I lent a series of 12 cassette tapes to a friend in about 1998 – we see each other only occasionally, and he always says he’ll get them back to me …

I borrowed a book from a friend in high school – about 5 years after we graduated, I found it at the back of our entertainment cabinet, and went over to his place to reunite it with its owner.

How many of us have borrowed a book or CD or other item from a friend and an indeterminate time later discover that we haven’t given it back? If we’ve any sense of propriety, we feel embarassed. On the other hand, we’ve lent one of those things to a friend and six months or a year later, they still haven’t returned it: how often can we say politely to them, Well, when can I have it?”, before both people feel uncomfortable about being in the same room together?

Then hearken unto the latest concept from one of my coterie of compadres: the “collective shame party”. I don’t recall how we segued onto the topic, but Chris came up with this idea. People bring all the objects d’art of others that they’ve accumulated, wrap them up, label them, and bring them to the party.

How they’d be distributed hadn’t been decided when we left, but it could be a theme for Christmas in July – or better, New Year’s Day – party. The key to a successful collective shame party is to minimise embarrassment to all concerned; so the borrower and lender don’t have to be in the same room when their shared piece of paraphernalia finally rests in the bosom of its owner. The overdue articles are left under a tree, or in a room of humiliation, and the host returns all items to their rightful owners. Or perhaps the host places them in small piles around the house, and people go searching for them, like children on an Easter egg hunt.

And when all’s over, and all you’ve brought lies in the loving – and clenched – hands of their possessors, everyone can relax, relieved, knowing that the purpose of the party has been fulfilled, and what took place there will never be discussed: neither at that time nor any other.