An article in today's New York Times condemns the word "ma'am." It quotes many broads who find usage of the word condescending.
In some prehistoric time when I was 35, and there were numerous magazines, some of which assigned me articles, for which they would then pay me, I wrote a similar piece for Index magazine. I think it was titled "Just Don't Call Me Ma'am" and it is now in a box somewhere in my attic, buried underneath piles of Christmas decorations, Thomas the Tank Engine, and assorted other crap.
The article was inspired by a trip to a record store (they had those back then, and they were usually staffed by cute, dismissive 22-year-olds with esoteric music taste). The clerk had the audacity to call me "ma'am" and I snapped bitchily at him: "Don't Call me Ma'am!" The poor child looked wounded, and my boyfriend gently suggested that I may have overreacted because the clerk was just trying to be polite.
To no avail. I had been made to feel old. This was a sin, an affront to all of womankind. I would have my revenge in the pages of Index magazine.
Now, of course, in my new life as upstanding suburban wife, stay-at-home mother and furtive blog writer, I am constantly referred to as ma'am. I have long since resigned myself to this fate, as 50 looms in the very near future. I now take it as it is offered, politely, if I notice it at all.