"Humanity," declares redhead expert Al Sacharov, "has a lot to learn from freckles . . . all these individuals running around on their own business. If they coordinated their actions and cooperated, what a great tan they would be!"

Does the thought of a tan -- and summer -- plunge you deeper into the winter blahs? It's time to forget about long johns, sniffles, sneezes, the flu, boots, mufflers and the fact that you can't afford a trip to the Caribbean and contemplate something other than your navel.

Freckles, for example.


Remember, we're talking early silly season -- to get you out of the winter doldrums -- so why not? Freckles are plentiful, they're free and everybody can have them, not just redheads and blonds. Hey, Redd Foxx has freckles!

Consider, say, Sissy Spacek, Julie Christie, Samantha Eggar, Doris Day, Martin Milner, Van Johnson, Anthony Michael Hall ("Saturday Night Live" "16 Candles," "The Breakfast Club") or Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.).

"I always have been a great supporter of freckles," says Kemp, a former pro football player. "A person who has freckles is sure to be spotted."

From Florida, actor Mickey Rooney announces, "Girls with freckles still have a chance with me." Although he was never married to her, Rooney says actress Myrna Loy ("One of my childhood fantasies") captivated him with her befreckled countenance.

Meanwhile, spot reports from around the country indicate that this just could be the year of the freckle.

Carol Phillips, president of Clinique cosmetics, senses, she says, a current "craving for individuality, an intense desire to be different. There is something in people, including those with freckles, that seems to want to be recognized. This involves a certain amount of self-confidence. A person lacking in self-confidence is not going to expose freckles."

A woman on the New York Clinique staff "who is perfectly marvelously freckled," says Phillips, covered her freckles "until I begged her not to. She's one of those delicious redheads, and I am very proud of her wonderful coloring, wonderful skin and I don't want it hidden behind opaque makeup."

A 38-year-old Washington professional woman makes her own freckles. "I have very dark brown hair and eyes, and freckles work for me. I didn't really think about it before I started doing freckles. One day I had this eyebrow pencil in my hand, and I thought, 'Okay. Why not.' And there I was, making holes in my face."

Actually -- just in case you're ready to try it -- apply rouge first, then freckles and then a light dusting of powder. And then be careful: Tears can turn a jaunty freckle into a smear or a smirk.

Eileen Ford, head of the Ford modeling agency in Manhattan, considers freckles a minus for models ("They don't photograph well"), but not for the populace at large. And, she adds, "Katharine Hepburn has freckles, and she's my heroine."

Never mind that Thomas Edison, fair-skinned and freckled himself, viewed those spots as "mudholes of beauty." It was Edison's theory that freckles are caused by "some salt of iron" and that sunlight brings them out "by reducing them from high to low states of oxidation."

Edison thought freckles might be removed by some combination of "a powerful magnet" and "proper chemicals."

To get serious -- sort of -- for a minute:

*Freckles are harmless.

*The pigment cells of a freckle are larger and more active metabolically than those of the surrounding skin.

*The pigment granules of freckles are rod-shaped, unlike those of the surrounding skin, which are spherical and react less slowly to sunlight.

*Freckles are a product of genes, and the tendency to freckle is controlled by hair and skin color.

Just how many freckles does a person have?

"I'm the world's expert on freckles, and I can tell you," says Sacharov, 32, a freckled former Washingtonian, now of New York, and author of the self-published The Red Head Book. "The number ranges from several to a jillion."

Notwithstanding Dorothy Parker, who once wrote, "Four be the things I'd been better without: Love, curiosity, freckles and doubt," Sacharov claims the dappling only gets better with age.

"When you're a kid, freckles are sort of a nuisance. But when you get a little older, it gets to be a lot of fun counting freckles when you start dating a redhead." Gulp!

Always wanted freckles? Author Judy Blume tells you how you can get them in Freckle Juice, her 1971 kids' book:

"How to get freckles. 'Sharon's secret recipe for freckle juice.' One glass makes an average amount of freckles. Mix up all these things together -- stir and drink fast: grape juice, vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, juice from one lemon, pepper and salt, ketchup, olive oil and a speck of onion.

"P.S. The faster you drink it, the faster you can get F*R*E*C*K*L*E*S."

Or make you want to forget about them.