Knowledge is power. Money is power. G-heav man deciding arbitrarily how much your buffet costs when you’re drunk is power. Paul Potts’ Nessun Dorma (check it out on youtube) is power. Cocaine and sex are illusions of power.

I came to that conclusion after a philosophy class last week. I like to pretend a philosophy major is useful for life and ethical development and party conversation. The real reason is that I like my professors like I like my Jesus: Jewish and magical. The entire philosophy faculty fulfills at least one of these criteria. But philosophy has taught me one thing for certain: everything, especially relationships, is based on power.

I’ve had relationships with Leviathans, Princes, self-loving ubermensches and good citizens. I’ve also had relationships that I dreamed up in my head and correspond in no way to reality.

But they’ve all been about power: who has it; who wants it; and who doesn’t have it and so lashes out in cruel, petty, destructive ways, etc. And I’m a sucker for power. “Like ‘girl power’?” asked my friend upon hearing this. “You know, because you’re a feminist?”

No. Not like “girl power.”

“Do you only like musicians who are women?” asked a different friend on an entirely separate occasion. “Feist, Lily Allen, MIA… you know, because you’re a feminist?”

“No,” I replied. “I mean… I love Fall Out BOY.” To prove my point, I gave “boy” special emphasis.

“Why did you shout ‘boy’?” he said. “That was weird.”

There was an awkward silence, so I changed the subject. And I will again right now.

Foucault said sex was an exchange of power between two individuals. Earth! Fire! Wind! Water! Heart! By your powers combined, I am intercourse!

But he was wrong.

Perhaps you can seduce with sex. Or manipulate with sex. Whatever one may think, that’s not real power. Even if the other person’s infatuated because of the sex, it’s only with the sex, not actually with you. Real power is the ability to spell out “power” using the first letter of every sentence in this paragraph.

Sex is not the site of power. But power is still there always, (quieter) always, (whispering) alwaysss.

Happy, loving, long-term committed couple: “That’s not true! There’s no power game in our relationship. We love each other with the entirety of our equal-sized hearts.”

False. And the brutal asymmetry will show itself when times get rough. But it’s not necessarily one person who is always the adored, and the other the adorer. The power can switch over up to five times on a weekday, and twenty-seven times on a Saturday night.

Eight ways to know that you have the power:

1) They sent you four texts today and the last one was just an emoticon. You haven’t replied.

2) Their last gift to you was a poem/mix CD/a photo of the two of you (framed or printed onto a T-shirt or pillowcase.) You gave them a book related to their major.

3) The ratio of wall posts between the two of you is 1:3.

4) They told all their friends at home about you. You have not.

5) When they were drunk, they admitted to Facebook-stalking you.

6) When they were drunk, they admitted to dreaming about you on a regular basis.

7) When they were drunk, they admitted to staring at your number in their phone and debating whether or not to call you for ten minutes.

8) When they were drunk, they admitted to rubbing their cheek against their pillow so that their pores could absorb the after-smell of your hair.

Love means never having to say you’re sorry. Power means never having to say: “You love me, right?”

But love means never having to have the power. You trust the other person to take the power and not abuse it and you trust yourself to take the power and not fuck it up.

I discovered this only recently. I’ve had a long, tumultuous (although only implicitly sexual) relationship with the lady who works in the law school cafeteria. The one who tells you to “Get your cards out!!” She’s very efficient. And she has an inexplicable power over me. But last Tuesday I finally asserted myself. I told her, with a tone that was resolute, but kind, that although I have two extra dollars on my swipe, no thank you, I would not like a graham-cracker goldfish. She didn’t understand, but she trusted me. She gave up the power. And now it is MINE.

Claire Gordon brings home the pants in the family.