I like “my dear.”
In my mind there are four tones for the phrase “my dear” which all offer different meaning to it.
1. The spousal tone.
Grandma: Did you fix that chair yet?
Grandpa: Yes, my dear.
Rhett Butler: I’m leaving you, my dear.
2. The condescending tone. (Is often merged with the 1st tone.)
Sir Percy Blakeney: La, m’dear! you don’t say so… who was the bold man who dared tackle you–eh?
Oscar Wilde: My dear boy, no woman is a genius.
Willy Wonka: Impossible, my dear lady! That’s absurd! Unthinkable!
3. The friendship/loving tone.
Gandalf: My dear Frodo. Hobbits really are amazing creatures.
Mortimer Lightwood: And you, my dear Eugene, are the express picture of discontented idleness.
John Harmon: My dear girl!
Percy Blakeney: It’s a dangerous game, my dear. Falling in love with a phantom.
4. The devious tone.
Here the possessiveness of the “my” can be taken in its full context while the “dear” gives the speaker a syrupy kind of I’ve-got-you-cornered vibe.
Ursula: My dear, sweet child, it’s what I live for!
Erik: Wait! I think, my dear, we have a guest!
In all tones it carries an old fashioned charm, I think. I rather like it myself as I’ve never yet heard–or read it defiled by the flippant carelessness of a love-sick teenager. It’s for more mature, refined, intellectual, or delightfully eccentric speakers. What say you, my dears? ;)