I recently apologised to a friend for pulling out from one of those year-end parties that look and feel and smell like other year-end parties. I should have let you know earlier, I said. I am snowed under work, I explained. My grandmother is sick, I began, and probably dying. Later someone reminded me that it always looks suspicious when you reel out too many excuses. Pick one and stick to it, he advised, like an old-fashioned marriage counsellor.

And now here’s The New York Times with excellent advice for party dropouts: Don’t apologise, it says, don’t send messages, in fact, don’t bother. “Most people secretly love cancelling plans, so when you do invariably bail, enjoy it…” I don’t always enjoy cancelling plans, but there’s much to recommend the part that suggests I enjoy it. On the one hand, guilt, and all it implies. On the other, enjoyment and a refusal to feel guilty. Put like that, the choice is easy.

One of the saddest moments in life is when you apologise to a friend who was at a party you missed (thinking on your feet to get the tone and expression right) when you realise he didn’t notice you were not there. It may not work with the host — hosts tend to notice such things — but you can still get away if you sound convincing enough, the party is a large one, and you can relate with conviction some anecdotes you read on the Facebook post of someone who was actually there.

The host is then too embarrassed to disagree with you. Perhaps you were there, and he got it wrong somehow. Perhaps he was not a good host. Perhaps word might get around and he might be shunned in future. Much easier to accept that explanation and let things be.

If you can find someone else who didn’t go, then it becomes easier. You then become the other person’s alibi and he yours. You could even make up some anecdotes. If a host hears the same story from two different sources, he is more likely to be convinced. I haven’t actually checked, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some enterprising entrepreneur hasn’t already put up a website: rent-an-anecdote dot com.

Conveniently numbered so there is no confusion. Then you only need to message your friend the numbers. Say 12, 41 and 183. He reads up the anecdotes corresponding to those numbers and hey presto, you have your story, “original” and verified by another source.

To those who feel that all this cloak-and-dagger stuff might actually be more fun than the party itself, I can only say: You are right! Expect a fall in party attendances at the 2020 new year’s parties.

More from Suresh Menon:

World Re-gifting Day: Let’s formalise it

Confessions of a bibliosnoop

The millennium and the circle of life