The Oh S#@* Moment

Nearly five years ago (on March 28, 2010), the husband and I decided to move to England.

We sold most of our things, quit our jobs, bought one-way tickets and then got on a plane and travelled the 7,573 kilometers from Vancouver, British Columbia to London, England.

We arrived to London Heathrow jet-lagged, irritable, and slightly buzzed from the free wine (thank you British Airways). My wonderful friend Erin picked us up from the airport and delivered us to our temporary accommodations in Windsor, Berkshire. We immediately collapsed in a heap and slept for 12 hours.

The next morning, the husband and I decided we needed some fresh air, so we took a walk into town.

I remember the specific moment…

We were walking along Thames Street in Windsor when we spotted a store called TK Maxx (not to be confused with TJ Maxx, which is pretty much the same, except different). We were both in need of some socks and underwear (we packed light), so we decided to go have a tickety boo. The men’s department was downstairs so the husband said he’d go have a look around and find me in a few minutes.

As I looked through the assortment of ladies “knickers”, it hit me…

I was like, “Oh S#@*!”

We had just moved to England… We had left our friends, and family, and friends that are just like family, and our favorite pizza place, and our favorite pannekoek house, and our favorite place to watch birds, and our jobs, and our home behind. I nearly fainted. I had to grab onto a nearby rack to support me. When my legs stopped shaking, I went and found the husband, who told me that he had had a similar response. We immediately went and had a cocktail.

We lived in England for three years, and had the time of our lives. We made new friends, we travelled to amazing European destinations, we took walks in the country, we drank ale in quaint little pubs, and we learned a lot about ourselves, and each other.

Three years later, a work opportunity arose in Los Angeles and we decided to go.

We sold most of our things, quit our jobs, bought one-way tickets and then got on a plane and travelled the 8,766 kilometers from London, England to Los Angeles, California.

We arrived to LAX jet-lagged, irritable, and slightly buzzed from the free wine (thank you Alaska Air). We picked up our rental car, drove to our temporary accommodations, and promptly fell asleep.

The next morning, I turned on our TV and watched as a local weatherman pointed to a map of California, and presented the forecast…

I was like, “Oh S#@*!”

We had moved to Los Angeles… We had left our friends, and friends that are just like family, and our favorite Indian takeaway, and our favorite pub, and our favorite place to watch birds, and our jobs, and our home behind.

We have lived in LA for two years, and we are enjoying it immensely. We’ve made new friends, we’ve travelled to amazing American destinations, we’ve taken walks on the beach, and we’ve learned a lot about ourselves, and each other.

There are defining moments in your life.,, Moments when you decide to take a BIG risk…

Like when you tell someone you love them.

Or quit your job to start your own business.

Or go back to school.

Or get married.

Or have a baby.

Or buy a house.

Or buy a trampoline!

Or move to the other side of the world.

You cross your fingers, and you pray a little pray, and you hope a little hope… and then you jump in feet first.

And yes, you might say, “Oh S#@*!” but Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all (Helen Keller).

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The Reciprocation

I don’t know if you believe in God… But I do.

God has repeatedly saved me from getting what I wanted, or thought that I wanted – more specifically, guys that I thought I wanted to marry (see last week’s post about almost getting married at 18).

In my teens and early twenties, I met a lot of men (as you do), and I developed very strong feelings for many of them (as you do), and sometimes it was reciprocated, and sometimes it wasn’t.

When it was not reciprocated, I’d be really, really sad… I’d sit in my room listening to sad music, and I’d wonder what was wrong with me, and I’d tell myself this was definitely the guy and I’d never forget him, and most of the time (within a week or so) I’d forget him.

And: I feel happy about that now (thankful even) because I did not get what I wanted, or what I thought I wanted.

Imagine if I had gotten what I wanted when I was 15…

I’d be living in a trailer down by the river with way too many kids and my boyfriend of twenty years (he has a “fear of commitment”) would be too busy working on trucks and smoking cigarettes in his “man cave” to notice that I’m high on prescription drugs most of the time. I’d spend my days staring at the stippled ceiling, wishing that I went off to college, and travelled the world, and met new people, and learned another language, and wasn’t stuck making chilli on a tiny, trailer-sized hot plate every night.

