Today’s deep dive is with Polly, from Bottomless Waitress! Bottomless Waitress is the joint creation of Banes and Ozoneocean, with Banes writing the script and Ozoneocean doing the artwork.
It's a teasing, raunchy and somewhat absurd slice-of-life comedy. It’s a masterful balancing act, dancing carefree on the narrow fence of sexual and potentially offensive and wholesome and funny, and manages to come across as wholesome rather than offensive and spicy rather than crass or explicit. Just for that feat alone you should all go read it right now! Banes’ writing and Oz’s art mesh together really well, in an art style that fits the material and is a joy to read and look at!
But what is Bottomless Waitress about?
It’s about the stories of three waitresses, Polly, Jane, and Francis, and their lives as they clock in to work at their diner every day. The one bizarre thing nobody talks about but is right in your face? They are …bottomless! Their classic diner uniform lacks a bottom, so you can see their bottom.
Have I said bottom enough yet?
Nobody, however, ever mentions or acts on the fact that they are without pants or skirts or underwear. The story would literally be exactly the same in terms of plot and behavior if the ladies were fully clothed. There are zero interactions in the comic where their …bottomlessness… as it is, becomes an issue or seems to be even acknowledged as unusual or problematic or a thing. It is instead, I would say, a 4th wall break in that the only one intended to be titillated or scandalized or pay attention to the bottoms in the breeze is the reader, rather than the diner’s patrons or anyone else!
You’d expect jealous contenders to try and slut shame her or something, but nope! Bottom is invisible
That’s why for this deep dive into Polly, one of the three ladies and arguably perhaps the main protagonist, I won’t be taking their partial nudity into account for any of the speculations and assessments I make on her character’s behaviors.
This got longwinded already so let’s plunge in!
Basic Character Design
Polly is a tall, fiery redhead, with lush big hair that cascades to her back and large green eyes. She’s quite thin, perhaps lanky even. She is also, by my estimation, probably pushing 40.
I assume Craig is somewhere in the ballpark of 17 to 19 at best, so double that, etc.
What we know of Polly is simply that she considers herself stranded in the small town that the diner is probably nearby, after her boyfriend broke up with her and abandoned her there. This is important, so keep in mind that entire setup for later. We don’t get any other information about her family or upbringing. We also know that she’s currently single and it’s very likely that out of the three ladies, she’s the oldest, probably by a fair chunk of years (I get the idea that Jane and Francis are somewhere in their twenties at the most). We also know she smokes.
Personality wise, Polly comes across as a gruff but caring person. She can have a scathing tongue at times, and she does get most, if not all, of the sarcastic lines. That said, she is quite protective of Jane and Francis, eager to help them along in their endeavors.
She also is not above trolling or teasing, as we often see with Craig, the young man who does some kind of janitorial work at the diner. Polly strikes me as the type of person who flares up in anger easily and then calms down and moves on from that anger equally easily. Whether she forgives or forgets is a different matter and depends on the situation.
Polly’s psych scan
Though you may think otherwise at first glance, given that Polly does behave in superficially confident ways and holds the leader’s position among the three ladies of the diner, what stood out to me from the get-go in this analysis is her deep emotional insecurity.
Polly is suffering from unresolved chronic emotional trauma: her boyfriend broke up with her in some manner that was deceitful and traumatizing to such an extent that not only has she stayed single ever since (it seems), but she has also remained in the small, remote town. In essence, Polly has withdrawn from as many social interactions as possible.
This may seem contradictory, considering she holds a job that requires her to talk with quite a few people passing through (the diner must be a stop for truckers) but it makes sense. I’m inclined to think that naturally Polly is an extrovert, but she is currently afraid of relating to people. The diner offers her the ability to have superficial and therefore safe, interactions with strangers or acquaintances without needing to become more intimate with them in any way (becoming a friend is also a higher level of intimacy than just an acquaintance).
The professional setting of the diner is also providing her with a safe format of social interaction that she can navigate and find controllable and predictable- all things necessary to ease her insecurity and her need to keep people at a safe distance while still interacting with them.
Oh, and in this town, she has very little chance of needing to be emotionally involved with a man again, even if she attempts it.
“But wait!” you may say, “she has a meaningful friendship with the other girls!”
That’s right she does. She is fiercely loyal, she is emotionally close to them (definitely with Jane), and she has a salient, meaningful interaction with them that implies that there is real friendship between her and the other two.
However, consider that both Jane and Francis are a lot younger than her. Polly behaves a lot more like their mom or older sister rather than their friend on equal standing:
And that’s natural in that Polly is a lot more experienced than the other ladies (Francis may be younger than Jane, too!). The inexperience of the girls makes them safe for Polly. Safe in that they’re a lot less likely to cause her emotional harm or successfully deceive her: they’re more likely to be looking up to her, to be reliant on her experience, and to show her a modicum of respect just on sheer age difference alone. On the flipside, it’s a lot easier to handle an aggressive younger person (in an argument) as a rule, since an older person’s word has more weight than a younger’s in our society.
It is also a boost of confidence to be the leader and protector of younger people, and Polly needs all the confidence boost she can get… which brings me back to the first statement I made about her- she’s deeply, dysfunctionally insecure. And that insecurity leads her down paths she regrets.
So let’s look into that a little more!
