My mother--and my Southern culture--taught me many, many years ago that, as a sign of respect, I should respond to women as "ma'am." As I grew older, I spread that courtesy to younger women and even little girls.
"Yes, ma'am," is routine for me. It has also been routine for me to occasionally year, "Don't call me ma'am. It makes me sound so old!" as well "Thank you for that sign of respect." About equal, I'd say.
The Huffington Post has an essay (here) on what women want to be called and "ma'am" seems to be among the negatives. But I'm wondering: are Southern women different in this?
Let me know what you think.