I keep thinking about the ways that stranger kindness and friendliness is reserved for those who are:
2) "pretty" and/or "well dressed"
3) thinner than average (which is a size 14 btw), and
4) read as gender-conforming.
Recently I was in a coffeeshop and the barista didn't look at me when taking my order and said as few words as possible to me. Then someone that was all four of those things came up to the register and the barista turned on the charm like a light switch.
I am ALWAYS friendly to service workers because I know how shitty it is to have to perform for people who don't return any of that energy. So I try to bring some and give some. I always smile, I always tip, I always give them my full attention. So I know it wasn't a reaction to me. Especially because the next person was mostly talking to their friend.
I don't think the barista had anything against me -- I think I just didn't register as a real person because I am fat, dress weird, and have a very assertive way of carrying myself (not gender-conforming).
For me the biggest change in how strangers treat me happened when I shaved my head. All of a sudden, when I smiled at white strangers they did NOT smile back. I never got casual smiles from white strangers of any age or gender when my hair was very short. (However, black women strangers smiled at me and even complimented my haircut on multiple occasions.)
I still am not sure why a buzz cut would have this much effect on how people treat me, but it really made me think about how much more effort it is to be in public when people look at you with a blank face, or stare. Every single time that happens it sucks away some energy.
And I think about this whenever I see children of color. I notice when older white people smile at young white children and look away or even frown at young children of color just for existing. I don't usually smile at strangers but if a child of color looks at me in a friendly or curious way I do smile. I don't want to be a dead staring face that saps some of their energy.