At the beginning of the film The Closet, a photo is being taken of all the people working at this firm and the photographer keeps asking everyone to move in more tightly in order to get everyone in the picture. Eventually, one man , Francois, just steps out of the picture, revealing his ” non-existent” personality, and the photo is taken. Shortly after, we learn that this man whose personality is incredibly bland, will be fired. Not only is he ignored by the employees and management, his son refuses to see him also. Extremely depressed, he considers suicide. However, a psychologist who lives in the same building, interrupted his suicidal attempt and told him how to get his job back: he must pretend he is homosexual.
When a photo of him dressed for a homosexual party is mysteriously passed around the office, the employees are soon regarding him no longer as a boring person but someone who has been leading a rather daring, private life. And he is employed again since the boss didn’t want to look politically incorrect and fire a homosexual!
There were many humorous situations as one of the employees who was “homophobic” has been ordered to befriend this “homosexual” so that now he won’t be fired!
What I found fascinating was how this timid man became more assertive even approaching the boss to defend his manager. He became more mentally tough since he didn’t step out of his homosexual role even after he was beaten by some men because they thought he was gay. His son wanted to see him again because he began thinking his father was a more interesting person than he thought!
After I watched this film, I began to wonder if many people like to travel because they can pretend to be someone other than what they are at home. Is it possible to be quiet and shy at home and be gregarious and verbose when travelling? I speculate that this is possible only if we are travelling alone and not with people we know since we would be hindered by what others typically expect us to do.
And yet, if we follow life coachs’ instructions to make a list of the type of character qualities we would like to possess, travelling may still be a perfect opportunity to practice those qualities. Where else would you be placed in a variety of situations in a short period of time to practice character-building qualities? A typical list of qualities would probably include being assertive, patient, observant, relaxed, adaptable, and happy. It just takes one day of being jet lagged, hungry and lost to necessitate applying those qualities!
Unfortunately, rather than allowing travelling to transform us, too many people allow traveling merely to reveal their weaknesses. If a person is already impatient, you can assume she is the person losing her temper with a sales lady who has been too slow serving her. If she is intolerant, she is the one insisting that her salad be served first rather than after her entree. If she is not flexible, she is the one shouting at the hotel clerk when she discovers that her room only has a shower and not a bath.
In the movie The Closet, the film concludes with the yearly photo outside. This time when the photographer is trying to get everyone into his frame, our hero does not allow himself to be pushed out of the photo. Our hero must have embraced Cary Grant’s comment about transformation: “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until finally I became that person. Or he became me.”
Perhaps, whenever we travel, we need to ask ourselves, “Who do I want to pretend to be on this trip?” I know I am not like Cary Grant whose comment infers that he met his goal of becoming the person he pretended to be. The problem is that age and circumstances continually challenge my transformation. My husband and I have been discussing how we keep seeing people as they get older become intolerant, impatient and quick to anger. As we are now becoming that older person, I need to challenge myself on our trip to practice tolerance, patience and humour!
I know that my greatest weakness is requiring a very clean and presentable place to stay in when I am traveling. Can I pretend to be adaptable in this area and respond accordingly if I am disappointed by our rented apartment. I imagine myself entering our rented apartment taken aback by how small it is. I walk into this bachelor suite and notice that our kitchen table must be unfolded each time we use it, that any bread crumbs that slip onto the floor is right beside our bed so that quickly we will have bread crumbs inside our sheets. I walk into the bathroom and gasp as I see black mold in the shower. As I look at this dreary room, I wonder what we missed when we saw these photos on the internet. However, rather than cast blame on anyone or cry and wish I was back home, I remember that traveling is an opportunity to develop character and so I swallow hard and begin to laugh! And as I imagine this scenario, my inner voice is saying, “Please don’t let this really happen!!” Apparently, I need a lot more practice pretending to be someone different than me!!