I think I dodged a bullet there.

Sometimes it’s much, much better to not get what you want (or what you thought you wanted).

So, thanks God (and also: thanks to my Mom and Dad, whose combined genetic code meant that I was definitely not the most popular/attractive/fashionable girl in the world, or in the immediate vicinity*, and was therefore not subject to a lot of reciprocated strong feelings).

(Sorry Eddie Vedder, I’m sure you’re a really great guy, but what with all the touring and practicing and late nights and being a rock star, and me being fifteen years younger than you and enjoying quiet nights at home, I’m not sure that it would have ever worked out for us…)

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* If you know my parents, you know that they are both incredibly good-looking, but their combined genetic code did not produce similar results.

I’m of the opinion that when two really good-looking people reproduce, they often achieve disappointing results (ie. a plain or homely child). Whereas, when two hideously ugly people (or: one hideous beast and one average-looking person) reproduce it often results in a good-looking child.

The Purse

I had my first real boyfriend in my first year of college. His name was Eric, and he was admittedly, a little bit weird.

Our relationship was based mostly around making out with occasional, infrequent conversations about the meaning of life (just kidding – we talked about what happened on Friends and the weather).

At one point, while making out, we came up for air and he said he wanted to marry me (yes, I am that good of a kisser).

I was 18 year-old, and I remember considering it.

I remember thinking to myself: “I’m totally ready for this. I’m 18 years-old. I already know everything. I am totally ready to be someone’s wife. I’m going to be such a good wife. I’ve seen my mom be a wife, and it looks super easy. You just have to cook a big meal on Sundays. It’s not hard, at all. You just have to wear a ring and not have sex with anyone else… That’s easy. I kind of like this guy too. I should totally get married. I love weddings. Also – he has a car, and I need a car.”

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it totally does.

I remember Eric going home for the weekend… (This was before the days of texting and sexting – so we were incommunicado), and when he got back to the dorms on Sunday night, we ran into each other’s arms like he had been in Iraq for a year-and-a-half.

After we made out in the hallway for at least eight minutes, we pulled apart and Eric excitedly presented me with a wrapped gift. It was my first real present from a “boyfriend” (which was a pretty big deal for me at the time)…

I ripped off the paper and saw it… A leather, patchwork purse.

It looked a lot like this:

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(I should note: I’ve never been able to fake excitement – which is probably why I never got into acting or sales. I am honest, to a fault. Meaning, I tell the truth no matter what. Meaning, I have offended some (many) with my honesty. Meaning, Christmas at my house is a lot of “oh”, and then asking for the gift receipt.)

I remember thanking Eric, and trying to find something nice to say about it.

I also remember thinking: He doesn’t get me.

I remember thinking that I should probably base a relationship on more than just passionate neck-biting… I should probably find someone that I am genuinely interested in, and who is interested in me… I should probably find someone who shares my sense of humor… I should probably find someone who pushes me to be better… I should probably find someone who wants the same things that I want… I should probably find someone who is also my best friend... I should probably find someone who gets me

And, guess what? I did.

 

The Backstory

I have a habit…

(Some would say that it’s an annoying habit…)

When I see someone (which is almost every day), I immediately formulate a backstory – who they are, what they are doing, where did they come from, why are they so tanned…?

Which is exactly what I did with these two guys at Kits Pool many, many moons ago… (118 to be exact)

I think the fellow to the left (I feel like his name is Javier) is upset at the fellow trailing behind him (definitely a Rodrigo). Rodrigo “forgot” to bring Javier a towel. Javier specifically asked Rodrigo to bring him a towel, but Rodrigo had other things on his mind… specifically, Javier’s wife Gloria.

