Candy offers advice on being a mature man and helping an old flame fight loneliness

Dear Candy,
Growing up without a father has been my biggest challenge, although I’m pretty used to it as a young adult. He passed when I was very young, but I thank God for my mother because she raised me all by herself. My question is: Where I do go from here to become a man? Mom has said repeatedly how proud she is of me, and I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made while being on my own for the first time. But I do wonder what it takes to be a man. How do I live up to that?
— Boy to Man.

Dear Boy to Man —
First, let me say not all boys grow up to be men. They may have full-grown bodies, but many are still childlike in a lot of ways.

Secondly, let me say that immaturity runs rampant in both women and men. Yet, you are asking yourself a very good question.

A mature man takes responsibility not only for himself, but for others. Men care about the people they know and love. They also care about people they do not know. They become involved with politics or causes helping people, animals and the environment.

A mature man is unafraid to experience and show his emotions. A mature man is not concerned about looking weak, appearing needy or not being manly.

I hear from men all the time who say they grew up during family crises. They had to pick up the mantle of protecting and providing what was needed for everyone else.

Being a man is not about age, strength, power or independence. Being a man is about human authenticity.

— Good luck, Candy.

Dear Candy,
Someone I’ve dated has become a close friend of mine, and I plan on visiting her soon. While I don’t have feelings for her anymore, something bothering me about her is her dependency on relationships to not be lonely.

We had to stop dating since we were traveling apart, but her travels have brought her to my city, where she’s dating more than ever to fend off the loneliness of living in a new place. How I can get through to her that dating “just because” isn’t how to achieve our best selves?
— Wanting to Help

Dear Wanting to Help,
I respect your desire to be the best version of yourself and wanting the same for the people you care about. A good friend of mine, an attorney, used to say he wanted more for his clients than they wanted for themselves. Your letter reminds me of him.

I wonder what your friend is wanting. Your letter states she is lonely. You stated she’s trying to cover up her lonely feelings (fear, pain, shame, et cetera) by dating. I suspect you are correct about what she’s going through.

As a friend, your role is to support and love her through this transition. Your role is not to “get through to her” — that’s her job!

A friend’s role is to not judge but to give feedback when asked. If she’s asking your opinion on how to deal with loneliness or how to date for fun, then speak up. If she’s not asking for your opinion, be her friend — not her parent, not her teacher, but a friend on her same level.

Lovers come and go. Good friends stay forever.

— Good luck, Candy.