Have you ever looked at someone and wondered, “is that a man or a muppet?” Well, you’re not alone. Every morning Allison Howland looks in the mirror and asks the same question. Her morning affirmation complete, she tromps into our humble former school board representative’s (Al Howland) closet to find her outfit for the day. On the bright and sunny monday that I spent with her, she chose a green Hawaiian shirt and styled it with her brown corduroy pants, brown Converse, and a pair of polka-dotted sunglasses stolen from a friend to complete the look.
Ever since I interviewed Allison Howland for an article I wrote on Alexander Eustace, she has intrigued me. She has a confident demeanor, the most sarcastic sense of humor ever, and she’s constantly calling out people for conforming to patriarchal ideals.
I got the vibe that Allison is a complex person, and not even close to an NPC (non-playable character) as she later suggests to me. But it’s impossible to know whether she truly is the person she presents herself as, especially when she says things like, “I’m 100% authentic in everything I do” in literally the most sarcastic way possible. So, who is the real Allison Howland? That is the question I set out to answer.
To do so, I decided to skip all of my classes and spend the entire school day with Allison to witness her behavior, observe her interactions with peers, and simply chat about all things ranging from the Met Gala to her future career goals. Here’s how the day went:
I first walked into Allison Howland’s A period class, College Composition, at exactly 8:01 am. Given the amount of energy Allison had, nobody would have guessed that it was 8:01 am. Donning her planned outfit for the day, Allison chatted eagerly with her deskmate Sarah Boler. The rest of the class gave me confused looks but Allison ignored them, refusing to explain my presence. Instead she shushed them so we could hear the morning announcements. When this week’s Bobcat of the Week is announced, she cupped her hands over her mouth and let out a loud cheer then slammed her hands onto the table with a smile on her face.
This was the first thing I learned about Allison: she is a big lover of Bobcat of the Week. Her dream all year was to gain the title herself, but when things were looking bleak, she had to put a plan into action by asking as many people as she could to nominate her: “I asked a bunch of freshmen, I asked Ms. Horsley, I asked Ms. Stetson, I asked Mr. Eustace, I asked Ms. VanDyke, I asked both the librarians, I asked Mr. Morin, I asked Sarah… ” she explained. Lo and behold, the next week, glowing praise for Allison echoed throughout the hall.
“Allison Howland should be recognized for her commitment to Oyster River. Not only is she a hardworking, high-achieving student, but she is also a devoted cast member and leader in the spring musical,” Allison read to me from a screenshot of the compliment she conveniently saved on her phone. “I was the titular role,” she added, waving her finger in the air.
If you didn’t already know, Allison Howland is a massive theater kid, having starred in both the fall and spring productions. She’s so much of a theater kid that she even hopes to raise some theater kids of her own one day. She explained, “I genuinely believe that every child should be a theater kid because you learn so many lessons. First lesson? Rejection. Second lesson? Hanging out with annoying people.”
These are good lessons indeed, but it was honestly impossible to tell whether Allison was serious or not when she was sitting across from me, with her chin perched nicely on her hands, and with her sunglasses on even though we’re inside the library. I do think she was being genuine though when she told me how she approaches acting and theater by saying, “I love trying hard, because I think yelling is fun and having energy is fun.”
After A period, Allison and I spent Flex together. Rather than getting any work done though, she simply chatted about her aspirations to quit her part-time job at Hannaford. “In aisle nine, I’m gonna turn off all the lights so that when I walk down the aisle the freezer lights slowly turn on as I go,” she told me while she magically happened to acquire a bright pink feather boa that was now wrapped around her neck.
Since working at a grocery store doesn’t seem to be part of Allison’s plans, I decided to ask her how she did see her future. As of now, she hopes to be a genetic engineer, a dermatologist, or a newer version of Nicolas Cage (National Treasure is her favorite movie). However, if all else fails, Allison simply wants to marry rich.