Javier and Rodrigo first met in España, in the 1970s, when they were both working as swimsuit models for fashion house Blanco. On June 21, 1975, Javier and Rodrigo were eating bull’s tail stew and Patatas Alioli at a little tapas bar in Barcelona, when Rodrigo looked up and saw her… Gloria… She flamencoed into his heart, but before Rodrigo could confess his love, Javier swooped in with promises of a better life… For 40 years Rodrigo has yearned for her… How is he supposed to remember to bring a beach towel?

I think you get the picture…

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I took this picture at Kits Pool in Vancouver, 2003.

The Alarm

There is so much to this story… So much.

There was the alarm, of course (hence the title).

There was the fact that it was New Year’s Eve.

There was the fact that we had been consuming alcoholic beverages for most of the afternoon and evening.

There was the fact that we were backstage at the O2 arena in London, En-GLAND.

And, oh yeah… Elton John was there. You know… the English singer, songwriter, composer, pianist, producer, philanthropist, and Knight… Yeah, that guy.

I digress…

In December 2009, my husband and I went to En-GLAND to visit my long-time friend (let’s call her Erin. because that’s her name). Erin lives in a sweet, little village in Suffolk with her En-GLISH husband and their small child.

(I should note: Erin spoils us. She is a fantastic cook, she likes to have fun, she is an easy laugh*, and she has been known to put a mini fridge full of cocktails in the guest bedroom… In other words, she is the perfect host.)

(I should also note: This all took place before we lived in En-GLAND for three years so we didn’t know how things worked… ie. healthcare, TV licenses, and toilets…)

Because Erin is a wonderful, thoughtful human being, and because her husband happens to work at the O2, she went ahead and got us tickets for Elton John’s New Year’s Eve concert. We were so excited. I mean, who doesn’t like Elton John?!?! (Answer: homophobes.)

The day of the concert arrived, and because there was a mini fridge full of cocktails in our room, and because it was New Year’s Eve, and because you only live once… We were celebrating.

Erin’s husband was the designated driver, and we (me, my husband, and Erin) were the designated drinkers.

It takes about an hour and a half to get from Erin’s house to the O2, and because it’s legal for passengers to drink alcohol whilst travelling in a motor vehicle (as far as I know… please don’t quote me on that), we arrived to the O2 feeling slightly tipsy and in desperate need of a toilet. Erin’s husband parked in the employee parking lot and ushered us to the nearest washroom.

This is where it gets interesting (sorry for all the boring bits leading up to this).

My dear husband went to use the restroom first.

Erin and I were waiting patiently (even though our bladders were about to burst), when suddenly an alarm went off… Security lights started flashing and a siren blasted through the corridors. I banged on the door, yelling to my husband that we needed to vacate the premises.

As my husband exited the bathroom, a security guard rushed over and asked if everything was okay. My husband shrugged and said, “yeah.”

The security guard said that the alarm was pulled inside the restroom…

So, yeah… my husband mistakenly pulled the emergency pull cord instead of flushing the toilet, and now an alarm was going off throughout the O2 arena.

…Right as Elton John was about to take the stage for his New Year’s Eve concert.

(In my husband’s defence, there are a lot of different ways to flush a toilet in En-GLAND, and many toilets do have a pull cord or a chain or a string, and it can get very confusing.)

I imagine Elton John was backstage singing, “Hold me closer, Tony Danza”, when the alarm went off… His handlers rushed in and escorted him outside to safety… Elton shivered in the cold, damp British winter for several minutes before security said he could return inside… But by then, Elton was angry and demanded to know who was responsible…. And, after checking the CCTV footage, Elton vowed his revenge upon us…**

I digress.

The security guard quickly deactivated the alarm and (after my husband made his apologies and we all had hearty laugh about the differences in plumbing in Canada and En-GLAND), the show went on… Elton was spectacular.

And I think we all learned a lesson that day***.

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* My favorite kind of people.

** We’re still waiting for Elton’s revenge.

*** Although, to be honest – I’m not sure what.

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The Ice Machine

I love my sister all the time.

