Although scholars have given considerable attention to adolescent romance, few have examined the discursive practices of pre-adolescents, as they are just beginning to take up (and to resist) cultural coherence systems that construct gender and sexuality. From a corpus of 689 personal narratives written by US inner-city pre-teens about interpersonal conflict, we selected the 33 stories that included themes of romance ('liking', 'goln' with', 'having a girlfriend/boyfriend'). The analytic approach was based on a sociocultural, interpretive theory of narrative and on developments in discursive and critical social psychology. Children used contrasting interpretive repertoires to produce stories of romantic contests or romantic intrigue, both drawing on narratives of romance available in popular culture. We examined children's struggle and identified strategies they used to preserve same-sex friendships and to resist taking subject positioned that construed them as passive objects. An examination of the process by which children enter the discursive practices of their communities promises to unveil awkward contradictions and instabilities in meaning systems that tend to be cleverly disguised in the discourse of more sophisticated users of culture.