone times that I was able to come into my independence
and come into my sexuality a bit more.
No one can accept you until you accept you, right?
So… it’s tough because sometimes you are the only motherfucker wanting what you want.
Sometimes they call it a kink.
So be it.
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
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