Yes, there have been times when I have loved my sister a little bit less… like, when she pulled my hair and pinched me and scratched me with her surprisingly long, sharp fingernails daily for the first fourteen years of my life. And, when she cut my hair while I slept. And, when she convinced me (more than once) to trade all of my Halloween candy for what’s behind door #1 (fruit). And, when threatened to throw me down a well like Baby Jessica… Those were some of the times when I loved my sister a little bit less.

But there was one time when I loved my sister a little bit more: September 25, 2009.

I should mention… I love Pearl Jam. The band; not the jam made of pearls (is there such a thing?). I’m not mentioning my love of Pearl Jam just because I can (although I do like to do that), I’m mentioning it because it’s an important part of the story.

My sister and I have a shared love of Pearl Jam, which began in our formative years (early 1990s) and has lasted well into adulthood. We have attended several concerts together, and consider ourselves fans (I don’t mean the instrument that produces a current of air… I mean: admirers, supporters). We enjoy Pearl Jam’s music, and we admire the band’s talent and artistry. It obviously has nothing to do with the fact that Eddie Vedder is a handsome hunk of a man, with an impassioned, rousing vocal quality.

I digress.

My sister’s friend (we’ll call her Paula) worked at a very nice hotel in downtown Vancouver. The night of the concert, Paula arranged a hotel room for my sister and her husband, and offered to baby-sit their children. My sister hadn’t been away from her children in a very long time, and she was very excited.

The night of the concert my sister and her husband picked us up and we all headed downtown together. My sister suggested that we stop by their room for a pre-show cocktail. (Who’s going to turn down a pre-show cocktail?)

When we arrived to the room, there was an envelope on the table. My sister opened it, read it, fell to her knees, and started screaming. I took the card from her, read it, fell to my knees, and started screaming. Our husbands both looked at us like we were crazy.

The card was from Paula and it read: Hi Michelle, I hope you enjoy your stay, and I hope you enjoy sharing a floor with your favorite band. 

My sister and I immediately went to get ice from the machine down the hall, hoping to bump into Stone, Jeff, Mike, Matt, or bump into Eddie. I knew just what I would say: “Oh, hey Eddie. You like ice? I like ice too.”

Our husbands kept trying to get us to come back to the room, but we kept needing more ice. Eventually, our husbands convinced us to go to the concert, so we went. And, it was a fantastic concert (music, lights, band, etc.).

My sister suggested we have a post-show cocktail at the hotel bar. (Who’s going to turn down a post-show cocktail?) As we sat in the hotel bar, I told my sister that I needed to use the washroom. She pointed me to the lobby washroom, but I said that I would really feel more comfortable using the bathroom in their room. My sister said she completely understood and that she would accompany me to the room.

My sister and I made several more trips to the ice machine, eavesdropped at a few doors, analyzed room service trays, laughed so hard we cried, and then returned to our tolerant husbands at the bar.

Here’s why I loved my sister a little bit more:

My sister is a cool, collected (not to mention brilliant) mother of three children and a pillar of her community. Her hobbies include knitting, gardening, and watching historical dramas.

In other words, she doesn’t seem like the kind of person who would go get ice eleven times, head-bang at a rock concert, snort with laughter, and make a sign for her car that says: “Honk if you’re going to Pearl Jam”.

I realized that night: September 25, 2009, that my sister is a juxtaposition, an enigma: a mystery wrapped in a riddle. And that’s why I love her.

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The Fleas

I consider myself to be a fairly neat and tidy individual.

Some people might say that I’m obsessively neat and tidy, and they would be wrong.

(They might be trying to compensate for their own home being dirty and disorganized. Because if someone prefers a dirty, disorganized home (or: are too lazy and apathetic to do anything about their dirty, disorganized home), it’s really just a preference isn’t it? I prefer to have my home neat and tidy. They prefer to have their home dirty and disorganized. Neither is right, neither is wrong. It’s just two ways of doing things.)

However, saying that… If it is wrong to be neat and tidy, I don’t want to be right.

There are many reasons to keep your home neat and tidy: the ability to find keys and phone, disease prevention, unannounced visitors, etc.

