In my short life, I've endured more than my share of mockery. I've been husky for the entirety of my 11 years on this planet, a circumstance that has inspired others to make fun of me at every turn. I've been called, among other things, Fatso, Fatpants, Fatboy, Fatty Fatty Two-By-Four, Pig, Piggy, Oinker, King Chunk, El Tubbo, and, of course, as one would expect of a heavy-set person with my name, Patty Fatty.

Yet, on Sept. 11, 2001, the name-calling suddenly stopped. So stunned was the nation by the tragic events of that day, no one felt right making fun of their fellow man. Even if the man, in this case, were a 114-pound fifth-grader.

Badly shaken, the American people could not bring themselves to hurt my feelings. Robby Peltzer, perhaps my greatest tormentor, sensed that in this new national climate, it was not right to pinch me when the teacher was looking the other way. Matt Hinkle no longer took relish in pushing my face into the water fountain. And no one pointed at me and said, "Hey, look! There's a real Jelly Belly!" when someone brought a bag of Jelly Bellys to class. Yes, after years of abuse at the hands of my classmates and fellow Americans, I was given a reprieve the likes of which I had never dreamed possible.

The first few weeks after Sept. 11, I appreciated the fact that no one said a word when I showed up at school in pants obviously patched in the crotch because my rubbing thighs had worn out the cloth. I was happy that people were directing their venom at Osama bin Laden and not my blubber. It pleased me that everyone was strangely supportive when, during gym class, I toppled over in exhaustion in the midst of my third sit-up.

Long about the sixth or seventh week, however, I began to sense that this absence of laughter was not right. On one occasion, I waddled with my empty tray up to the window in the school cafeteria for seconds, my ill-fitting turtleneck covered in spaghetti sauce. The lunch lady merely looked sympathetically at me and ladled out some more noodles. This is the same woman who, in a similar situation last year, asked me, "How can your mother stand you?"

Cutting remarks of this sort, hurtful as they may be, are not without merit. I have little willpower when it comes to losing weight, and attempts on the part of my parents to put me on a diet have been largely unsuccessful. I will sneak food and eat it whenever possible. Many a time, I have been found in the laundry room at home, my face comically covered in fudge.

But on that particular afternoon in the cafeteria, the lunch lady held back. It has been that way ever since Sept. 11. We have banded together in grim solidarity against the forces of evil that invaded our country and our collective conscience. Would Robby Peltzer, Matt Hinkle, and the rest of this great nation ever laugh at me again? It seemed unlikely.

But then, like the swallows to San Juan Capistrano each spring, the derision returned. Last Friday, for the first time in months, the kids at school forgot about the horror that has occurred and laughed at the way my flabby stomach hangs out from the bottom of my shirts. Later that afternoon, Jeffrey D'Amico put all the sadness aside to announce to the entire class that I can barely fit into the combination desk-chairs in the music room.

Over the weekend, a man at the park, no doubt heartened by our nation's military successes against the Taliban, literally doubled over laughing at the sight of me trying to throw a football, only to have it land in a pathetic thud just eight feet away. Then, last night, while in line at Burger King, a group of teenagers cracked up upon overhearing me beg my parents for a vanilla shake.

How wonderful! At long last, America is ready to laugh at me again! I welcome this return to normalcy, and I will gladly do my part to move the healing process along. With this in mind, you have my solemn vow that if I accidentally drop a book in the library, I will bend over extra-far to pick it up, revealing the uppermost portion of my ample rear end's crack. How could I not? I am merely doing my part for the country I love. So laugh, America. Look at me and laugh.