Sounds like a foolproof plan to me, but Allison still has her doubts. She says she’s the type of person who is always looking toward the next thing, which means she’s never really satisfied with anything going on in her life. This leaves her a bit fearful of having regrets. “My biggest fear in life is waking up at the age of 45, realizing I’m in a loveless marriage, and I have three kids, then I’ll get a messy divorce. Imagine how awful that is? That’s what keeps me up.”
However, what does seem to satisfy Allison currently is working hard in her academics, which I came to learn during her C period AP Calculus class (one of the three APs she is taking this year). Her teacher, Bill Reeves, explained that Allison works very hard in school to the point where she spreads herself a bit thin, but Allison claimed that this is simply because of how validating it is to receive a good grade. “I would much rather cry at night over a grade than a guy,” Allison said. “Because like guys are temporary, but grades are forever. Powerschool is forever.”
Allison then spent the rest of class stressing out about her project. It was a bit reassuring to see Allison struggle to figure out the volume of a vase using calculus and plead to her classmates for help. It’s not that I enjoy seeing someone suffer, but it’s nice to know that she struggles sometimes just like the rest of us and that she isn’t 100% confident in everything she does.
Another thing that makes Allison seem a bit more human to me is that she gets people confused. “I’m really bad with people and like their faces and like knowing … Do you know Theo and Andres? I thought they were the same person until like a couple months ago,” Allison admitted. “I was like ‘oh are you coming to linguistics?’ and [he] was like ‘I don’t take linguistics.’” However, while some of us might play this awkward moment off and overthink it for a few hours, Allison knows her worth. “I just don’t bother memorizing. My life is a movie and those are the side characters.”
Although my entire day was filled with various entertaining Allison moments, her interactions with Mr. Eustace were by far my favorite. When we entered the Writing Center, it was almost as if Allison was holding a mirror up to herself. These two are the exact same person, and I would pay good money to see Allison and Mr. Eustace host their own stand up comedy show.
During our conversation, Mr. Eustace not only engaged in some witty banter with Allison, but he also had some high praise for her. “I had actually never met a woman before Allison and therefore thought very little of them. I believe they were some kind of fae-type creature that existed in the wild and lived under mushrooms and ate rocks and sticks.” Eustace continued, “after meeting Allison and seeing her pull out a Tupperware container full of ambrosia, the food of the gods, and drink a flask of nectar, I realized, oh, actually, they’re not simply mud-dwelling beasts as I had previously thought.”
When I asked Eustace what he thought of Allison’s comedic abilities he simply said, “do I think Allison Howland is funny? I think funny is Allison Howland. There have been a few funny men throughout history. Many many funny women. Allison Howland, I think, puts them all to bed.”
AP US History was our final class of the day and Allison was surprisingly quiet while Ms. Van Dyke talked about the assignment for class. Well, quiet until Van Dyke announced that we would be going outside for class, to which Allison responded, “WHAT?” with her eyes wide. This wasn’t a surprising reaction to me since earlier in the day I had learned that Allison loves being inside and wouldn’t even go glamping because it’s too gross for her.
As if out of protest, Allison spent the rest of class making fun of her classmate Ben Montgomery, telling stories from her childhood, and taking quizzes to find out which Founding Father she is (if you’re wondering, she’s Thomas Jefferson). Once the bell rang, Allison and I finally parted ways, and I watched as she walked away leaving a trail of bright pink feathers behind her.
I’m not going to lie, as much as I love spending the entire day with Allison Howland, I was absolutely drained by the end of it. I was also a bit worried that I wouldn’t accurately decipher what was complete truth or pure satire, or that Allison would accuse me of misquoting her in the name of the patriarchy. That being said, I do think I learned that Allison is a very genuine, kind, and funny person. She believes in not taking life too seriously, and it’s clear she lives her life by that philosophy.
But if you are still a bit unsure about who she really is after reading this, then I’ll just tell you that Allison Howland is related to the one person who fell overboard on the Mayflower, and I think that’s all you really need to know.