And, of course when I say, “unannounced visitors”, I don’t just mean your next-door neighbor who wants to share his smoked sausage with you. I mean: pests, bugs, insects, and fleas.

When I even think of the word, I start scratching.

And when I think of a particular French château in the Parisian countryside, I also start scratching.

Let me set the scene for you…

A French château in the Parisian countryside (yes, the same one)…

A friend of a friend of a friend had a massive four-story château that was going to sit empty all summer, and they offered us a week’s stay. The husband and I were living in London at the time, and the Parisian countryside was really just a hop, skip and jump away (more like: a 2-hour flight, a 1-hour subway journey, a 45-minutes bus ride, a 1-hour train trip, and then a lengthy walk, uphill), so we said, “oui”!

As we arrived to the estate, our jaws dropped. The property was gargantuan, with it’s own lake and it’s own forest of trees, and the entire perimeter surrounded by a two-story brick wall.

The château itself was: fabuleusement énorme avec une grande façade et pittoresques petits volets . Ce est exactement la façon dont vous vous imaginez un véritable château.

We opened the door, already in awe. The interior was traditionally decorated with grand, high ceilings, marble floors, and classical furnishings. It had ten bedrooms, seven bathrooms, four sitting rooms, two elegant dining rooms, and a library. It was, in a word: magnifique!

We felt so lucky to be there… That is, until we stopped feeling so lucky to be there… Until we began scratching our legs until they bled.

The husband and I lasted three sleepless, flea-infested nights at the château before we packed it in.

You see, the French are… (how can I say this delicately?)… Pas pris la peine de la propreté (not bothered with cleanliness). They have other things on their mind, like: croissants, berets, bureaucracy, and being arrogant.

The French have a preference, and their preference is being dirty and disorganized. So they shouldn’t be surprised when unannounced visitors arrive.

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We left the château, depressed and defeated. Lucky for us, our wonderful friends were in Normandy and invited us to come stay. We visited the Mont Saint-Michel, we ate cheese with mites in the rind (mimolette), we went to a weird folk festival, we ate a croissant-baguette, we played German board games, and we shot-gunned probiotic drinks. The trip was saved, and we left France older, wiser, and sans fleas.


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The Pictures

One of my favourite things in this wonderful world is taking a picture of someone posing for a picture. To clarify, I don’t mean taking a picture of someone posing for me. I mean, a picture of someone posing for someone else.

Like this:

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And this:

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I also really like taking pictures of people taking pictures…

Like this:

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And this:

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I’m also a big fan of taking pictures of people posing for a picture and the people taking the picture.

Like this:

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And this:

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I also like taking pictures of people carrying around their photography equipment.

Like this:

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As my favorite fictional fireball Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Make sure you stop and look around once in a while. You don’t want to miss it.

 

 

 

 

The Writer

I was getting my taxes done last week and my accountant Morty asked me a question: “Are you really a writer, or is it more like a hobby?”

I can understand his position. He has signed the accountant’s pledge of honesty, and he is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of a person’s state and federal tax return. I’m sure there are a lot of people coming into H & R Block claiming to be a writer, when they’re really just taking BuzzFeed quizzes all day.

That’s not me!

(Not to say I don’t occasionally take BuzzFeed quizzes… A person would have to be a heartless, humorless fiend not to enjoy their quizzes!)

But I’m definitely not one of those people. I might take one quiz a day (FYI: today was Which Portlandia Character Are You?), but then I’m right back to work, writing this blog, screenplays, short stories, sketches, the occasional joke, hilarious tweets, thought-provoking emails, and of course, my book OH NO YOU DIDN’T, which is now available on Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukand Amazon.ca.

(FYI: I’m Nance.)

Oh, and I write for at least 30-40 hours a week. I take writing and improvisation classes. I go to networking events. I subscribe to magazines that have more words than pictures. I sit in an office chair for most of the day. I’ve written 212 blog posts. I have a Master’s Degree in Screenwriting. I wear black-framed glasses.