Polly’s insecurity and emotional trauma
The thing is, I think Polly’s personality does not involve innate insecurity. It’s quite possible that even the anger bouts and the snarkiness aren’t traits that she has always had. My impression is that it looks like this is her typical, standard personality because she’s been suffering from emotional trauma for 20 years. And everyone who knows her now, knows her with her trauma rather than without it.
I think what Polly’s developmental line involves is an extrovert with high levels of trust when she was around Jane’s age. Then her trauma happened (the boyfriend breaking up in such a damaging fashion) and she received little to no help with that.
When emotional trauma goes untreated, it doesn’t go away. Rather, it becomes the source of drastic behavioral and cognitive changes in the person. And that is the natural result, because just like the body tries to scab over a wound, so does the mind seek to mitigate the negative impact and recover from emotional trauma.
The problem with this process is that while it is possible for an individual to recover from trauma on their own without professional assistance, it is extremely unlikely.
Think of a broken leg that is never reset. It will heal somehow but how optimistic are you that it will heal properly? Do you think the healed but unset leg will look the same, be able to support the same weight, or have the same functionality as one that has healed after being properly reset?
It's exactly the same for emotional trauma. People need help to reset their emotions and their thoughts so that they can have an adaptive, functional healing process and come out of the trauma intact and/or stronger as individuals and personalities.
Emotional trauma can even cause conditions such as PTSD. But even if the individual (such as is the case of Polly here) doesn’t develop full blown PTSD, untreated trauma has a high risk of inducing a lot of the following. Let’s put a checkmark to everything Polly has manifested from the long-term effects:
Chronic pain check (she thinks it’s due to age, she’s not that old)
Substance abuse and addiction check (she smokes)
Increased risk of self-harm and suicide
Social isolation check
Physical health conditions
Relationship problems check
Lifelong effects of trauma can be devastating and may include difficulties in establishing and maintaining healthy relationships, employment, and overall life satisfaction. check, check (assuming being a diner waitress wasn’t her original job before she passed through the town with her boyfriend), and check
Needless to say, she checks a lot of the boxes of the short term effects too, but this deep dive is already getting to long so I have to pick what to highlight XD
Now that we’ve seen the effects of emotional trauma in general, let’s also talk about the impact of betrayal as emotional trauma, which is what Polly is specifically suffering from.
Here’s what I think Polly consistently manifests from a pretty inclusive list you can read in the article I linked to:
difficulty controlling emotions
intrusive thoughts about affair details
loss of faith in others
suspicion and hypervigilance (doesn’t matter if she was right about Jane’s boyfriend, she had no behavioral pattern to base her suspicions of him on that she could identify)
THIS IS A SPOILER. IF YOU DON’T LIKE SPOILERS, SKIP THIS SECTION OR GO READ BOTTOMLESS WAITRESS NOW AND COME BACK AFTER.
The combination of emotional trauma and the insecurity that couples it- Polly doesn’t trust people, and thus is too insecure to reach out to them- can lead an individual to making poor or impulsive judgment calls that are toxic to themselves and others.
In Polly’s case, it involved having sex with Craig, who is half her age. Sure, it was sex between two people over the age of consent (most likely, even if Craig is 17 most states have age of consent at 16), but it’s really marginal. Even if Craig is 20, which is unlikely, it’s still not a balanced relationship- even for one time stands.
There’s no sugarcoating this- Polly took advantage of Craig in a spur of the moment, using him rather than anything else. Among other things, she took his virginity on a whim. What did she use him for?
For validation. Reassurance. A way to push away that insecurity.
Why did she need that all of a sudden?
She had just gone through a fight with Jane, who among other things called her “an old boot” and challenged her. It was said in anger and they made up again, but such a thing can be a tremendous trigger for someone suffering from betrayal trauma from a partner. More often than not, the betrayed person can feel like they caused the betrayal by being undesirable in some way. This begets insecurity, and if chronic, this insecurity begets triggers.
And when there is a trigger, it’s very hard to resist the impulse that it instigates. In Polly’s case, by my estimation, it was a need to feel validated and desirable. It was also a safe bet- Craig is barely a man. There’s little if any threat that can come from him. He can’t betray her. He already is bedazzled by her, and her attentions will tear down any defenses he may have had (and I’m not even factoring in the raging hormones). The power dynamic between them is so slanted it is painful.
And Polly knows it which is why she’s not feeling good about herself the next day. She may not know it consciously, but she does on an emotional level. And she wouldn’t have done it, I think, had she not been triggered in her safe space- the diner, where she’s taken refuge from the world.
END OF SPOILER
2D vs 3D
Boy, oh boy. Is Polly a complex character in a comic that could get away with caricatures and stereotypes?
Does she work on a 2D level for comedic purposes, slapstick, and quick, witty dialogue and jokes?
Does she work on a 3D level that is viscerally real, displaying behaviors and traits that we would easily encounter in a person in reality?
Polly is an amazing example how our learning histories and social environments shape us into who we are. She has suffered trauma; it has changed her. It has gone untreated for two decades and become ingrained, but in a way that implies her underlying self.
She was hurt by the world, so she stayed away from it, in a remote little town, with few people she can feel safe with, in a job that potentially hadn’t been what she’d set out to be, but offers her stability and some relief from the effects she has had to live with.
And all the while, she remains vibrant, cheeky, witty, and relatable as a character in a comic that is basically a comedy with a spicy tease weaved in.
Kudos, Banes and Ozoneocean for creating such a character, with so much to dive into!
Read Bottomless Waitress and experience the ups and downs of three girls without pants on. You won’t regret it!
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Oct. 21, 2023
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