In the world of Crayolas, I am a tan.

      It's nice to find that out, even at this late date.I'll tell you one thing - I always knew, in every box of Crayolas I ever opened, that I was not a flesh.

      And big surprise, neither are the current Crayola users in the family, my two brunette daughters.

      Of course, I used flesh in all my self-portraits. Everybody did. That included Betsy, the redhead who sat beside me in third grade, and Kathy, whose parents came from China. Even then, this made no sense to me. All I had to do was look at my arm to see that my skin isn't pink, certainly not the pale pink that was labeled "flesh" in Crayola boxes before 1962.

      That year, partly in response to the civil-rights movement, the shade called "flesh" was changed to "peach."

      Now, 30 years later, Crayola has gone a good deal further.

      Its newest package, "My World Colors," offers a selection of 16 crayons in colors that reflect the different skin, hair and eye shades of people around the world.

      These aren't new colors. All of them were part of the existing Crayola palette, which has 103 shades in it. (Binney & Smith, the 92-year-old company that makes Crayolas, says it turns out more than 2 billion crayons every year. Laid end to end, they would circle the globe four times. My friend Judy, who has two kids, disputes this. She says all the crayons in her house alone would circle the globe at least that many times.)

      For this special package, it put together tan - that's me! - plus apricot, periwinkle, burnt orange, olive green, peach, burnt sienna, salmon, white, raw sienna, mahogany, goldenrod, sepia, black, silver and cerulean. The "My World Colors" box is decorated with a picture of a globe topped with children of different ethnic groups, holding hands. It costs about $2.

      "Teachers in the Baltimore school district actually came up with this idea," said Mark O'Brien of Binney & Smith. "And other teachers had suggested similar things to us, as well."

      The teachers explained that in their classes, they were really trying to emphasize multiculturalism - to help children respect themselves and others for themselves, whoever they are.

      Binney & Smith responded with a package of eight crayons in different skin tones. It was available only to schools, and it was a big hit. Pretty soon, the company, based in Easton, Pa., was getting calls from parents who wanted to know where they could buy packages like that. "My World Colors" was the result. "We kind of expanded on the multicultural idea by including hair and eye colors," O'Brien said. "Kids have fun, trying to match themselves. I think this has global appeal.

      "After all, people, like crayons, come in a wonderful array of colors."

      Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service