Ask the Past: floral arrangement

I was talking with friends about some of the weird shit our parents used to do, and I suddenly remembered that my dad sent me a bunch of flowers when I got my first period. I don't remember much about the flowers themselves, but I remember that it was a large and kind of ugly arrangement, and for some reason it included a pineapple. I assumed at the time that a lot of fathers made this kind of weird gesture, but now I've been asking around about it, it seems like it was just my dad. Can you shed any light on any of this?

I can clear up the matter of the pineapple right away - according to Australian Etiquette (where it is spelled Pine Apple), it means "You are perfect," which I guess makes for a nice sentiment and an awkward bunch of flowers. It's hard to say what other flowers might have been included, but if he was looking for something along a theme of perfection, they might have been things like:

Rose, Moss - Superior merit

Strawberry - Perfect excellence

Juniper - Perfect loveliness

Two rows of six pineapples each against an unclear background. The pineapples are all different sizes, their spiky bluish green leaves all look different, and they have different scale-like patterns on their skins. Nevertheless, they are all perfect
You are perfect. Photo by Juno Jo

Looking at this, your dad might have been better off sending you a fruit salad, or possibly some sort of gin-based cocktail, to communicate his feelings. Harmsworth's Household Encyclopedia says that pineapple chunks are an excellent foundation for a salad, and gives the following guidance:

A simple and quickly prepared salad that is seasonable at almost any time is make from pineapple chunks, 2 oranges, and 2 bananas. The oranges should be peeled, all pith removed, and cut into thin slices. These should be well mingled in a glass dish with the chunks and the bananas sliced into small pieces. Syrup from the pineapple should be poured over. To this foundation can be added, according to season, grapes and slices of melon, slices of apples and pears, strawberries, raspberries, and cherries. Tinned peaches and cherries can also be mixed into a fruit salad.

If you're wondering what you might be saying with your fruit salad, though, that's a reasonable concern. Australian Etiquette is silent on most of these fruits, but it does include:

Pear tree - Affection

Cherry tree - Good education

Grape - Charity

Orange - Generosity

These are all fine, but if you freestyle your fruit salad additions too much, you might find yourself with things like:

Apple - Temptation

Pomegranate - Foolishness

Quince - Temptation

Armed with this knowledge, you can now make salads and garnishes that are more or less insulting, depending on how you feel about your guests.

A large oblong wooden serving tray full of fruits and nuts sitting on a wooden table. There are grapes, apricots, oranges, strawberries, and also unfortunately apples and pomegranates as well. It's hard to say what the creator of this platter really felt about their guests, but obviously they had complicated feelings.
Mixed messages. Photo by Naveed Pervaiz

However, coming back to the question of the initial floral arrangement, I can't find anything anywhere that would suggest it's an expected or recommended gift for a first period (or indeed that anything is an expected gift in that circumstance). If you think someone is perfect, a pina colada may be preferable.

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