So yeah Morty, I’m a real writer!

#boom

#writer

#Morty

#hashtag

 

The Handsome Woman (and, That Time I Met Elijah Wood)

I’ve been called a lot of things… a lot: dependable, trustworthy, warmhearted, a good friend, inappropriate, elfin, and of course, comely*…

I was recently told that I am a “handsome woman”.

Initially, I took it as an insult… “Handsome” isn’t a word often used to describe a woman, and I mistakenly thought it implied something masculine. And while I’m definitely not very concerned with nail art and eye shadow palettes, I’m still a woman (I checked).

The Urban Dictionary** defines a “handsome woman” as:

A woman with the kind of refined beauty and attractiveness that requires poise, dignity, and strength of mind and character […] Usually applied to a woman who is also very well-groomed and from an upper class background.”

Who am I to argue with the Urban Dictionary**?!?!?

One google search of “handsome woman” reveals that I am in very good company: Sigourney Weaver, Katherine Hepburn, Uma Thurman, Anjelica Huston, Beyoncé, Scarlett Johansson, and my personal hero, comedy legend and all-around badass, the sadly deceased Bea Arthur.

And if that is the definition of a “handsome woman”, then I’m definitely going to need to send a note of apology to my Auntie Linda.

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* Oh, I’ve been called “comely” a time or two. Okay, just the once. But it was in a national newspaper… My co-workers at Opus can attest to the validity of this story:

The year was 2002. The month was April. I was living in Vancouver, and working at an art supply store. It was the best job I ever had: we were all in our early 20s, we were all friends, we all hung out all the time, and there was the occasional “snog” in the paper room during business hours.

Anyhoo, one night a bunch of us went out to The Pic Pub. The Von Bondies were playing. I had downed a few pints of Strongbow cider when I saw him: Elijah.

Elijah Wood, by then ultra-famous for Lord of the Rings, was in town shooting the movie Try Seventeen. He went and sat at a table with his co-star and then-girlfriend Franka Potente, and another older woman.

I nudged my friend Eleanor, who was next to me at the bar, and whispered: “Frodo”. And Eleanor being Eleanor, dared me to go speak to him.

Well, if you knew me back then, you know that I rarely let a day go by without acting on a dare…

I downed the last of my cider and walked right over to Elijah. I told him that I loved Lord of the Rings (a lie) and that I was a fan (I had watched Flipper).

Elijah was (and I’m sure he still is) the sweetest guy ever. He invited me to sit down with him, Franka and the older lady. I don’t remember that much (I was a few beverages in), but I remember him introducing me to Franka and the older lady, and then asking me where I was from. We had a very nice chat, which included me providing information about the maintenance and care of llamas. I also remember him touching my arm (I haven’t washed it since).

After approximately 15 minutes of delightful conversation, I excused myself, thanked him for being wonderful, returned to the bar, and high-fived Eleanor.

As Wood exited the bar a short while later, he stopped to say good-bye. If I wasn’t in love with Elijah before (and who wouldn’t be? Have you seen his gorgeous face?), I certainly was now!

A few days later, whilst at work, Eleanor came up to me waving a copy of the Toronto Star. She held it out to me and told me to read it:

“Ah, springtime in the Rockies. when a young man’s fancy turns to a fancy young woman. In the case of Elijah Wood, it is Run Lola Run’s Franka Potente. And whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.

The duo is co-starring in the romantic comedy Try Seventeen, currently lensing in Vancouver. Last weekend, Wood and Potente were in major lip-lock during a Von Bondies concert.

And when a comely femme fan came up to gush over Wood, Potente was mighty peeved. She went from kissy to hissy.”

And that’s the time that I was called “comely”… by a national newspaper.

A few things to note:

I did not “gush” over Wood. I definitely displayed poise, dignity, and strength of mind and character. I would have loved to kiss off his gorgeous face – but I kept it classy!

Yes, Potente did go from “kissy to hissy”. Perhaps she was intimated by such a handsome woman?

** A well-respected online dictionary of words and phrases.