I'm not sure if it's a new thing, or if I've just noticed it more recently, but I'd say in the past 3 weeks, I've been called "young lady" about 10+ times. Not exaggerating.
I'm sort of curious if this is the norm. I asked a friend on Saturday night and she couldn't think of a time she'd ever been called that. Do you guys get called "young lady?"
I think it's perhaps the young southern equivalent of "ma'am." Like, you accidentally collide with a person in a store, instead of "sorry ma'am" it's "sorry young lady." Or, someone in a service-position (a checkout clerk, for example) is saying "yes young lady" instead of "yes ma'am." Or a couple of the older men I work with (my boss, for example), would see me in the hall and in a joking way would say "well hey there young lady" (and I imagine had they run into an older woman, it would be the same joking tone "hello there, ma'am").
And it's fine - I mean, I'll take being called "young" as long as I can. But I'm now starting to wonder where the invisible cutoff line is? Like, if I was with my sister-in-law (who's 12 years my senior - but doesn't really look all that much older than me, I don't think), would she be "ma'am" and I'd be "young lady?" Would I automatically be bumped up to "ma'am" by association? Or if I was walking around alone with her daughter (who's two), would I be "young lady?" Like, when there's a child involved, are you automatically "ma'am?" Or if I was walking around with my husband (who is older and looks a little older), would I get a "ma'am" or still a "yl?"
It's just sort of funny. And I guess I need to remember that (as far as I can tell) it's not a term being used in a pejorative way - I really do think it's meant to be respectful. The most absurd one to date was at Walgreens on Saturday when I almost ran smack into a police officer. He quickly stepped out of the way, "sorry young lady." He couldn't have been older than 30. Seriously. He was maybe even my age. Or younger!
I wonder if the appropriate response would've been "no, I'm sorry young man."