The Lure of the Pineapple

Ananas comosus.  Az ananasz. The pineapple.

From not so humble beginnings to an underground symbol, I find it curious that this crowned fruit, native to South America where it was cultivated by the Aztecs and the Mayans, now represents those individuals and couples who participate in swinging.  (My good friend who introduced me to Princeton gifted me a pineapple themed beer coozie as gift for entering the lifestyle). As I searched for meaning behind this curious trend I found several other blog posts trying to answer the same question.  Many of them were written by ‘Susie Homemaker’ and ‘Good Southern Woman’ who were scandalized and also titillated that their pineapple shaped door knocker could also be taken as a different kind of invitation.  But first, let’s talk about this transformative fruit.

The pineapple was ‘discovered’ by Christopher Columbus in 1493 where he christened the fruit pina de Indes, meaning “pine of the Indians” (I suppose at that point he was running out of names ending in ‘the Indians’).  Columbus took the fruit back to Spain where it was eventually circulated to the Philippines and then Hawaii to become the predominant commercial crop where it gave birth to the Dole fruit company in 1851.  It was during the colonization of the Americas that the pineapple became known as the symbol for southern hospitality. I came across an adorable legend that said sea captains would stake a pineapple outside of their homes to announce a safe journey and invite friends and neighbors to visit.  Many plantation homes would decorate their tables with the fresh fruit to symbolize their wealth.  Builders and stonemasons were kept busy making sculptures of pineapples for those that didn’t have the coin for the edible variety.  From there the sculptures became doorknockers to doorbells to the adorable little pink pineapple coozie I received as a welcome gift.

How the image was taken over by the swingers was a question I could not answer definitively.  Perhaps the double entendre of a warm welcome was too good to pass up for those in the lifestyle; the symbol for southern hospitality given even more of a generous meaning. So the next time your invited to a vanilla friend’s summer barbecue, smile at your partner as wipe your feet on the welcome mat covered in pineapples and compliment your friend on their décor.