I start with a dictionary definition, from American Heritage, not that anyone needs it because everyone knows what a lady is. It's a kind of natural knowledge. According to American Heritage, a lady is a well-mannered and considerate woman with high standards of proper behavior. You know one, the dictionary suggests, by how she's treated: "a woman, especially when spoken of or to in a polite way." Under usage, American Heritage says, "lady is normally used as a parallel to gentleman to emphasize norms expected in polite society or situations."
I would add that a lady need not be stuffy, scolding, stiff. A lady brings regard for others into the room with her; that regard is part of the dignity she carries and seeks to spread. A lady is a woman who projects the stature of life.
These definitions are incomplete but serviceable--I invite better ones--but keep them in mind as I try to draw a fuller picture of what it was like to be taken aside at an airport last week for what is currently known as further screening and was generally understood 50 years ago to be second-degree sexual assault.
Poor Ms Noonan. Her delicate sensibilities were offended...."No way to treat a lady" playing in the background as her Jar Jar Binks Award is placed on the mantel.
(HT to Soxblog )