I never realized how offensive the word "Ma'am" can be.
Ok, here's the thing: I used to call older women "Ma'am" when I was a teenager, until one day I accidentally bumped into a woman and said, "Oh, excuse me, Ma'am", and she yelled back at me, "I'M NOT A 'MA'AM'!" Seriously, she yelled this at me! Now, I was raised to be unerringly polite, so this shook me that I was in the wrong for doing the right thing... but you bet your ass I really tried not to use that word unless I was certain the woman was over 50.
Well, now I'm in the situation where I'm getting called "Ma'am". It KILLS me every time I hear it - 'cuz like that older woman from my youth, I'M NOT A "MA'AM"! I'm not even 30 yet, society, quit trying to push me into old age! (Not that being over 30 is even OLD, btw...)
Sunday this happened to me twice within one hour while running errands, both by males. One of them was obviously a teenager, so I was willing to let it slide because to him, OBVIOUSLY, I'm ancient. As for the other guy, he was easily my age or maybe even slightly older, so I was PISSED. I just gave him dirty looks. As The Hubs pointed out, we're raised to use "Ma'am" to be POLITE, not to offend. But how am I a Ma'am already?
What really grinds my gears is that yesterday I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans, and felt like I actually was looking pretty cute. Well, apparently I was looking pretty cute and OLD. MEH.
Also confusing: I still get mistaken for a student fairly regularly at the high school I teach at... by staff AND students (who obviously don't have me as their teacher). So I'm either still super young-looking, or super old-looking. Or I'm just over-reading all of this WAAAAY too much. ;P